Fall Report Card: What grade did you get in beef?
Many of us have reached that moment where we graduate and rejoice in the fact that we will never have to receive another grade ever again. Grades can be stressful because making the grade consistently is hard. Grades challenge us, and standards of excellence make us better - even though they make our hair grey sometimes too. The same is true for food, and more specifically beef; grades help us know where each piece lies on the scale of excellence. Grades help us make an informed decision, so let's get informed!
1. What are the Grades?
The grades of beef are not A+ through F. They have a name and structure all their own, and that can be confusing for most of us who don't live in the beef world. Not only that, when we don't know the grades we can easily be misled and purchase beef that we normally wouldn't. If you didn't know the grades in school, then F may stand for fantastic and A for abysmal. Knowledge is power in life and in meat!
There are eight grades beef can receive from the USDA: prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter and canner. Sure we can list them, but what do they look like? Here are photos that range from Prime to Select to show you how drastic the differences are between the top three grades.
As you can see, the top-left and top-middle cuts of beef are rated prime; the top-left steak being the better of the two. The next three moving from left to right and top to bottom represent the Choice category. They range from the best of the grade to the lower end of it. The final image shows you the Select grade of beef. As you can see, the gap between a Prime and Select steak is literally and figuratively, excuse my language, fat.
This doesn't even show you the lowest grades of beef and their marbling. I didn't show you because I didn't want to upset you. One of the grades for the marbling down there is, "practically devoid", which would have left you definitely devoid of hope. Marbling is only one half of the equation though; the most delicious half. The USDA grades on both Marbling and Maturity.
Don't be fooled by this lie. Age is not just a number. Maturity (age) is the second factor that goes into grading beef. The majority of cows that receive the prime rating have abundant marbling and are less than 30 months of age. They can receive prime up to 42 months, but that age range with abundant marbling often grades choice as well. What does age really tell us about the quality of meat though? Why is it important? Two main reasons:
The age of the cow has a lot to do with the tenderness of the meat. The longer a cow lives, the more it walks, the more it strains, and the tougher its meat becomes over time. The most tender meat is what receives the prime and choice grading.
The older a cow becomes, the more the meat darkens. The classic bright red steak is not just a fresh cut steak, but a steak from a young cow. The reason for the darker color in older animals is due to more exercise and higher myoglobin levels that increase in the muscles over the life of the cow.
Which Grades To Buy - Where To Find Them?
It's really easy to see that Prime and Choice are the cuts you want to buy and would enjoy the most, but where can you get them? Do only steakhouses have the connections to buy that meat? Even if we could buy it, would it be extremely expensive for an average person to obtain it? You definitely have access to prime and choice meat, but it won't often be your pre-packaged grocery store beef
. A lot of that beef is Select or lower. A lot of it is even ungraded because it's imported or such low quality you wouldn't buy it if it's grade was visible.
The same is true for many meat subscription boxes. The meat you get in many popular ones - not gonna name any names in this blog cause you can look at our other blogs and find out :cowboy_hat_face: - is ungraded! They are selling you store bought quality if not less, and that's just wrong. We think you should not only know what beef is the best, but be able to find it and afford it. That's why we started GoodRanchers.
The Store You Can Trust - Good Ranchers
We only sell Prime and High-Choice beef. You are going to get the best marbling and maturity every single time from us. That is our commitment to quality. We also value honesty. We aren't going to sell the meat at such extreme prices that only a few can afford them. Our mission is to feed every American, those doing well and those in need, by providing 100% American meat, 100% of the time. That's why our price is lower than some of those other meat guys selling ungraded meat - read our other blogs to know which boxes to avoid. Let's turn the report card around. There's still time to bump that grade up to an A+ with some extra beef credit!
So buy Good Ranchers today! Find your box of the highest graded beef at our SHOP. All you have to do is click HERE to find your perfect box, subscribe to save 20%, and enjoy steakhouse quality every night.
Also, follow us on Social @GoodRanchers to stay up to date on meat tips, giveaways, new products, and jokes that will make you laugh. Seriously, you've got nothing to lose!