How to Buy, and How not to Buy Great Meat, that is the Question. Understanding the Beef Grading System is not easy… Find out exactly what you need to know.

Americans are very lucky.  Most of the beef, pork and poultry we eat is not only USDA inspected for safety, but is also inspected and graded for quality.  However; understanding the grading symbols and lingo can be very confusing.

What you need to know is that in 2021 USDA Choice essentially means almost nothing regarding great quality.  Before we go on, let us mention the USDA Select  Grade.  As you see, it is located on the bottom of the pyramid and has only Slight Marbling.  If you want a good steak, roast or even stew meat, NEVER BUY THIS GRADE. 

As you take a look at the chart above you will see USDA Choice in 3 locations on the pyramid.  Actually, USDA Choice is broken into 5 yields from yield 1 to yield 5, meaning the amount of waste goes up and yield goes down.  USDA Choice yields 1 and 2 actually were considered USDA Select just a few years ago.  So, the use of USDA Choice on these two yields is simply a fraud!

Unfortunately, few stores will tell you that they are carrying USDA Select.  The fact is, if it does not have any grade marking it is probably this low grade.  Also, some stores have their own “special” names like “Safeway Select Beef”, “Lucky’s 5-Star beef”, etc. regardless of the names; chances are if it is USDA Choice, it will say so.  So, store brands without USDA Choice logos are no doubt USDA Select.  It might be cheap, but you will probably be disappointed every time.

The bad news is that when you see USDA Choice you could be getting the worst of the better, USDA Prime is of course, the very best.  As I mentioned, USDA Choice is on the pyramid in 3 places.  The two lower tiers are barely better than Select, with customer satisfaction coming in very low! Don’t be misled, USDA Choice these days means almost nothing, especially at the supermarkets who carry low choice.

Putting it quite simply, if you want a great piece of meat every time, buy only meat from Lakeview or…that is USDA Prime, or with the CAB Logo (Certified Angus Beef logo) This ensures that you will get only the highest and best grade, the best flavor, tenderness, and best results on your grill or in your kitchen.

A couple last comments, just because a package is labeled Angus does not mean it is good meat or CAB. There are over 250 breeds of cattle in the world. There are a half dozen or so great breeds you may hear about like Hereford, Limousin, Charolais, Simmental, and Wagyu that are excellent beef cattle. However; the Angus people have done a fabulous job of marketing their breed and the others are left in the dust, except for the Wagyu niche.

Angus beef has the same levels of quality from Select to Prime, so beware. Just because it is labeled Angus does not mean it is USDA Choice, Prime or CAB; it could be USDA Select…

At Lakeview our beef is almost always USDA Prime or CAB top quality, which is the top 25% of all beef. What is really different is that almost all Lakeview top quality beef is also wet-aged for at least 21 days before you buy it. Meat has an enzyme called Cowpain that makes the meat more tender over time delivering the best flavor and tenderness. This is why super fresh cut beef, though a top grade, is still not that flavorful or tender as aged beef. This is the experience people often have with Costco’s top graded beef. Costco gets in good beef, freshly cut, with no aging, and out it goes. Without the wet aging process their beef, though USDA Prime, is really pretty, red, and yet is not that tender or flavorful.

Lakeview, being a full-service Meat store that sells groceries, always carries the highest and best USDA Prime and Certified Angus Beef that is aged to perfection. You will notice the difference!

Kenny Parlet-  Lakeview Supermarket and Deli                          Outstanding Independent Meat Retailer in the Nation 2018

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