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Straight Scoop -All About USDA Grading

Meat from Beef Cattle, Veal/Calf, Lamb/Sheep, and Poultry are USDA graded. Pork is not since it’s a product from young animals bred and fed to produce more uniformly tender meat.

To earn its quality grade, meat and poultry are first inspected for wholesomeness. Beef and Lamb are then evaluated for traits related to tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Poultry is evaluated for a normal shape that is fully fleshed and meaty, and defect-free.

Beef alone gets graded two ways – yield and quality. Yield grades deal with the amount of usable lean meat and would be something a customer of Hinds & Sides would care about. The quality grade, which at Bunzel’s we are totally focused on for all of our customers, makes for consistent tender, juicy and flavorful entrees. There are eight quality grades and we choose only to sell the top two meat grades – Prime and Choice.

Bunzel’s Report Card

At Bunzel’s, our meat case has both Prime and Choice Grade of Certified Angus Beef – chosen dependent upon the cut. That’s the top two of available eight quality grades. There is one exception – Some Tenderloins and Filets, are ungraded if they come from a milk fed cow. (Turns out, milk fed cows are just not graded by the USDA.) If you are looking for graded Tenderloins and Filets – yes Bunzel’s does have them. We carry both USDA Choice and USDA Prime Tenderloins (they are so special we hide them in the back room).

All of our beef is Natural. No antibiotics. No injections. No pressure asserted to maximize tenderness. All our beef is farm based.

Now let’s talk selection. It’s wide. Want ox tails? Got it. Want brisket that’s actually USDA prime? Got it. Want hormone-free, injection-free Grade A poultry. You can count on it. Homemade sausages? Get ready to be impressed with the full selection.

Bunzel’s offers the very best in quality meats in a wide selection of choices – at an exceptionally competitive price. Being a hometown family butcher, we take pride in our old-world charm and easy friendliness felt by our customers when in the store. We’re family. There’s no pretentiousness and a premium price for meat has no place at Bunzel’s.

We’re thinking we get an A+ for the best tasting beef available, patronizing our Midwest farmers while helping reduce our carbon footprint, for the wide meat selection, and our commitment to keeping our cost for excellent meat very competitive.

Perhaps that’s why Bunzel’s has been selected by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel readers as Milwaukee’s Best Butcher!

More About USDA Grading

USDA Beef GradesTalking Beef… To make the grade, a lot rides on marbling, and its abundance and uniformity. (Marbling is what makes it taste oh so good.) Prime is considered the best grade and means a lot of the “just right” marbling. This is the grade of Beef generally sold to restaurants… and, of course, Bunzel’s customers.

The next grade is Choice. It’s high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful – that’s why we carry this grade of Beef.

Select grade comes next. It’s very uniform in quality and often leaner than higher grade beef. While fairly tender, it lacks the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. When taste is everything, that’s two big reasons in our book of why we don’t offer Select grade Beef!

Working our way down the list of grades we don’t allow in our store, next comes Standard and Commercial grades. They are frequently sold as “ungraded” or as a “store brand” by some of our competitor’s. Finally, Utility, Cutter and Canner grades follow. These are seldom ever sold retail – though frighteningly, Beef at these grades are used to make ground beef and processed products. Yikes!

Veal/Calf. There are five quality grades for Veal: Prime, Choice, Good, Standard, and Utility. Prime and Choice grades are juicier and more flavorful than the lower grades. Guess which two Grades we carry at Bunzel’s?!

Lamb/Sheep. Normally only two of the five grades of Lamb are found at the retail level — Prime and Choice. Lower grades of lamb and mutton (meat from older sheep) — Good, Utility, and Cull — are seldom “grade” marked. In our book, that’s not a good sign.

Pork. This is a meat onto its own. Pork is never graded with USDA quality grades. That’s why you’ll never see raw cuts of pork with grades such as Prime, Choice and Select. They are just not acceptable terms.

Experience counts when judging the quality of Pork. Appearance matters. Best flavor and tenderness is found in meat with a small amount of marbling, and a small amount of fat over the outside.

Poultry. The USDA grades poultry as A, B, and C. You won’t see grades like Prime, Choice and Select when it comes to poultry. As with Pork, it’s not acceptable terms to describe poultry.

The highest quality is Grade A and the only grade that is likely to be seen at the retail level. At Bunzel’s, we also ensure our poultry is hormone-free, injection-free!

Grades B and C poultry you won’t see at Bunzel’s and are usually used in processed products where the poultry meat is cut up, chopped, or ground. There are no grade standards for necks, wing tips, tails, giblets, or ground poultry.

Want more 411 on meat and poultry grading, visit the USDA’s website.

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