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What's your beef, prime, choice or select | Understanding grades of beef.

Updated: Jun 2

kobe beef

When it comes to choosing the perfect cut of beef for your culinary masterpiece, navigating the world of beef grades is crucial. From the well-marbled steaks in high-end restaurants to the lean cuts at your local butcher shop, understanding beef grades can significantly enhance your dining experience. In this blog post, we'll explore the intricate world of beef grading, shedding light on the various grades and what they mean for the quality of your beef.

Grades of Beef

There are actually a total of eight grades. Prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. These standards have been used since 1927.

Prime Grade: The Epitome of Quality

Best | Young well fed beef cattle, abundant marbling. It is the highest USDA beef grade.

At the top of the beef grading hierarchy is the Prime grade. This grade represents the highest level of marbling, tenderness, and overall quality. Prime beef is often found in high-end steakhouses and gourmet markets, offering a melt-in-your-mouth experience that's unparalleled. The marbling, or intramuscular fat, in Prime beef contributes to its exceptional flavor and juiciness.


Better | Excellent quality but less marbling than prime

Choice grade beef is the middle ground between Prime and Select. It still boasts good marbling and tenderness but may not reach the same level as Prime. Choice beef is widely available in supermarkets and is an excellent option for those seeking a balance between quality and affordability.


Good | Leaner than prime or choice.

Select grade beef is leaner than Prime and Choice, making it a more budget-friendly option. While it may lack the intense marbling of higher grades, Select beef can still provide a flavorful and satisfying eating experience when prepared with care. This grade is commonly used in a variety of dishes where marbling is not the primary focus.

Killer Hogs AP Seasoning

In my opinion when cooking, grilling, smoking a quality cut of meat only seasoning required is Salt, Pepper, Garlic. Click on Killer Hogs AP to purchase directly from our store.

Standard and Commercial Grades: Basic Options

These grades represent the more economical choices and are typically used in processed beef products rather than being sold as standalone cuts. While they may lack the tenderness and marbling of higher grades, they can still be suitable for certain applications, such as ground beef.

Utility, Cutter, and Canner Grades: Processed Beef

These grades are reserved for beef that is typically not sold in retail stores as whole cuts. Instead, they are often used for processed products like sausages, hot dogs, and canned meat.

Fat Marbling

Fat marbling is what makes the grades because the more marbling, the more flavor and tender cut of beef you have. The higher the grade the higher the cost as well. But not saying that you can't find a nice, marbled choice grade cut of beef.

Please check out this article that I found on the USDA website.

This is a great article that explains what the difference is between prime, choice, or select cuts of beef.

Understanding beef grades empowers consumers to make informed choices based on their preferences and budget. Whether you're aiming for a luxurious dining experience with Prime beef or seeking an economical option with Select, knowing the distinctions between grades will guide you toward the perfect cut for your culinary endeavors. The next time you're at the butcher counter or perusing the meat section at your local market, you can confidently select the beef grade that aligns with your culinary vision. Happy cooking!

tri tip medium well on cutting board
Smoked Reverse Seared Tri Tip

Different cattle breeds

Angus cattle

High quality marbled meat found in grocery stores and restaurants.

Certified angus beef

Has to meet 10 quality standards. Highest quality

Angus cattle are renowned for their marbling, which contributes to their exceptional flavor and tenderness. This breed, often black in color, is prevalent in the United States and is known for producing high-quality beef with a consistent and reliable taste. Angus beef is a favorite in steakhouses worldwide, prized for its rich, beefy flavor.

Hereford: A Classic Choice

Hereford cattle are recognized by their distinctive red and white coats. This British breed is celebrated for its well-balanced combination of marbling and leanness. Hereford beef is flavorful and versatile, making it an excellent choice for various culinary applications, from roasts to burgers.

Wagyu cattle

Which translates to Japanese cow. This is the breed that all the rage is about. When you see a cut of Wagyu beef, you know exactly what it is. Originated from Japan. This beef is graded and named from the region it is produced with Kobe being the rarest. According to only 37 restaurants in the United States are licensed to serve it. Highest grade Wagyu can sell for up to $200 per pound.

American Wagyu

This is the crossbreed of Japanese Wagyu with American Angus.

Snake River Farms sells American Wagyu and are sought out by the BBQ community if you want to check them out.

Of course, there are more breeds than the list I provided. According to there are 250 beef breeds worldwide, and approximately 60 breeds in the states, and about 20 for commercial beef production.

As you embark on your culinary adventures, consider the diverse range of cattle breeds that contribute to the world of beef production. Each breed brings its own unique characteristics to the table, allowing you to tailor your choices based on preferences for marbling, tenderness, and flavor. Whether you're savoring a perfectly marbled Wagyu steak or enjoying the classic flavor of Angus beef, the variety of cattle breeds ensures there's a perfect beef option for every palate.


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