When and why

John A
Filet Mignon
2006/08/23 17:43:13
Can someone please tell me when and why the FDA stopped grading beef? The only place that I can find graded "Choice" is Sam's. All of the Super Markets have their own names that mean absolutely nothing, even the good ones.


Double Cheeseburger
RE: When and why 2006/08/23 18:42:37
Actually USDA is the one who grades all beef.

I agree Supermarket names mean nothing. If they won't tell you what it is it's probably select grade beef. Or worse.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
RE: When and why 2006/08/23 19:15:12
Originally posted by NebGuy

Actually USDA is the one who grades all beef.

I agree Supermarket names mean nothing. If they won't tell you what it is it's probably select grade beef. Or worse.

Or, as they call it here... "Local" Beef.

That sure sounds nice and I'm all for supporting local farmers...but in the few samples of "local" I purchased, I found it to be not good. Doesn't inter-state transfer/sales determine how or who needs to inspect the meat? So if it's in-state you can call it whatever you want?

Double Chili Cheeseburger
RE: When and why 2006/08/23 20:00:59
The USDA does still grade beef, but it is almost meaningless. As far as I am concerned USDA stands for United States Department of Agri-biz. USDA grades do not insure quality of the beef. The grades mainly describe the tenderness of the beef by a visual check of fat content and distribution. This is something you can do yourself at the supermarket.

The most common grade you will find at a supermarket is USDA Choice, which is not bad. The meat should have most of the fat integrated into the meat in very visible veins and have few visible chunks of fat. It is still a high fat product though. USDA Prime is even higher fat with better marbling, but you will almost never encounter it in supermarkets.

Rather than labeling each individual cut in the supermarket there will be a sign somewhere stating "we sell only USDA Choice Beef."

In short the USDA grade only tells you about fat content and how it is distributed in the meat.

Confusion does abound in supermarket beef though. "Certified Angus" does sound nice, but only means that it is certified by the beef industry that it comes from a specific cattle breed that some people find tasty and others don't. It says nothing about overall quality.

You will also see "natural beef" sold upscale. All they guarantee is that unnecessary hormones and antibiotics are not in the beef.

As far as finding USDA Prime in a supermarket, good luck...it is usually sold to upscale restaurants and specialty stores.
ann peeples
RE: When and why 2006/08/23 21:32:55
Ditto Greyghost-supermarket beef is very different from restaurant quality-there is very little, if none, USDA prime in the store...find a local butcher that cuts his own meat-then it doesnt seem to matter-in my opinion, always good meat
Double Chili Cheeseburger
RE: When and why 2006/08/23 21:39:19
i've stopped eating meat altogether, but the
hubster is a carnivore so i cook meat
once a week and serve it more as a
condiment.i feel better getting prime meat
from our local farm store as they
raise their meat and poultry.
i find that more and more i'm mistrustful
of govt. inspections.
RE: When and why 2006/08/24 03:34:56
One chain here, HEB, clearly indicates in its circulars and on labels that it's selling Select. Some people claim they have HEB's that sell Prime but none around me. Central Market, owned by HEB, sells Choice and Prime, clearly indicated in the butcher's cases. Kroger doesn't label Select but does indicate when it's selling a better grade such as choice, Certified Angus choice, Nolan Ryan All Natural, etc. Some Kroger Signature stores carry a little bit of Prime. FoodTown labels their beef 'Heavy,' but it's got very little marbling and it's very well trimmed. Still, I've found it's a little tastier than HEB's Select. WalMart beef must be a grade or two below Select . As for the other chains I assume they're selling Select if they don't claim it's something better. I stick mainly to Sam's, Choice on sale at Kroger and an occasional splurge at Central Market or one of the independent butcher shops that carries Prime. Sam's beef is tastier than Kroger's Choice but doesn't have much selection with regard to cuts.
RE: When and why 2006/08/24 08:38:21
well then you also wonder if something could be mismarked...I was in Sam's club last week and they had eye round roasts..at $2.18 lb...all in the vacuum sealed bags...ok..half were marked prime and half choice...so I figured...hey....prime meat...go for it....cooked it to medium rare......and let me tell you...tough as shoe leather....only thing we could do with more than half...was slice it paper thin and make french dips....what a disappointment...wonder if they were miss packaged......? I still shop at Sam's...but won't be fooled again by their "prime" meats
Double Chili Cheeseburger
RE: When and why 2006/08/24 10:36:59
Oltheimmer,I know what you mean about HEB Central market.Most of their meats and seafood are for the uscaple market so definetly would sell prime.The one nearest me is on Broadway down by Incarnate Word University,in Alamo Heights,so naturally in this old upper class neighborhood things like that will sell well. No Krogers here,and haven't been in Sam's in ages.My sister and her boyfriend by pork and that at Costco in New York where they live,so i don't know how their beef is since i don't have a Costco card.
RE: When and why 2006/08/24 11:11:30
LiindaW - I've never seen anything marked prime at Sam's here. I avoided Sam's meats for a long time, just didn't expect it to be any good. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it. Sam's rules the discount warehouse scene here unfortunately. There are only 2 Costcos, both a long way from where I live. If they ever put one in on my side of town I'm sure I'll like it.
RE: When and why 2006/08/24 11:13:29
greyghost is pretty right on in his description. Age is also am important factor. But, as he stated, if you know what to look for, you can more or less visually see a better piece of meat. "Choice" has a bit of range when it comes to marbling. SO, your eyes can do a lot to help you pick a good cut of beef.

Here's the whole read on how grading is done: http://www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/stand/standards/beef-car.pdf

and if that's too long, here's guy who has made it a little simpler: http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article.php?id=30&printer

this second option also comes with readers' comments - which contains a lot of the same questions and thoughts that we see on this site.