Of the types of meat available, beef is currently the third most popular meat worldwide. Beef also accounts for approximately 25 percent of the world’s meat production. Although we know of the source of the meat, the animal’s dietary and living conditions—which can play a significant factor in the meat’s protein quality—are most often unknown.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has specific standards for beef and its quality. These standards are defined by eight different grades and are considered the symbols of both safe and high-quality American beef.
Sourced from young, well-fed cattle, this is the best quality beef out there. The marbling is ample, and this grade is generally produced in much smaller quantities—most commonly sold to both restaurant and hotel chains. This grade of meat is the perfect choice for those dry-heat cooking methods such as roasting, grilling, and broiling.
Unlike prime, choice grade beef presents with less marbling and produced in bulk. However, it is still considered a high-quality grade. Those cuts such as roasts and steaks from the rib and loin areas are commonly very tender, flavorful, and juicy making them a perfect choice for dry-cooking as well.
With even less marbling than the two previous grades, the select grade is also slightly leaner. This grade offers less in the way of tenderness, juiciness, and flavor than the two higher grades. Select beef is a perfect choice for both slow cooking and marinating before broiling and grilling.
The grades of Standard and Commercial are sourced from the mature animals within the breeding herd. The quality is low, there is little to no marbling, and they are not tender as the other grades are. These grades are usually sold as either ungraded or store-brand meat. The grades of Utility, Cutter and Canner, are rarely seen retailed and are more commonly used in producing ground beef and processed and canned products.