Why is some beef graded and others are not? And what do the grades mean?
Beef is graded according to a quality scale. From best to worst, the scale is Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner – with only Prime, Choice and Select sold to consumers as raw meat.
Certain cuts of meat are classified from where it comes from on the animal, while the grade of the meat speaks to the overall quality. Simple enough, right?
For perspective, the top USDA grade, Prime, makes up about 2-3% of all beef processed in the United States. Inspectors look mainly at the meat’s marbling, or the fat content that intertwines with the meat itself. As you would imagine, USDA Prime beef will give you rich, juicy, tender flavour and texture. This is Hall of Fame-level meat.
Just below that is Choice, which makes up around 45% of all graded beef. With such a big piece of the pie, you can imagine that there is a huge range in quality within that grade. At Belmont, we only carry top-tier or “high” Choice, which is the best you can get without being classified as USDA Prime. Most grocery stores carry “low” Choice. Worry not, beefeaters. We’ve got you covered.