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Beef University

Home of the BEST Meat in Town!

Beef Grades

The US Department of Agriculture has established several different Grades of Beef and Wilkes is the only meat market in the Braselton area that carries Prime Beef.

Some stores carry what they call Premium – THAT IS NOT A GRADE OF BEEF. Therefore they can use the lowest of grades and sell it at a premium price. Another common trick to "pump up" inferior qualities of meat is to add water or other additives to increase the weight. This is a very common practice in many stores.

Don’t be fooled; ask for Prime or Choice. Wilkes of Braselton only sells USDA Prime and Black Angus USDA Choice.

USDA Prime Beef

This is the grade of beef that contains the greatest degree of marbling. It is generally sold to finer restaurants and to some selected meat markets. It is higher in price because less than 3% of the beef graded is Prime. Prime grade beef is the ultimate in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Prime Rib is a USDA Prime rib roast for example, and many top steak houses serve only Prime cuts.

USDA Choice beef

Choice grade beef has less marbling than Prime, but is still of very high quality. This is the most popular grade of beef because it contains sufficient marbling for taste and tenderness, while costing less than Prime. Just over half of the beef graded each year earns a grade of Choice. Choice cuts are still tender and juicy.

USDA Select beef

This is generally a lower priced grade of beef with less marbling than Choice. Select cuts of beef may vary in tenderness and juiciness. Select has the least amount of marbling, making it leaner than, but often not as tender, juicy and flavorful as, the other two top grades. About a third of beef graded falls into this category.

Selecting the perfect steak

If cost were no object, we’d all feast on Prime beef. Reality being what it is we must weigh our options. Most markets today offer a selection of Choice and Select cuts, while a few high end stores will offer a selection of Prime as well. If your super market doesn’t carry Prime beef, you may have better luck at a local meat market.

When selecting an individual piece of meat, look for a cut that doesn’t have an excessive amount of outer fat, but with a good, even marbling. The fat should not be yellowed or gray, but creamy and moist looking. The color of the meat itself should be a rosy, cherry red and evenly hued. It should be firm to the touch and have a fine texture.

Ideally, you can obtain Prime beef that has been aged from four to six weeks. Aged beef has more flavor, so you’ll want to avoid beef that is “too fresh”. Aging however is a controlled process, so it’s not the same as beef that’s been sitting in the cooler for a month. Don’t be afraid to ask the butcher about the source and quality of their beef.

We hope with this information you can now go into a store having the knowledge to select the grade of beef which most meets your taste. Please do not hesitate to call us if you have any questions regarding this information.

- Ronnie and Cathy Wilkes