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What are the Different Grades of Beef and Why?

USDA Grading:
Beef grades are prime, choice, select, and standard. The grade of beef is based on the amount of intramuscular fat or “marbling” found within the meat. The greater the quantity of intramuscular fat “marbling”; the higher the grade, the better the taste, and the juicier the bite.

USDA Prime:
Only 2.9% of all beef on the market today gets graded as prime. Prime beef has an abundant of marbling and is amazingly tender with the desired juiciness sought after by discerning chefs across the world. Primarily reserved for only the finest restaurants and private chefs, prime cuts are extremely limited in supply and therefor fetch a higher price.

USDA Choice:
Choice beef has high to moderate marbling with a good flavor and soft, tender texture. It is usually found behind the meat counter or in specialty shops and available upon request. Choice beef is served in most steak houses across America. Chances are, you have savored over the texture and tenderness at your last romantic dinner. Choice is slightly less affordable than select, but much higher in quality.

USDA Select:
Almost all beef produced worldwide is graded as select or lower. Select beef is commonly sold anywhere beef can be found. This beef is moderate to sparse in marbling, generally tougher, but has a good flavor.

Standard, Commercial, or “No Roll”:
These steaks are commonly sold in bulk stores and in low-end restaurants. Also known as ungraded, this beef is easily spotted by the graders. Because the quality is known as extremely low, it is not worth the cost of the USDA inspection process. Old, tired dairy cows and retired bulls are often the main contributors to these lower quality grades. Usually sold with savvy marketing and a pretty box, with fancy headlines, reading “steak house cut or restaurant cut”. These animals were fed massive amounts of steroids and antibiotics throughout many years and should be avoided.

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