The USDA grades beef eight different ways.  These eight grades are listed below, from highest to lowest quality.  

Highest Quality

Prime grade is almost never found in supermarkets. This beef 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 grilling, broiling or roasting.

Choice grade is still of high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib are very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for grilling, broiling or roasting.  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.


Low Quality

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.

Standard grade is frequently sold as ungraded or as “store brand” meat.

Commercial grade is much the same as Standard grade.


Lowest Quality

Utility grade is seldom, if ever, sold at retail. It is used to make ground beef and processed products.

Cutter grade - same as above.

Canner grade - same as above.


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