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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, July 26, 2014

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In Marketplace

In Marketplace

In Marketplace

In Marketplace

Local butchers serve up quality, personal service


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USDA Meat Grades:

According to "The Joy of Cooking," in 1927 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) instituted a voluntary system of meat grading. Meat processors hire meat graders to judge the meat based on uniform standards for tenderness, juiciness and flavor. The grades from highest to lowest are:

Prime:

  • Comes from animals raised under special conditions to create a high degree of marbling.
  • Meat is tender, finely textured and well flavored.
  • Rarely purchased by consumers, prime is usually only sold to restaurants.

Choice:

  • Comes from young animals with moderate marbling.
  • The highest cut of meat usually available in butcher shops and supermarkets.
  • Some meat producers will use unofficial terms such as "high choice" or top "choice," to further grade cuts within this category.

Good/Select:

  • Leaner, less tender meat from lesser breeds or less well-fed animals.

Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner:

  • Meat with a coarser appearance and no marbling.
  • These lower grades are rarely sold in retail, and are mainly used for manufactured meat products.

Since grading is not mandatory, a small percentage of meat sold in supermarkets is ungraded. When evaluating ungraded meat, the consumer should look for "well-shaped cuts with clean, pure-looking fat and compact, evenly grained muscle."

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