Meat Evaluation

Do you ever wonder which cut of meat is the best? When you're at the store, how do you know which cut of meat to choose? This poster is designed help you make that decision.

Beef

Tips

  • Fat should not be soft and oily
  • Good cuts have the best muscling and the least amount of fat
  • Adequate marbling is required for tenderness and high quality grades
  • Prime grade is the best quality grade
  • Yield 1 is the best yield grade

Deformities

There are many different deformities that cattle may get. Two of these are hairlessness and anemia. Cattle with these conditions should not be chosen because they are prone to disease.

Grades

USDA Grades:

  • US No. 1 - Slightly thick throughout with a moderate width between the legs.
  • US No. 2 - Narrow throughout with legs set close together. Back and loin have a sunken appearance.
  • US No. 3 - Even less thickness and width between legs than USDA No. 2.

Maturity Grades:

  • A - 9 to 30 months
  • B - 30 to 42 months
  • C - 42 to 72 months
  • D - 72 to 96 months
  • E - More than 96 months

Quality Grades:

  • Prime - Comes from young, well-fed beef cattle and has an abundant amount of marbling. Usually sold in restaurants and hotels. Have maximum marbling. Cannot be a slaughter cow.
  • Choice - High quality but with less marbling than Prime. About 80% of grain fed beef is choice.
  • Select - Uniform in quality and leaner than Prime and Choice. Fairly tender but lacks some of the juices and flavor of higher grades because it has less marbling.
  • Standard and Commercial - Usually sold as non-graded meat. "Store-brand" meat.
  • Utility, Cutter, and Canner - Rarely ever sold at retail. Used to make ground beef and processed products.

Yield Grades:

  • Yield Grade 1 - Loin and ribs are covered with a thin layer of external fat with slight deposits of fat in the flank, cod or udder, kidney, pelvic, and heart.Very thin layer of fat over the round and chuck.
  • Yield Grade 2 - Almost completely covered with fat, but leaner over the outside of the round, chuck, and neck. Thin layer of fat over the inside round, loin, and rib. Thick layer of fat over rump and sirloin.
  • Yield Grade 3 - Usually completely covered with fat. Lean is visible only on the outside of the round and neck. Usually has a thicker layer of fat over the rump and sirloin. Large amounts of fat in the flank, cod or udder, kidney, pelvic, and heart areas.
  • Yield Grade 4 - Usually completely covered with fat. Muscle visible outside the flank and plate areas. Thick layer of fat over the the round, loin, rib, rump, and sirloin. Large amounts of fat in the flank, cod or utter, kidney, pelvic, and heart areas.
  • Yield Grade 5 - All external surfaces covered with a think layer of fat. Extensive amounts of fat in the brisket, cod or utter, kidney, pelvic, and heart areas.

Swine

Tips

  • Yield is evaluated by thickness of backfat and degree of muscling
  • Thick muscling helps offset backfat thickness
  • Muscling score is used to determine the USDA slaughter barrow and gilt grade
  • Degrees of muscling are thick, average, and thin
  • Worst USDA grade is US Utility

Deformities

Lameness, arthritis, and dwarfism are all deformities found in swine. If they possess these deformities, they should not be chosen because they were not able to grow as well as other swine and may also have diseases.

Grades

USDA Grades:

  • U.S. No. 1 - Thick muscling and average backfat thickness of 1.2 inches.
  • U.S. No. 2 - Moderately thick muscling and average backfat thickness of 1.6 inches.
  • U.S. No. 3 - Slightly thin muscling and average backfat thickness of 1.9 inches.
  • U.S. No. 4 - Thin muscling and excessive amount of backfat that can average 2.2 inches in thickness.
  • U.S. Utility - Unacceptable quality with a belly too thin to produce desirable bacon. Thin cover of fat.

Poultry

Tips

  • USDA Grades do not indicate sanitation, only quality
  • Ready-to-cook means that the head, feet, feathers, blood, and viscera have been removed
  • Poultry carcasses are graded based on confirmation, fleshing, fat covering, exposed flesh, discoloration, disjointed and broken bones, missing parts, and freezing defects
  • Well covered with fat is ideal

Grades

  • Grade A - Sold in stores. Cannot have any broken bones, but may have one disjointed bone. Missing wing tips and tail. Breast and leg can not have over 1/4 inch of exposed flesh while the rest of the body can have a maximum of 1 and 1/2 inches exposed.
  • Grade B - Usually not sold in stores. May have two disjointed and no broken bones or one of each, as long as the broken bone is not protruding. Missing wing tips to the second wing joint. Can have no more than 1/3 of each part exposed and meat yield cannot be affected.
  • Grade C - Usually processed into other food products. Can have any number of disjointed and broken bones and can also have protruding bones. Missing wing tips, wings, and tail. Can have any amount of exposed flesh.

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