What Is The Difference Between Prime, Choice or Select Grades of Beef?

January 2, 2015 | Joe Gorgone

The Basics of USDA Beef Quality Grades

Chances are you’ve heard the terms Prime, Choice or Select when referring to cuts of beef. Maybe you’ve even noticed the grading shields on packages of beef you bought at the grocery story. But, do you know the difference between the 3? It can definitely be confusing so here’s a quick guide to help you learn the difference.

Beef is graded into either Select, Choice or Prime with the latter being the highest of quality. Graders look at 2 main things: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.

grades-usda-beef-schweid-and-sons

There are 3 main grades given by the USDA to Beef from the that is considered for consumption (taken from Wikipedia):

  • U.S. Prime – Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, about 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime.
  • U.S. Choice – High quality, widely available in foodservice industry and retail markets. Choice carcasses are 53.7% of the fed cattle total. The difference between Choice and Prime is largely due to the fat content in the beef. Prime typically has a higher fat content (more and well distributed intramuscular “marbling”) than Choice.
  • U.S. Select (formerly Good) – lowest grade commonly sold at retail, acceptable quality, but is less juicy and tender due to leanness.

All Certified Angus Beef®, by example, is graded Prime or Choice only. As an example, The One Percenter is 100% CAB USDA Prime and will guarantee you and extra juicy burger.

For a more in depth look, visit the USDA website.

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