USDA Grading

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LindaW
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2009/07/08 13:08:34 (permalink)

USDA Grading

I originally added this to a post in the recipes section, but I think this is more appropriate. I understand the USDA Grading for Prime, Choice, Select, etc, etc, etc

I was in Sam's Club the other morning and wanted to buy a brisket (last week I was able to buy a piece marked Prime). This week all the pieces of brisket, which are all cryovacked, have the Certified Angus logo and then also USDA Certified Program and no other markings.

Does anyone have a clue what the grade might be? The prices are the same whether it was the Prime piece or the not-graded one. The pieces I saw today had a good fat cap and the underside had plenty of marbling along with a little extra fat.

Thanks for all input.
Linda
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    brittneal
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 13:21:22 (permalink)
    The grades are based on 2 basic specifications  One is the % of fat to meat.  Not a fatty piece of meat but the amrbling thru the meat and next but the age of the animal..  This might help.
     
    USDA Prime Graded Beef.
    The Most Tender & Flavorful of Steaks   Why USDA Prime Steaks Are Superior.
    Anyone that has savored a USDA Prime Graded Steak knows that it is delightfully tender and juicy with a buttery flavor that makes it distinctively superior to any other steak. Of all the beef produced in the US, less than 2% is certified as USDA Prime. Typically you will not find USDA Prime in the supermarkets since its limited supply is gobbled up by fine meat purveyors that retail it to upscale restaurants and affluent consumers.
    How The USDA Grades Beef.
    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) meticulously grades beef at the request of a meat packer. Only beef that is USDA inspected may carry the USDA shield of authenticity. The grading system determines the quality rating of beef based upon a very complicated inspection system which essentially measures the amount of marbling (fat specs) in the ribeye muscle (lean) portion and combines the maturity (age) of the beef carcass to arrive at the inspected grade quality.
    Basically the higher the ratio of marbling and the younger the beef, the higher the grade. It is the fat marbling that determines tenderness, juiciness and flavor. The age of the beef determines beef texture and also effects flavor. Younger beef produces a finer texture and a lighter red color.
    Therefore USDA Prime Grade has the highest rating of a combined high ratio of marbling with the youngest maturity of beef. That's why prime is the most flavorful and most tender with the finest of texture.
    USDA Prime, Choice and Select Grades.
    Although there are eight levels of USGA graded beef there are generally only three USDA grades of beef that you would buy in a supermarket, a butcher shop or a restaurant. They are USDA Prime, Choice or Select which is the order of grade from the highest to lowest. Two lesser grades are Cutter and Canner which is what you would typically find in frozen pot pie dinners, microwave burritos, hamburgers and other processed food products. USDA Select is not very far above the bottom of the edible barrel, though some major chain stores will try and infer to a consumer that Select is a premium grade that is often marketed with a "catchy brand".
    Beware of marketing deceptions where some supermarkets may try to fool an unsuspecting consumer by using the words "prime" and "choice" without being attached with the official "USDA shield". Unless prime and choice carries the USDA label, what you are buying may not be the real thing. Some upscale restaurants employ clever wordsmiths to write menu copy that deceives you into thinking you are ordering a USDA Prime Steak when in reality you may be being served the less costly "Choice" version. In fairness to restaurants that serve USDA Choice Filets, it's degree of marbling could closely approach that of Prime when the measurement is very near the threshold that separates it from Prime.
    When shopping for quality steaks, always look for the USDA shield. When ordering a steak at a restaurant always ask your server what the USDA grade actually is. Often you'll hear a bit of stuttering and a quick diversion from the subject. That's a signal to become more inquisitive.
    USDA Prime Steaks. USDA Prime is the superior grade with amazing tenderness, juiciness, flavor and fine texture. It has the highest degree of fat marbling and is derived from the younger beef. That's why Prime is generally featured at the most exclusive upscale steakhouse restaurants.
    Used by permission of the USDA
    USDA Choice Steaks. USDA Choice is the second highest graded beef. It has less fat marbling than Prime. Choice is a quality steak particularly if it is a cut that is derived from the loin and rib areas of the beef such as a tenderloin filet or rib steak. Generally USDA Choice will be less tender, juicy and flavorful with a slightly more coarse texture versus Prime.
    Used by permission of the USDA
    USDA Select Steaks. USDA Select is generally the lowest grade of steak you will find at a supermarket or restaurant. You will find it tougher, less juicy and less flavorful since it is leaner that Prime and Choice with very little marbling. The texture of Select is generally more coarse. Therefore, Select is not nearly as enjoyable or desirable.
    Used by permission of the USDA

     
    That brings up something weve talked about here in the past.  i had mentioned awhile back about how i no longer seem to enjoy a steak at home anymore.  for about the past 3 years i have found them to ne  fairly tatelees and lacking in juices.  Also even knowing I had under cooked it the center was more towards brown thamn pink.  Kroger is big in my area and they sell far more select than choice.  Even when i buy what they call Ang=us Beef which is their choice grade it still seems to be  a shadow of its former glory.
    One other thing that i think has made a difference is all the deisgner cuts of beef now.  You dont see the old standbys of yore.  I cant remember when I saw a Chuck Steak.  I meant either the 7 bone blade steak or the shoulder arm steak with the round bone.  What about the Bone in sirlin steak?  The flat sirloin with the diaganol bone accross it and 1/2" of fat around the edges.  Why isnt there a nice fat cap on a good steak these days.?
      
     
    post edited by brittneal - 2009/07/08 13:44:53
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    LindaW
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 14:11:07 (permalink)
    thank  you Brittneal, so this meat that I looked at at Sam's had the USDA stamp on it, along with the Angus label, but no indication of the grade all it said was USDA Program Certified...any clues?
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    tommyeats
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 15:19:49 (permalink)
    if it's Certified Angus Beef (CAB) brand, it's top Choice or higher, which means it could be the equivalent of Prime. 

    Take a look at their website for more info: http://www.certifiedangusbeef.com/

    #4
    LindaW
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 15:36:28 (permalink)
    Thanks Tommyeats,
    That's just the info I was looking for....
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    WarToad
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 16:28:17 (permalink)
    Its my understanding that certified Angus only certifies it actually is the Angus breed of cattle. (Which is just a marketing tool of ranchers trying to push a certain breed as somehow superior.  Is the russet potato superior to the red potato? No, they are simply different.)  The meat itself can still have quite a spread of quality to it as any other breed can.
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    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 17:34:25 (permalink)
    WarToad

    Its my understanding that certified Angus only certifies it actually is the Angus breed of cattle. (Which is just a marketing tool of ranchers trying to push a certain breed as somehow superior.  Is the russet potato superior to the red potato? No, they are simply different.)  The meat itself can still have quite a spread of quality to it as any other breed can.

    Actually, it does not even certify that the beef comes from an actual angus -- either black angus or red angus. What it means is that the beef comes from cattle that have at least some degree of angus ancestry and acertain percentage of black hair.
     
    And you are correct as to the grading of the beef. It can, according to the USDA (which also sets the minimum standards for the amount of angus ancestry and hair color), range from low choice to prime.


    post edited by Michael Hoffman - 2009/07/08 17:36:38
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    tommyeats
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 17:53:04 (permalink)
    I believe the CAB website has FAQs and a lot of other words that might help separate fact from fiction, for those interested in such flights of fancy. 
    #8
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 18:01:54 (permalink)
    tommyeats

    I believe the CAB website has FAQs and a lot of other words that might help separate fact from fiction, for those interested in such flights of fancy. 


    I suggest you check out the USDA website to find out about the CAB approval by the USDA. Look under USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. It sents the standards for registered programs, including the Certified Angus Beef program.
     
    And then enjoy your flight of fancy.
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    tommyeats
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 18:14:00 (permalink)
    oh michael, i wasn't directing that toward you.  you already know everything there is to know!

    CAB = modest marbling or higher.  Choice can be "moderate", "modest", "small".  so depending on how you want to categorize "low choice", you might be right for some of the cows.  of course there's a spread, and no one suggested otherwise.  they're cows, for god's sake.

    regardless, I'd bet my last dollar that CAB is generally going to be better than the steaks i see posted here, so i urge everyone to enjoy and make up their own mind, putting aside the marketing conspiracy theories for just one bite.
    #10
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 19:43:05 (permalink)
    tommyeats

    oh michael, i wasn't directing that toward you.  you already know everything there is to know!

    CAB = modest marbling or higher.  Choice can be "moderate", "modest", "small".  so depending on how you want to categorize "low choice", you might be right for some of the cows.  of course there's a spread, and no one suggested otherwise.  they're cows, for god's sake.

    regardless, I'd bet my last dollar that CAB is generally going to be better than the steaks i see posted here, so i urge everyone to enjoy and make up their own mind, putting aside the marketing conspiracy theories for just one bite.

    I don't really know quite everything. Sometimes I actually have to look things up. When I do, of course, I don't depend on websites belonging to groups with a monetary stake in something. You know -- websites dealing with what is known as Certified Angus Beef that belong to the organization licensing the Certified Angus Beef label.

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    brittneal
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 21:08:49 (permalink)
    It would still be less confusing if they were all on the same page.  We had a local chain called Fulmers.  their  add and a sign in  the meat dept said only choice sold.  Now in the counters(no butcher counter here) they had steaks with just a store label saying choice but also other steaks with the Angus sticker.  I asked the butcher the difference and he said all choice meats were Angus!
    When I first moved here they had an ad for whole Angus Baby Beef Tenderloin  At $3.99lb, i bit.  I took it home to cut it aand had a shcok.  It was a cow tender that looked like Cutter Grade(1 below select)  It was a PISMO.  Totaly trimmed of all fat and membrane.  The color was so red it was purle.  While quite tender the flavor was all wrong.  I didnt try to take it back as it was unwrapped and cut up.  They did slap an ANgus label on it.  it didnt weigh over a lb and a hallf with the cryo!
     
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    tommyeats
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 22:47:33 (permalink)
    Michael Hoffman

    I don't really know quite everything. Sometimes I actually have to look things up. When I do, of course, I don't depend on websites belonging to groups with a monetary stake in something. You know -- websites dealing with what is known as Certified Angus Beef that belong to the organization licensing the Certified Angus Beef label.


    OMG we agree!!  READ READ READ!!  Don't believe the type!! 
    #13
    TJ Jackson
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/08 23:44:13 (permalink)
    Why was Linda's original post flagged as inappropriate?

    It appears to be a perfectly legit inquiry, no rules broken, politely stated, etc etc
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    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/09 01:11:06 (permalink)
    TJ Jackson

    Why was Linda's original post flagged as inappropriate?

    It appears to be a perfectly legit inquiry, no rules broken, politely stated, etc etc


    I didn't realize it had been flagged. Apparently the Fairy Flagger doesn't think it belongs in the Prime Cuts section because it is not about "your favorite steak joints, prime rib places and other carnivorous places."
     
    The Fairy Flagger needs to get a job.
    #15
    brittneal
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/09 01:11:57 (permalink)
    I got flagged on this same ofum.  my post was about Prime Rib.  The Senior Micro Manager flagged me as the Prime Cuts should be limited to dining out!@
     
    i got a PM from somebody about my misuse of the TOS on his Cincinnati-NKY thread.  i had posted about a resturaunt that was closed a few years ago.  SUch thin skins these days
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    TJ Jackson
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/09 01:45:38 (permalink)
    brittneal
    i got a PM from somebody about my misuse of the TOS on his Cincinnati-NKY thread.  i had posted about a resturaunt that was closed a few years ago.  SUch thin skins these days

    I wonder who that might be, given the very vague description you've provided here. Hmm.

    Maybe this person, whoever he or she is, preferred to try to deal with an increasingly problematic issue quietly and privately rather than throw a hissy fit in a public thread, even in a thread entirely unrelated to the issue over which said hissy was thrown.

    Then again, who would handle such a situation in such a childish fashion as the latter example?  Surely no mature adult. 

    anyway, back to the issue of gradation of beef
    post edited by TJ Jackson - 2009/07/09 01:47:12
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    Twinwillow
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/09 02:18:33 (permalink)
    Meat graded, "prime" and meat graded, "Angus" are two completely different things.
    You might get "prime" Angus beef but Angus, is a breed not a grade of quality.
    #18
    David_NYC
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/09 05:58:48 (permalink)
    What I am about to write I posted once before, but can't find that thread. Thanks to Michael for jogging my memory. You should download this Adobe Acrobat file from the USDA's web site:
    http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3025674
    Then Google usda agricultural marketing service branded beef and select the first entry listed. The link is too long for this format, so use Google. That web page makes it easier to see what is going on.
     
    If you click on a branded beef name, you will get a page that lists live animal requirements, if any, possibly a link to the live animal requirements spec PDF file, and a link to a PDF file giving the brandname specification. As an example, lets use the very rare-sounding  Tyson's Chairman's Reserve Certified Premium Beef. Click on G 35, and you will find this is a non-breed specific grade. Click on Brand Name Specification - PDF file and you will get a two page specification.

    Now go to the first PDF file I gave you a link to and look for Tyson's Chairman's Reserve. You will see this is going to be a prime or choice grade.

    Look at all the brands there. Under a given brand name, you will find most offer prime and choice grades. There are some curious entries as well. Swift & Company's Angus Select Beef sounds pretty good, huh? The brand is reserved for USDA Select grade beef.

    Now, to try to answer LindaW's question, I THINK the cardboard boxes Certified Angus Beef comes in has a USDA grading printed on it. From the USDA PDF file, that grade could be Prime or Choice. But all you see is the Certified Angus Beef trademark on the beef out on the floor in the meat case. Unless she asks to see the boxes that Sam's got the beef in, there is no way to know the grading. Again, I THINK I saw USDA grading designations printed on various empty boxes of Branded Beef sitting on Manhattan sidewalks waiting to be picked up by the recycler.

    I don't think much of the general public understands the Branded Beef program. Being a city slicker, I don't even understand the specifications for the various brands. But, what I do understand is that first PDF file. Instead of a supermarket sticking a USDA Prime or USDA Choice label on meat, they stick a "Chairman's Mistress's Shagging Reserve Certified Beef" label on the package.

    You want my opinion about what this is all about? These companies will tell all sorts of tales of flights of fancy to avoid having to put that 'USDA Choice' sticker on a package of meat.

    SYSCO participates in this program, too. Chefs might have a preference for a certain type of beef, information that a USDA Prime or USDA Choice label will not tell you.
    post edited by David_NYC - 2009/07/09 06:04:07
    #19
    LindaW
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    Re:USDA Grading 2009/07/09 08:21:33 (permalink)
    I cannot believe the "Fairy Flagger" considers this inappropriate, but WHATEVER!!! Thank you all for the information. I did purchase an 8 lb brisket last night to cook this weekend...another woman was buying at least 3 packages..as her husband swears that it is the best deal locally for the quality of the meat. Any more information is always welcome, the day I decide I don't need to learn more, is the day I die.
    Linda
    Linda- The Flag is gone. Mayor Al (Moderator)
    post edited by mayor al - 2009/07/09 15:47:32
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    John A
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