Making the Grade

Posted by Ogeechee Butcher on Friday, August 7, 2009 Under: Grades of Meat

Dear Butcher,

In the previous questions you mentioned the grades of meat, would you please explain them and there differences?

-April Savannah, Ga.


Thanks for the question. Each type of meat have a different grade system. (Thank you US government.)  The grades are quality grades of meat. Chicken: Grade A is the highest quality poultry and usually the only grade found in retail stores. Grade A poultry is free of defects such as bruises and broken bones. Whole birds and parts are fully fleshed and meaty. For birds and parts with the skin on, there are no tears in the skin and a good covering of fat under the skin. Grade B and Grade C are used in processed meat products.

Pork is not given USDA quality grades as the meat is generally more uniform and tender than the others.

Lamb grades are:

Prime -         Has abundant marbling and is generally very juicy and tender.
  Choice- Has less marbling than Prime grades, but is still high quality.

Good, utility- These cuts are seldom sold in retail stores.


Beef and Veal Grades:

Prime-             Has abundant marbling and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels.

Choice-           Has less marbling than Prime grades, but is still high quality. Mainly, because Prime is considered too fatty in retail settings.

Select-           Leaner than the higher grades. Fairly tender but may lack some juiciness and flavor of higher grades.

Standard-        Has no marbling. Will lack juiciness and flavor of higher grades.

Commercial-    May have marbling, but comes from a more mature animal and will lack tenderness.

Utility-             Meat from mature animals which lacks marbling.

Remember we only carry Grade A Chicken, Prime cuts of Pork and Choice Black Angus Beef.  

Well, I hope this helps in your understanding of the quality grades. A greater understanding of the grades will lead to you being able to pick out the better cuts of meat. Just remember fat is not the evil it is made out to be. In fact, most of it cooks up into the meat by the time it is ready for the plate. Thanks for the question keep them coming.

Until next time.... good grillin'!      - June 25, 2009

In : Grades of Meat 

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About Me

I have been cutting meat for over50 years. I have done everything from working for shopping chains to now owning my own shop. I am part of the last group that was tested to be a certified meat cutter; when butchers still broke down the meat they needed from sides and whole carcasses. I have a vast knowledge of the field and am happy to share.