Saturday, June 19, 2021

My Beef With Misinformation About Beef


I enjoy browsing on Pinterest.  I've found cocktail recipes, side dishes, graphics for my screensaver, etc...  Many of the graphics on the site are infographics, pictorial fact sheets which can display anything from the evolution the Ford Mustang, to best selling vodka brands, to a timeline of Teddy Roosevelt's life.  Such graphics are usually well researched.

Then there are the screwballs.  I opened my email Pinterest newsletter to find a graphic outlining five grades of beef; Choice, Prime, Wagyu, Wagyu from Japan, and Prime 30 day dry aged.

The USDA recognizes eight, and only eight, grades of beef. 

1.  U.S. Prime – Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, about 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime.  Prime cuts make superb steaks and roasts.

2.  U.S. Choice – High quality, widely available in foodservice industry and retail markets. Choice carcasses are 53.7% of the fed cattle total.  These are also good for roasts and steaks, but are less marbled and flavorful than Prime cuts. 

3.  U.S. Select (formerly known as U.S. Good) – lowest grade commonly sold for retail.  These cuts are of an acceptable quality, but are less flavorful, juicy, and tender due their lack of marbling.  Fat equals flavor.  The ribs, loin, and tender loin, are somewhat tender and are good for outdoor grilling and bar-bar-cuing.

4.  U.S. Standard – Lower quality, yet economical, lacking marbling.  Standard and Commercial cuts are cheap because they’re tough.  Yet, they’re usable in dishes which are cooked low and slow such as chili and stews. 

5.  U.S. Commercial – Low quality, lacking tenderness, produced from older animals.

6.  U.S. Utility - This and the two following grades are essentially void of tenderness, and are mostly used for canned & processed foods, occasionally really cheap hamburger. 

7.  U.S. Cutter

8.  U.S. Canner 

Wagyu isn't a grade of beef, it's a breed, like angus.   Meat from that breed can be graded as prime.  The  breed is renowned for its marbling because there's no room in Japan to allow the cattle to graze.  As a result, the animal develops less muscle and more fat.  Again, fat equals flavor.  

Dry aged beef isn't a grade of beef.  It's beef which has been dried on a rack in a dedicated refrigerator, or cold room, for many days or even weeks.  As the meat sacrifices its moisture, the enzymatic reactions are tenderizing the meat again creating a nutty depth of flavor.  RingSide Steakhouse in Portland, Oregon offers a filet mignon, which has been dry aged for 30 days for $71.75.

The creators of the infographic in question made sure to list a copyright along its bottom edge, so I don't feel comfortable posting it here.  You can click the link to it in the second paragraph of this blog if you're interested though. 

Most infographics are well researched informative tools.  However, every now then and one comes along which makes readers stop... scratch their heads... and think, "WTF."  That's OK though.  You should question EVERYTHING you read online or offline, especially when it involves your food. 

Below are some meat related infographics which are actually helpful.  You can click each graphic to see its full  sized version.  Happy Eating!  🥩

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