Is Angus Beef Better Than Prime

The Problems With Prime

Two enigmatic issues, both related to marbling, complicate the USDA’s Prime grade. The dispersion of white fat in red muscle, or marbling, has been the single most important criterion for determining the quality of beef for the past century. This idea has been the foundation of our entire beef-grading system, despite disagreements regarding age, breed, feed, flavor, tenderness, and other variables. Our cattle industry was much more homogeneous when this system was implemented; we mostly consumed meat breeds (as opposed to dairy cattle) that were finished with corn or other grains, and marbling was a fairly telling way to distinguish quality within this reasonably consistent pool of beef. But marbling is not everything. Though many people prefer the flavor of grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef has far less marbling. Some breeds yield higher-quality meat without corresponding increases in marbling. Spain is one of the many beef-obsessed nations where older, more flavorful animals are regarded as superior. The Japanese beef grading system assesses marbling, quality, and luster of the fat, whereas our system treats all fat equally.

Is Angus Beef Better Than Prime

Producers are encouraged to sell any cattle that qualify due to the one-dimensional nature of our grading system and the high demand and price of Prime beef. The food industry’s long-standing tradition for years was that prime beef made up less than 2% of all graded beef in the nation; this statistic is regularly cited to support the claim of exclusivity, and many sources still use it today. 5 to 2%. However, that is no longer the case given the sharp increase in the quantity of Prime beef in recent years. The real number is now 3 to 3. 5%, or E2%80%94, may not seem like much, but it represents a roughly 10% increase over the previous ten years. Previously, the highest quality was only available at upscale restaurants and butcher shops; however, these days, big-box stores and supermarkets are starting to carry Prime.

“In actuality, there is a lot more Prime than there was five or ten years ago,” states Marc Sarrazin, a partner at the storied New York specialty butcher DeBragga and Spitler, which supplies many upscale eateries like Gotham Bar and Grill and sells retail. “Better genetics, better ranchers, and animals raised with more marbling all play a part in that.” Were witnessing increased grades overall, with more Choice, Prime, and lower-quality beef But there’s more to it than that, as Matthew King, the Smiths’ corporate executive chef, Breed matters. A lot of Prime beef that is currently available on the market is from Holstein dairy cattle, which has a very distinct flavor but still receives Prime ratings. “.

Although some of the increase in supply can be attributed to improved breeding practices, some has also resulted from the slaughter of younger cattle and breeds that were not meant for human consumption. Although they are less flavorful, younger animals, cows, and dairy breeds frequently have higher fat content than mature beef steers. However, the USDA places a strong emphasis on inspectors visually examining the ribeye between the 12th and 13th ribs and comparing the results to picture cards that show the official USDA marbling scores. The second area of confusion is that the grade is mostly determined by this inspection.

To be graded Prime, the marbling score must be at least “Slightly Abundant.” The key words in that sentence are “at least.” While consumers see only the three retail grades on package labels, these grades in turn comprise eight different marbling scores, three of which fall within the Prime category. Yet in most of the USDAs informational charts and consumer materials, the top two marbling scores—the very best in the eyes of the USDA—are omitted. Slightly Abundant is the minimum score for Prime, but it is also where most lists top out. This is why butchers and chefs are known to whisper about “high Prime,” which refers to Prime meat that scores in the rare top two marbling rungs of “Moderately Abundant” and “Abundant.”

Is Angus Beef Better Than Prime

While the amount of beef graded Prime has nearly doubled overall, enabling more stores and eateries to serve it, the majority still rates at the lowest marbling rung. This indicates that the majority of Prime that is currently available is regarded as “entry-level.” 20%220%22I would say that 90% of the Prime in the nation is Only Slightly Abundant, which means it barely qualifies, according to George Faison, Sarzin’s partner at DeBragga. According to him, this is a result of the same phenomenon that has made Prime more widely available by diversifying the cattle that supply domestic beef: “Meat programs are utilizing a lot more dairy cows these days, and they are very profitable because Prime is graded at a much higher rate than the traditional English beef breeds, like Angus and Hereford. The animal’s upbringing is not represented in the grade. Prime beef can be purchased from dairy cows that were killed at 12 months of age, given growth hormones and antibiotics, and fed rapidly. Alternatively, Prime beef can be purchased from naturally raised beef breed cattle that were fed for more than 120 days without the use of drugs, and were killed at a more flavorful 24 months. Dairy cows are not the only animals available; you can also get young, fatty, juicy animals that have been fed rapidly and can score Prime without developing muscle flavor. Its fattier and not as flavorful. That’s probably what you see at the grocery store, in my opinion. “.

For consumers purchasing beef from menus or stores, quality is primarily determined by one straightforward but frequently disregarded economic principle: Those who can will pass higher costs on to their customers. There are many exceptions and cautions, of course. This means that, in order to get first dibs on our country’s best beef, within every grade, pricey steakhouses, four- and five-star restaurants, specialty butchers, mail-order retailers, and private-label beef programs (more on these later) must pay a premium; the remainder is distributed to mass-market retailers and more mainstream eateries. Purchasing it from the grocery store or placing an order at your local bar, whether you go with Prime or Choice, chances are good that it has already been surpassed by another supplier.

“With the amount of upscale steakhouses, I’d be shocked if the top level of Prime is ever reaching retail,” King says. “Major distributors have access to the best meat.” “However, practically none of Prime used to reach retail, so consumers still benefit.” “.

Is Angus Beef Better Than Prime

Branded Beef

Due to the shortcomings of the USDA system—namely, that it does not distinguish between breeds, ages, diets, or methods of raising beef for consumers, or break out the amount of marbling within its grades—the private sector has stepped in to fill the informational gap and make it much simpler for consumers to identify and buy higher-quality beef.

Renowned Chicago steakhouse Gibsons is the first and only establishment in the nation to offer its own private-label Prime beef. It was created using a system known by the USDA as the Schedule G Certified Beef Program, in which a business develops its own grading standards, which are typically more exacting than the USDA’s requirements for a given grade, and then pays the USDA to verify and certify those standards. The takeaway is that there are two types of USDA Prime available: Gibson’s USDA Prime and USDA Prime, which the steakhouse says is superior. (Gibsons also has a private-label program for Choice beef. ).

“Not every Prime is made equal,” says Dan Huebschmann, chef at Gibsons. “The USDA doesnt regulate feed or regional specificity. Only carefully chosen farms in the Midwest provide our meat, and they raise, feed, and process it in accordance with the guidelines outlined in our certification. Our specifications for feed and its origin are extremely precise. Finding Prime is insufficient because there is commodity Prime and establishments like Holstein that process anything without utilizing Angus. Although the USDA’s GLA Anus certification is 551 percent black, ours requires 905 percent “.

Schedule GLA, the legal requirements for what producers can label Angus beef, is referred to as “GLA.” Descended from Scottish Aberdeen Angus, Angus is a highly sought-after breed of beef cattle that is more productive, better-marbled, and tastier than most other breeds. However, there is now very little pure Aberdeen Angus available; instead, most Angus is derived from hybrids. Since pure Angus cattle are typically black, the USDA bases its labeling qualifications on color rather than genetics. Gibson’s more stringent requirements stem from the belief held by Angus enthusiasts such as Huebschmann that black is better. Other physical requirements for acceptable cattle, like “no hump exceeding two inches in height,” are included in Schedule G-125, the guidelines that govern Gibsons Angus Beef (both Prime and Choice). These requirements are specifically meant to isolate Angus genetics and avoid dairy cattle and other breeds. Because hybrid Angus beef is so common in the US, standards like Gibsons aim to identify “purer” cattle that have higher Angus genetic content.

Is Angus Beef Better Than Prime

With particular standards intended to keep out undesirable non-Angus breeds, Gibson’s requirements largely mirror those of Certified Angus Beef, or CAB, which established the first private-label Certified Beef Program (and essentially invented the category) forty years ago. CAB also implemented age restrictions to guarantee older, more flavorful meat. Despite being designed initially for Choice beef, CABs and a few other purveyors now offer a Prime version of their branded product. Branded goods are frequently a customer’s best option for the best quality in both grades. According to Faison, “Otherwise, unless it’s in a branded program like Certified Angus Beef Prime, where you get older and more flavorful animals, the consumer can’t know anything more when they see Prime.” The differences can be dramatic. “.

The emergence of branded, private beef initiatives has prompted Smith It now purchases meat from the 70,000-acre Double R Ranch in Loomis, Washington, for its best-selling cuts. We’ll be running a single-source beef program for three years, and consistency is the most important thing to us. Every processor has some excellent meat as well as some inferior meat. These days, everything comes from a single location with the same feed, climate, and processing facility, according to King.

Private branded beef programs like Double R for Smith and CAB, Gibsons, Sterling Silver, Niman Ranch, Creekstone Farms, Allen Brothers, Seminole Pride, and dozens more can produce more consistently high-quality beef thanks to the standards they set. Some initiatives or brands, such as CAB’s “Natural” label and Niman Ranch, also include drug-free and natural farming methods in their standards.

However, even though improved consistency in quality is a positive thing, customers are still unable to effectively differentiate between the three marbling scores offered by Prime. There is so little “high Prime” that none of these brands have raised the standards for marbling in their Prime beef. The Choice grade, however, is a very different story.

A: The same impartial USDA graders examine and assign a grade to black-hided cattle, which are characteristic of the Angus breed. The best Choice, or Prime, beef—truly the best of the best—must be the only beef taken into consideration for the brand. Then, this premium Angus beef is assessed once more using the brand’s ten scientifically based standards for size, uniformity, and marbling. Should it meet the standards, it is awarded the unique Certified Angus Beef ® brand label.