#9. Don't Judge a Steak By the Name of the Beef
In today’s market there are a lot of names given to beef that you want to become aware of in order to know what you are buying. For example, I think you’ll want to know the difference between “Natural Beef” and “Naturally Raised Beef” and everything else in between.
Then there are all these made up names given by big companies to give unimpressive sounding “No Roll” beef fancy sounding names like “Butcher’s Prime” or “Top Choice Select”. These names essentially mean nothing and unless you ask the butcher what you are buying, you really have no idea what you are getting.
All meat sold in the United States is (or should be) inspected by a USDA inspector but that doesn’t mean it is all “graded”.
When it is not graded, it is called “No Roll”. Did you know around 40% of beef processed is ungraded?
This is the beef that ends up in many supermarkets around the country sold with “fantasy names” like the ones mentioned above. It’s going to be cheaper but most likely less flavorful and less tender.
If your budget can afford it, I suggest you stay with meat that has been graded by the USDA. Look for USDA Prime, USDA Choice or USDA Select. There are some companies who will give brand names to USDA Choice but it will be clearly marked on the label. READ you labels!
Organic, Grass-Fed, Naturally Raised - With so many of us looking for healthier choices in our steaks, there are now new names we have to be aware of. USDA Certified Organic Beef has strict guidelines including it can only be fed organic feed and cannot be given hormones or antibiotics.
It doesn’t mean the cow will never spend time in a feedlot or be finished on organic grain. For that you may want to look into Certified Organic Grass-Fed beef. See what I mean about confusing.
It gets really exciting when you speak of “Natural Beef”. The USDA states, “the meat cannot contain any artificial flavorings, colorings, ingredients, or chemical preservatives, and it can be processed only minimally.” It doesn’t say anything about the stuff that gets put into the feed to keep the cows healthier and grow faster. And processed minimally. What the heck does that mean?
As Bruce Aidells says in his book The Great Meat Cookbook, “Allowing raw beef to be labeled “natural” is as meaningless as allowing bottled water to be labeled “cholesterol-free.” It doesn’t mean anything.
However, if beef is called “Naturally Raised Beef”, the USDA defines it as coming from cows raised entirely without antibiotics or hormones. Again READ the labels!
Remember, every time a beef producer does something special to obtain one of these certifications, it’s going to cost you the consumer more money. This means it’s extra vitally important to learn everything you can about these different names, read the labels and talk to your butchers so you know you are getting what you pay for.