What to look for in your beef, pork and chicken

This information will help you to choose the best meat in the store. And what too look out for.

What to look for in your Beef

The different grades of beef are:  

  • Choice- less marbling, high quality;
  • Standard- sold as non-graded or store-brand meat;
  • Select- uniform in quality, leaner;
  • Prime- most abundant marbling, best grade of meat;
  • Utility- used for processed products and ground beef

What is marbling you ask?- Marbling is the intermingling of fat in the muscle fibers. More marbling there is the better.

Fat content- Always Remember; Be aware and avoid any grayish and brownish coloring in meat. This meat is probably old and is not safe for you. Pick the meat that is red and fresh looking.

Cheap meat?- The more expensive the meat is, more than likely the better the quality is. Cheap is not always better.


Deformities to look for when picking out beef

  1. Poor texture- Texture is how tight or uniform the grain of the meat looks. If this is poor it can be a sign of poor handling or poor quality meat.
  2. Bad smell- If it smells bad, don't get it!!
  3. Pink meat- Pink meat is immature and it won't taste as good.
  4. Ragged edges, hacked bits, or uneven sections- The meat should be smooth, and cuts of the same variety, should be about the same size in thickness.

Beef grades

Beef is graded in two ways.

Quality grades-

  • Prime grade- It has abundant marbling and the best meat.
  • Choice grade- Is high quality, but has less marbling than prime
  • Select grade- Fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, and it may have less juices than higher quality meat
  • Standard and commercial grades- are frequently sold as ungraded or as "store brand" meat.

Utility, cutter, an caner- grades are not common, if ever, sold at retail but are used instead to make ground beef and processed products.

Yield grades- for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass. There are eight quality grades for beef. Quality grades are based on the amount of marbling (flecks of fat within the lean), color, and maturity.

Yield grades-

Range from "1" to "5" and indicate the amount of usable meat from cattle. Yield grade 1 is the highest grade and denotes the greatest ratio of lean to fat; yield grade 5 is the lowest yield ratio. Though yield grades are not something consumers normally see, they are most useful when purchasing a side of beef for the freeze

Now what to look for in your pork

  1. Color of meat- The color of the meat should be a grayish-pink hue.
  2. Meat content- There should be more lean meat than bone and fat content.
  3. Marbling- Pork should be well marbled for tenderness and best flavor.
  4. Muscling Degree- The degrees of muscling are thick, average, and thin. United States No. 1 needs to have at least averaging. Thicker muscling is better and helps offset the thicker back fat.

Deformities to look for

  • High fat- Fat takes away from the flavor, but pork shouldn't have that much.
  • Rancid smell- Do not! it if it doesn't smell good, do this for health reasons
  • Grey meat- If the pork is grey then it won't have as much flavor.
  • Soft meat- Your meat should be firm, if not then it could be poor quality.

Pork grades

Pork is not graded with USDA quality grades as it is generally produced from young animals that have been bred and fed to produce more uniformly tender meat. Appearance is an important guide in buying fresh pork. Look for cuts with a relatively small amount of fat over the outside and with meat that is firm and grayish pink in color. For best flavor and tenderness, meat should have a small amount of marbling.

Lastly now what to look for in your chicken

  • Color- The color of the bird should be creamy white to yellow.
  • Firmness- Firmness=high quality
  • Grades or poultry- There are three grades for poultry, A, B, C. A is for the highest quality.
  • Packaging- Avoid holes or any tears in the packages because that means there could be germs in the meat.
  • Refrigeration- Make sure to keep your meat in the fridge to avoid freezer burn, but keep it frozen properly.

Deformities to look for in chicken

  • Exposed flesh/torn skin- If there is torn skin that can dry out during cooking, so avoid that.
  • Broken bones- Broken bones=poor quality meat
  • Sunken/partially fleshed- Not fully fleshed=low quality meat
  • Bruises/blotchy marks- Bruises=poor handling

Poultry grades

The grades for poultry are A, B, and C.

Grade A- is the highest quality and the only grade that is likely to be seen at the retail level.

Grade B, and C- poultry are usually used in further-processed products where the poultry meat is cut up, chopped, or ground. If sold at retail, they are usually not grade identified.

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