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Beef Grades

Is Your Beef at the Top of the Class?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) categorizes beef into eight different grades


Quality Rankings and Grading Standards for Beef

The United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, separates beef into eight different grades: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner. Most restaurants serve Prime or Choice beef, and only about two percent of all beef graded by the USDA qualifies for Prime distinction.

Another grading program is Certified Angus Beef, a designation awarded by Wooster, Ohio-based Certified Angus Beef LLC. In order to earn the brand's logo, qualifying beef must pass eight specifications more than USDA Choice regarding marbling, tenderness and consistency of flavor. Tellingly, only one in four Angus in the U.S. qualify. 

A cow that provides Angus certified meat must have Angus parentage and a coat that is at least 51 per cent black.

Warning: Do not confuse Prime beef with the prime rib — the prime rib refers to the location from where the meat is cut, not the graded quality of the beef. The grades refer primarily to the amount of fat marbling in the muscle; Prime beef must contain no less than 8 per cent intramuscular fat. And you wondered why it tasted so good.

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