Have you ever marinated then grilled your steak only to chew on the meat until your jaw was sore? This experience has inspired me to learn about the different quality grades of meat that are available. Meats can be one of the more expensive items on your grocery list, but by educating yourself in what you’re actually purchasing with your money, you can make an informed decision based on facts! Learning about the best meat to purchase at the best deal has saved me money and from wasting food. I hope what I’ve learned will help you too!

Quality grades of meat

According to USDA.gov, the shield shaped marking labeled “USDA” identifies the quality of meat. Only meat that has passed their inspection can be graded, which definitely makes me feel better! Tenderness, flavor and juiciness are factored in during grading.

  • Grading is based on the maturity and marbling of the meat 
  • Maturity is the physiological age of the meat
  • Marbling is the amount of fat throughout the cut

The amount of aging and marbling affects taste. The greater fat and amount of aging intensifies taste, so it costs more. Now I know why I’ve had tough pieces of meat in the past: low quality and low-fat content cuts. Would I rather have quality or quantity? I’d rather have one great steak every two weeks than eat a tough, flavorless steak every week!

Prime, choice and select 

These are the most popular grades available in the supermarket:

  • Prime: Prime cuts have the most marbling, the best taste and are the most expensive. That’s why they call it prime rib!
  • Choice: Choice cut is the next level up in quality. Choice cuts still offer flavor and tenderness but are generally less expensive. They’re great to serve to large groups because they’re both flavorful and reasonably price.
  • Select: These cuts of meat have the least amount of fat and aren’t as flavorful as the two other grades. They’re most commonly found in supermarkets and may best fit your budget, but decide what’s more important to you: price or quality.

What to consider when you purchase a piece of meat


Is the price I’ll pay fitting to the occasion? Or my taste? Take these questions into consideration the next time you’re debating on which cut to buy. Now that we know what the three different types of grades are, if I plan to celebrate a wedding anniversary and want a memorable meal, then prime is the way to go. It’s the best.


If my budget is an issue, but I’m dying to taste a great steak, then choice will probably fit my budget and my taste buds best. If I’m entertaining a large crowd, then choice is probably the best grade for this occasion.


As any KCL knows, sales and selection are key! When the type of beef that I like goes on sale, then it’s time to stock up! I’ll purchase enough to make several meals until the next sale occurs. If prime steak isn’t on sale, I most likely won’t purchase it at regular price unless it’s a super special occasion.


This is a guest post by Tammy from North Carolina.

How to Choose the Best Cut of Beef for Your Budget