saval_ad_590x60

Can You Talk the Lingo About USDA Beef Grading and Yields?

The more you know, the better buying questions you can ask and the better buying decisions you can make.After meat and poultry are inspected for wholesomeness, producers and processors may request that they have products graded for quality by a licensed federal grader. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (www.ams.usda.gov) is the agency responsible for grading meat. Those who request grading must pay for the service. Grading for quality means the evaluation of traits related to tenderness, juiciness, and flavor of meat.
USDA grades are based on nationally uniform federal standards of quality. No matter where or when a consumer purchases graded meat, it must have met the same grade criteria.
The grade symbol and wording are no longer copyrighted. However, according to the Truth in Labeling Law, it is illegal to mislead or misrepresent the shield or wording.

USDA Grades for Meat
Beef is graded as whole carcasses in two ways:
1. Quality grades for tenderness, juiciness, and flavor; and
2. Yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.
There are eight quality grades for beef. Quality grades are based on the amount of marbling (flecks of fat within the lean), color, and maturity.

Quality Grades
Prime grade is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking (broiling, roasting, or grilling).
Choice grade is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are, like Prime, suited to dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts, such as those from the rump, round, and blade chuck, can also be cooked with dry heat if not overcooked. Such cuts will be most tender if braised — roasted or simmered with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.
Select grade is very uniform in quality and normally leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. Only the tender cuts (loin, rib, sirloin) should be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should be marinated before cooking or braised to obtain maximum tenderness and flavor.

Yield Grades
They range from “1” to “5” and indicate the amount of usable meat from a carcass. Yield grade 1 is the highest grade and denotes the greatest ratio of lean to fat; yield grade 5 is the lowest yield ratio.

Veal/Calf
There are five grades for veal/calf: Prime, Choice, Good, Standard, and Utility. Prime and Choice grades are juicier and more flavorful than the lower grades. Because of the young age of the animals, the meat will be a light grayish-pink to light pink, fairly firm, and velvety. The bones are small, soft, and quite red.

Lamb
There are five grades for lamb. Normally only two grades are found: Prime and Choice. Lower grades of lamb and mutton (meat from older sheep) — Good, Utility, and Cull — are seldom marked with the grade. Lamb is produced from animals less than a year old. Since the quality of lamb varies according to the age of the animal, it is advisable to buy lamb that has been USDA graded.
Prime grade is very high in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Its marbling enhances both flavor and juiciness.
Choice grade has slightly less marbling than prime, but still is of very high quality. Most cuts of Prime and Choice grade lamb (chops, roasts, shoulder cuts, and leg) are tender and can be cooked by the dry-heat methods (broiling, roasting, or grilling). The less tender cuts — breast, riblets, neck, and shank — can be braised to make them more tender.

Pork
Pork is not graded with USDA quality grades as it is generally produced from young animals that have been bred and fed to produce more uniformly tender meat. Appearance is an important guide in buying fresh pork. Look for cuts with a relatively small amount of fat over the outside and with meat that is firm and grayish pink in color. For best flavor and tenderness, pork should have a small amount of marbling.
Pork’s consistency makes it suitable for a variety of cooking styles. Chops can be prepared by pan broiling, grilling, baking, braising, or sautéing. Ribs can be braised, roasted, or grilled. Slow cooking yields the most tender and flavorful results. Tenderloins are considered to be the most tender and tasty cut of pork.

source: USDA

About the Author

Foodservice Monthly is the newsmagazine foodservice professionals rely on.

Leave a Reply




If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.