Content of the material
- Grades of Meat by USDA
- United States Prime beef
- United States Choice Beef
- United States Select Beef
- United States Standard and United States Commercial Beef
- Canner, Cutter, and Utility Grades
- Canning Ground Beef
- Ground Beef Crumbles
- Canning Hamburger Patties
- 5. Australian Beef Grading Systems
- AUS-MEAT Grading System
- Meat Standards Australia (MSA) Grading System
- Universal Beef Grading System (BMS)
- 3. Select Grade
- 5. Commercial Grade
- What is “Wagyu” or Kobe Beef?
- What are the grades of beef?
- USDA Prime beef
- USDA Choice beef
- USDA Select beef
Grades of Meat by USDA
The USDA has made a total of eight grades and only five grades of them and being made available in the market for consumers. The rest grades are being used in canned products. Specific cuts of beef have different grades. Each grade has a different use and specific method of cooking.
United States Prime beef
This is the first and highest grade in all beef grades. It has greater fat marbling and this grade’s beef is almost tender. This beef is obtained from young cattle who are very well fed. This grade’s beef is found in abundance in high-end and posh steak houses, hotels or restaurants. Around 4 to 5 percent of the total graded cattle are the prime cattle. The prime beef is popular for its richness of fat marbling and this why it is highly suitable for dry-heat methods of cooking such as frying, roasting, broiling, grilling, and baking.
United States Choice Beef
65 percent of the total graded cattle make up U.S Choice Beef. This beef is easily available in restaurants and markets for the consumers. It has a moderate level of fat marbling as compared to U.S Prime Beef. 50 percent of total graded beef is Choice. Choice beef can be cooked in both moist and dry methods of heat such as roasting, grilling, frying, or even baking. It is an economical alternative to Prime beef.
United States Select Beef
This grade of meat is less juicy and tender than the U.S prime and choice. It has very low-fat content and in order to prevent it from drying, moist heat methods of cooking should be used to cook it such as steaming, braising, poaching, stewing etc. Out of total graded beef, 25 percent is Select beef and it is easily available in the retail market.
United States Standard and United States Commercial Beef
Both grades have less fat marbling and hence they lack tenderness. They are being sold as ungraded beef or, are mostly labeled under the name of the store. They are inexpensive and they require moist heat cooking methods. Mostly they are perfect for recipes that require slow cooking as these both will get dry if fried or grilled.
Canner, Cutter, and Utility Grades
These grades of beef are obtained from an older animal and they have no fat marbling. These meat are used for canned products and for meat products that require processing. They are not widely available in the markets but even if you find these grades of meat, you might not want to buy them as they lack tenderness.
Canning Ground Beef
The process for canning ground beef crumbles, or whole hamburgers, isn’t all that different from canning beef chunks.
Raw pack is no longer an option, and the ground meat must be browned before filling the jars. Browning helps to render out some of the fat, and it also sets the shape of the beef to keep it from packing together into one big loaf in the canning jar.
Though you’re draining fat from the beef, there will still be plenty in the jar, and that’s perfectly fine for canning. You’ll see a thick layer of beef fat at the top of the jar once they’ve cooled, and that’s not only normal it’s perfect for crisping the meat (or burgers) as they come out of the canning jars for serving.
The National Center for Food Preservation actually recommends adding some fat to lean meats like venison, around 1 part pork fat to 4 parts venison, both to help the meat brown and to improve flavor. Ground beef generally has 15 to 20% fat, so it has plenty already.
Ground Beef Crumbles
Canning ground beef crumbles is probably the most versatile method and the simplest. Just brown the crumbles and then pack into canning jars leaving 1 inch of headspace.
The meat may be seasoned with salt, pepper, and spices of your choice before canning. Taco seasoning, for example, is a common choice.
Be aware that some spices don’t can well. Sage and thyme, for example, can get bitter during canning. Other spices, like cumin, can get overbearing after pressure canning. It’s a safer bet to spice the meat at serving time.
If adding salt, 1 teaspoon per pint and 2 teaspoons per quart is a rough guideline.
Canning Hamburger Patties
Believe it or not, you can also can whole hamburger patties and they hold up surprisingly well through the canning process. (The same is true for ground pork, which may be canned as patties or links)
For these, I’d recommend salting/seasoning the meat before you form the patties as you won’t be able to season them as easily on serving as the ground beef crumbles.
Just about any salt/seasoning combination is fine for canning, but you cannot use any binders in the meat. No egg, breadcrumbs, or starch of any kind as those are not approved for canning. Stick to meat, salt, and spices.
Shape hamburger patties, knowing that you’ll be able to fit roughly 3/4 pound of meat in the jar. I chose to make three 1/4 pound burgers per wide-mouth pint jar, shaping the burgers to exactly the size of the jar opening.
Be sure to form them well, packing the meat tightly and then brown well on each side so they hold their shape.
Since all the jars are hot packed for canning ground beef, the process is exactly the same whether it’s loose crumbles or formed hamburger.
Pour boiling stock, water, or tomato juice over the top of the meat in the jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Seal with 2 part canning lids to finger tight.
Load the jars into a pressure canner that’s been preheated to just barely simmering (around 180 degrees F).
Process in the pressure canner according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts. This is the same as if canning beef chunks above. Refer to the table below for altitude adjustments.
I will admit that canning hamburgers whole is not my favorite preparation. They held together beautifully, which I didn’t expect, but the resulting burgers are quite wet, which makes sense given that they’re canned in broth.
To make them proper hamburgers again, be sure to scoop off the top fat and brown them well in a pan as you’re reheating them. Use your spatula to press down as they cook, trying to press out as much moisture as possible.
A grill also works well for this, as the moisture is able to drip away.
If you’re really conscious of this during re-heating, then you can actually make a totally passable canned hamburger.
5. Australian Beef Grading Systems
Australian beef tastes subtly different from American beef. This is because Australian beef is mainly grass-fed and pasture-raised, so they are much leaner and have a special flavor like game meat.
There are two beef grading systems for Australian beef—AUS-MEAT grading and Meat Standards Australia (MSA).
AUS-MEAT Grading System
The AUS-MEAT is an older standard which mainly focuses on marbling. This system scales from M0 to M9 in increments of 1. The number also indicates the level of marbling which is very similar to BMS (but the max of this system is 9 only). For example, beef graded M7 in the AUS-MEAT system approximately scores BMS 7.
Meat Standards Australia (MSA) Grading System
The MSA is a comparatively new grading system that is ameliorated from the AUS-MEAT. It considers many factors when grading the beef such as marbling, fat color, meat color, carcass weight, pH and more. This is a very comprehensive but also complicated standard.
The marbling scale of MSA starts from 100 to 1190 in increments of 10. There is no formula to convert MSA marbling scores into AUS-MEAT marbling scores since the assessment criteria are different. However, some people compared them as below:
Universal Beef Grading System (BMS)
Many different countries/continents use their own beef grading systems. The universal grading standard is known as the “Beef Marble Score”, or BMS. This system has 13 grades of beef, ranking from 0 (no marbling) to 12 (extreme marbling). The BMS system will be referenced in each of the three major beef grading systems.
I should mention now that cows should be grain-fed for optimal marbling scores. Grass-fed cows are lean and commonly rank no more than BMS 1-2. However, this is the discussion of another blog post.
3. Select Grade
This grade is also widely available at supermarkets, but it’s leaner and has a rougher texture. Since it has even less marbling than Choice grade, the meat won’t be as juicy or flavorful when cooked.
You can still find tender cuts of Select-grade beef that can be thrown on the grill for a BBQ, such as from the rib, loin, and sirloin areas. However, other cuts need to be marinated or braised to reach optimal tenderness.
5. Commercial Grade
Like Standard grade, this is low-quality, low-marbling, low-tenderness beef. The difference is that while Standard grade and above comes from young cattle, Commercial grade is harvested from older animals. Once again, this kind of beef is usually ungraded and unlabeled.
What is “Wagyu” or Kobe Beef?
Wagyu literally translates to “Japanese beef”. These steaks are the best of the best – intensely marbled, extremely beefy, and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Japanese wagyu cows are the most prized cows on earth. There are four breeds of Wagyu: Kuroge (black), Mukaku (polled), Agake/Akaushi (brown), and Nihon Tankaku (shorthorn). The most popular wagyu beef is known as “Kobe Beef”, which is a strain of Kuroge/Black wagyu. All kobe beef is wagyu, but not all wagyu is kobe beef. Japanese wagyu steaks average a beef grade of A4 (BMS 6-7) to A5 (BMS of 8-12).
Australian and American wagyu cattle and crossbreeds of Japanese wagyu cattle and angus/holstein cattle. American and Australian wagyu average a BMS of 5+ but generally do not exceed a BMS of 8. Thus, they are more prized than USDA Prime steaks but less prized than Japanese Wagyu.
Wagyu cattle obtain their characteristic intense marbling pattern through selective breeding and genetics. They are fed a diet high in corn and soy to fatten them up, and their movement is limited. Contrary to popular belief, they are not generally massaged and fed beer/wine to improve the quality of the meat.
(It’s important to note that beef must be pressure canned, and cannot be canned in a water bath canner. If you’re not familiar with pressure canning, I’d strongly suggest reading this beginner’s guide to pressure canning before you get started.)
In this recipe card I’m presenting the best way to make high quality canned beef at home, hot pack pan browned beef packed in liquid. Other methods, including raw pack and no added liquid variations are discussed in the original article, and while they are approved canning methods, they’re not methods I recommend because they sacrifice quality for convenience.
The instructions are the same whether you’re canning chunks or strips of beef, or loose pack ground beef crumbles.
Yield: I’ve found that it takes roughly 3/4 lb raw beef to fill a pint jar, and around 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds beef per quart jar. This is true regardless of canning method, though I only recommend hot pack. The meat is weighed while raw, either from the store or from your own home processed fresh beef.
Beef Fat in Jars: Please be aware that fat at the top of the jars is completely normal, especially with ground beef and hamburger. During browning, try to remove as much fat as possible so that the fat within the jar isn’t too excessive, but a solid fat cap is not abnormal depending on the type of beef used.
“Excessive” fat within the jar can sometimes bubble out during canning and get into the seal, preventing jar seals. I’ve never had this happen, but it’s something to watch.
Canning Beef Broth: To can simple beef broth without meat included, simply make the broth and filter out the solids. Return the stock to a boil and ladle into canning jars leaving 1 inch headspace. The total canning time is substantially less when it’s just broth rather than broth and meat. Process in a pressure canner for 20 minutes (pints) or 25 min (quarts).
Altitude Adjustments for Pressure Canning Beef: Altitude adjusted pressures for beef chunks, ground beef and stock are all the same, but actual pressures vary slightly depending on the type of canner used:
Weighted Gauge Canner:
- Under 1,000 Feet Elevation Use 10 lbs
- Over 1,000 Feet Elevation use 15 lbs
Dial Gauge Canner:
- 0 to 2,000 Feet Elevation Use 11 lbs
- 2,001 to 4,000 Feet Use 12 lbs
- 4,001 to 6,000 Feet Use 13 lbs
- 6,001 to 8,000 Feet Use 14 lbs
What are the grades of beef?
There are eight distinct grades of beef recognized by the USDA. In order of descending quality they are:
Studies suggest that beef graded at least USDA Select are likely to be acceptable in eating quality for most consumers, so this is usually the lowest grade you’ll ever hear mentioned by name in the supermarket. Mmm! 100% UTILITY GRADE BEEF!
Unlabeled cuts of meat are either commercial or utility-grade, or more likely were never graded in the first place.
The lowest grades, cutter, and canner are used in disgusting things like potted meat and those meat sticks you find in the gas station. Let’s look a little closer at the three primary grades of meat you’ll likely be selecting from.
USDA Prime beef
This is the grade of beef that contains the greatest degree of marbling. It is generally sold to finer restaurants and to some selected meat markets. It is significantly higher in price because less than 3% of the beef graded is Prime.
Prime grade beef is the ultimate in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Prime Rib is a USDA Prime rib roast for example, and many top steakhouses serve only Prime cuts.
Here’s an example of a Prime cut with heavy marbling.
USDA Choice beef
Choice grade beef has less marbling than Prime but is still of very high quality. This is the most popular grade of beef because it contains sufficient marbling for taste and tenderness while costing less than Prime. Just over half of the beef graded each your earns a grade of Choice. Choice cuts are still tender and juicy.
Here’s an example of a Choice cut.
USDA Select beef
This is generally a lower-priced grade of beef with less marbling than Choice.
Select cuts of beef may vary in tenderness and juiciness. Select has the least amount of marbling, making it leaner than, but often not as tender, juicy, and flavorful as the other two top grades.
About a third of beef graded falls into this category. Here’s a sample.