How to Choose between Prime vs Choice vs Select?

Chances are, you have a favorite way to eat a burger. Maybe you swear by Certified Angus Beef brand or prefer your beef grass-fed. You might know the perfect ratio of ketchup to mustard or have a strong opinion about pickles, lettuce, or tomato. But you might not have considered how the different grades of beef affect the texture and flavor profile.

The different beef grades include Prime, Choice, and Select, which are assigned through a rigorous process. Take a look at what the different grades of beef mean, and more importantly, how you can best prepare them for mouth-watering consumption!


The USDA grade shields are assigned to beef to signify high-quality meat that is safe for consumption. Suppliers, restaurateurs, and consumers rely on these grades to safely enjoy a variety of different beef products. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service develops and interprets the grades based on official standards. Highly skilled meat graders assess each product using a subjective characteristic assessment and electronic measurement instruments. It’s the equivalent of your beef having to pass Calculus- it’s not easy to make the grade of Prime, Choice, or Select! In fact, there are 8 possible grades of beef- standard and commercial grade beef are sold as ungraded, or store-brand meat, and utility, cutter, and canner grades are used in processed meat products. So what do meat graders look for to assign the Prime, Choice, or Select grade?

  • Quality Grade: Beef is graded on two scales, and one is meat quality. Tenderness, juiciness, and flavor determine the ranking for the quality grade. Fat content, age at slaughter, farming practice, and source can affect the quality score.
  • Yield Grade: Graders also measure the yield, or the usable lean meat on the carcass. In order to receive high yield marks, the ratio of juicy meat to fat has to be just right. A yield grade ranges from 1-5 and measures the layer of fat covering the meat. For example, a yield grade of 1 would be assigned to a ribeye with 5/10 of an inch of fat covering it, whereas a ribeye with a yield grade of 4 might have a 9/10-inch layer of fat.

Prime Burger with Burgers


When you bite into a juicy burger, you want to enjoy the highest quality beef. USDA grades help ensure that your beef has been safely sourced and meticulously chosen to deliver a delicious product. Here’s how to choose from the best of the best, to tantalize your taste buds.

1. Prime

This beef not only makes the grade, it’s eligible for the Ivy Leagues. It has superior quality and intramuscular fat content, which keeps it in high demand. Most USDA Prime beef is sold by upscale restaurants and fine beef purveyors, and is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. Only about 2.9% of beef makes the grade of Prime. Check out The Prime Burger!

2. Choice

USDA Choice beef is still exceptional in quality but has slightly less fat marbling. Marbling refers to fat evenly distributed throughout the muscle, versus a layer of fat on the perimeter. This makes the cut a touch less juicy, but proper preparation still produces excellent results. It’s the most widely available grade in grocery stores and comprises over 53% of consumable beef. 

3. Select

With its lower fat content, select beef is the most uniform in quality but can lack the flavor and moisture of higher grades. It is normally leaner which makes it a popular choice for those who are more health-conscious. This is typically the lowest grade sold at commercial retailers, but with proper cooking techniques, you can achieve savory results.

Burger on a big bun topped with bright red cabbage on a black plate.


High quality ground-beef purveyors are the most trusted sources for top-quality beef selection. Schweid & Sons is a fourth-generation family-owned company that is synonymous with superior beef products. Our CAB burgers are made from the finest beef, as only 3 out of 10 cattle receive this distinction.  We’ve been satisfying burger cravings for over 40 years, and can help you choose the best beef from our wide selection of everything from pre-formed patties to proprietary and custom blends

Find us in the fresh meat section at your local grocery store. Check our store locator link here to find a store in your area. 

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