If you are a beef steaks lover, then you should know what the difference between USDA Choice Beef, Prime or Select is. The term “USDA” stands for United States Department of Agriculture, which is the executive department that grades meats within the beef industry in the country. That’s not all the department does, however.
The twenty-nine agencies that make up USDA are on the same mission today since the department was first established, which is to work for the American people through economic innovation, protecting natural resources and promoting agriculture based on sustainability procedures.
Some facts and info about USDA
It was President Abraham Lincoln who, in 1862, established the department, which he called “The People’s Department.”
Lincoln’s initiative to sign legislation for an agricultural department extended beyond the idea of modernizing agriculture to educating farmers and encouraging cooperation in agricultural research so that both the country and the American people as individuals could thrive off of the industry.
His belief that “no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture” eventually paved the way for a development of agricultural procedures that served the nation well and the mission continues.
Among other things, what the USDA does today is to provide assistance in various ways to farmers working private lands. One of the department’s programs in this sense, from as early as the 1990s was to encourage less use of pathogens in meat and poultry through various farm programs and initiatives.
The department also regulates food and nutrition usually by suggesting rules related to nutritious eating, helping agencies incorporate nutrition education programs in schools and communities, and by regulating standards for various farms – including meat farms that want to sell their products, which is where USDA Choice comes into play.
USDA Choice Beef
USDA Choice is a grading label for meat from cattle or beef. This is a service that is made available to meat and poultry processors, but unlike wholesomeness inspection which is mandatory, USDA grading is a voluntary service. It is a service that benefits both food producers and consumers, in that food producers can market their products for higher quality and consumers are sure of what they’re buying.
In America, USDA Choice is the second highest graded beef, preceded by USDA Prime and succeeded by USDA Select.
- USDA Prime is the beef highest of quality produced from young and well-fed cattle, according to the grading system. Supply is usually limited, and the beef is mostly sold to restaurants, artisan butcher shops, and hotels.
- USDA Select is ranked as acceptable quality, but is usually leaner than highest grades beef, less juicy and tender as a result. It is widely available at grocery retailers across the country.
USDA Choice – The difference between Prime and Choice beef is mainly the higher content of fat in Prime USDA and the abundant marbling.
USDA Choice beef, however, is still graded high quality, and unlike Prime, the USDA Choice Beef is available at every grocery supermarket. It has less marbling indeed, but it is still tender, juicy meat that makes excellent roasts and steaks.
Know how to choose your Choice
About 66% of all graded USDA beef is Choice; only 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime and the rest is Select.
And there are choices and choices within the USDA Choice range of beef, meaning there are different levels of quality within this category itself. How the beef differs, it depends on the age of the animal at slaughter and the amount of fat and marbling.
For example, if the beef has as much fat and marbling to make it Prime, but the animal was too old at slaughter to fall into this category, then it’s still labeled as Choice. If the beef comes from young cattle, but the amount of marbling is small, then it’s graded Choice again. As such, Choice beef may come with ample marbling similar to Prime beef.