The USDA Beef Grade System: Beef Up Your Meat Knowledge - Ward's Supermarket
Monday-Saturday: 8am-8pm Sunday: 9am-7pm
Ward's Supermarket Logo

The USDA Beef Grade System: Beef Up Your Meat Knowledge

Home » Blog » The USDA Beef Grade System: Beef Up Your Meat Knowledge

Have you heard of prime beef, choice beef, or select beef? Ever wonder what these terms mean? Unless you’re a grill master connoisseur, seeing these labels may not mean much to you beyond seeing the price difference between them. You don’t need to wonder anymore! We’ll explain everything you need to know about beef quality grades and how it differs from Angus beef cuts. 

How Is Beef Graded?

Beef grading is based on USDA standards that beef producers can voluntarily opt into to label the quality of their beef. Beef producers may choose to have their products graded so they can accurately market their meat to consumers. So what standards are used to grade beef? The USDA states that their grading system is based on the “tenderness, juiciness, and flavor and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.” What that means for you as you’re shopping for your next steak is that the higher the grade of the meat, the more tender, marbled, and flavorful the beef will be. 

The Grade of Beef

There are three grades of beef: prime, choice, and select. Knowing what these grades mean and how the meat of that grade should be used can make or break your next backyard grill day. 

Prime Grade

Prime grade beef is going to be the highest quality grade you’ll find. This means the beef has the highest amount of marbling, providing plenty of fat to make the perfectly juicy steak. It is produced in lower quantities, so you’ll find it most often when you go out for steak. However, you can go to your local grocery store or butcher if you want to splurge on a steak meal at home. Prime grade beef is a great choice for the grill, a hardy roast, or a pan sear. 

One thing to keep in mind is that prime is the USDA grade. Beef like “prime rib” refers to the cut and not necessarily the grade of the meat. 

Choice Grade

Choice grade beef is going to be your middle-of-the-road steak. It’s more affordable than prime meat but still has a good amount of fat marbling to make a great at-home steak. Because choice grade is produced in much higher quantities than prime grade, it’ll be more available at your local grocery store and at a reduced price. The amount of marbling in the beef can vary—if you want to grill or pan sear, go with a cut with more marbling, and if you want a slow roast, one with less marbling will be perfect. 

Select Grade

Select grade beef is the leanest type of beef on the grading scale. This means it will be less expensive, have less marbling, and may be a bit tougher and less flavorful than its choice and prime counterparts. This does not mean that select beef is a bad piece of meat for your next dinner. Select grade beef will shine with the right marinade or for a slow-cooked recipe.

Is Angus Beef a Grade? 

When people are looking for high-quality beef, they’re first thought often goes to Angus beef, specifically black Angus beef. Despite its reputation, Angus is not a grade of the meat. Angus beef can be anything from select, choice, or prime. The reason it has a reputation for being a high quality meat is actually due to the cow it comes from. 

Angus cows can be split into black Angus and red Angus. Both do well throughout the winter—putting on a good amount of fat and meat. Because of this, this breed of cattle is more likely to produce well-marbled meat which leads to a tender, tasty cut of meat. In summary, if you’re looking for good quality beef, you’re more likely to find it in a black Angus beef cut. But, Angus itself does not relate to the grade of the meat. 

Find Locally Raised Black Angus Beef at Your Local Ward’s Grocery Store

Whether you’re looking for a steakhouse meal at home or making a hearty roast to keep warm during this winter season, your local Ward’s has everything you need! Our best-in-the-game butchers can guide you through what cut of meat and grade would be best for your needs. When you come to Ward’s, you support local cattle ranches. We get our fresh, quality meats straight from framers to your table. Come in today to browse our wide selection of meats and black Angus beef cuts!

(352) 372-1741
515 NW 23rd Ave.
Gainesville, FL 32609