The other day, I had a customer ask me about meat grades .Tell you the truth everything I had learned in Culinary School went *POOF* out the window. I did not know what to tell him and that moment, I knew I needed to go back to school.
There are several components that go into grading meat. Grading is done by the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA). Meat processors pay on a voluntary basis for trained AMS(Agricultural Marketing Service) meat graders to grade their product.
The USDA has set up components for grading meat. 1. the age of the animal at the time of slaughter. The older the animal the darker the meat and coarser the texture. 2. the texture of the meat, does it look tough? 3. appearance of the meat, is it nice and pink? 4. the marblization of the meat, more marblization the more tender the meat. Outside of that, USDA has set up 8 grades of meat, that are based on two main criteria, Marblization(intramuscular fat) and the age of the animal.
First grade: U.S. Prime, is the highest quality of meat, prime marblization and in limited supply, about 3% of carcasses grade at prime. This grade is usually found in restaurants and hotels. Second: is the U.S. Choice, this a high quality product and widely available in foodservice and retail. The carcasses make up about 53% of the total cattle. The difference between Prime and Choice is the fat. Prime has a higher and more favorable marblization. Third: U.S. Select, more commonly found in retail acceptable but less tender due to leanness. Fourth: U.S. Standard, a economical grade that lacks marbling. Fifth: U.S. Commercial, low quality no tenderness and found in older animals. The last 3 grades the U.S. Utility, Cutter, and Canner are never used in foodservice and primarily are used by the processors and canning industry.
Retailers have begun advertising the strong reputation of their specific breed of cattle, which is what we know as Black Angus. These Scottish cows are from royal blood line. To be Certified Angus animals are a result of cross breeding, and must have solid black fur covering more than half it's body. Black Angus is prized for it's finely marbled meat, meaning that the fat is evenly dispersed which results in a juicy,more tender cut of meat.
To tell you the truth, I am surprised at how much information I forgot from that awful class(Butchery) in Culinary School. Awful in the sense that butchering was a bit overwhelming, what some one's eye spotted was not what I saw. Meat baffled me, when it was in it's side of cattle form. I saw just the animal, while others that became great butchers saw cuts of meat. While I will always be thankful for the experience, I believe for this cookie, I have to leave it up to the experts. I tip my hat to all the butchers.
Life goes faster on protein.~ Martin H.Fischer