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Butcher's Corner Guides

Understanding “All-Natural”

No antibiotics 300 days prior to processing.
No added hormones
Corn-fed Holstein steers
Cattle less than 20 months of age
100% vegetarian diet
Corn-fed for 400 days
Vitamin E supplement 100 days prior to processing
Humanely raised and handled
USDA Prime and Choice Beef only
No artificial ingredients
Produced using environmentally responsible methods


Step 1 — Look at the label to determine the cut of the beef. Beef cut from the loin and rib areas are the most tender cuts available. Less tender alternatives include cuts from the chuck, round and flank.

Step 2 — Look at the label for the grade of beef. The very best grade is USDA Prime. The next best is USDA Choice.

Step 3 — Examine the color of the beef. Good beef should be bright red.

Understanding the Grades

Prime — Prime grade beef is made from young well-fed cattle. It has a high degree of marbling and is both tender and flavorful when cooked. Prime grade makes up a very small percentage (about 3%) of all beef and is generally sold to fine restaurants or in specialty markets.

Natural Choice — Natural Choice has been fed an extra 45 days on a natural corn diet, allowing the beef to marbleize naturally. All-natural beef is very comparable to Prime. This product is available in high-end restaurants and some top-quality butcher shops.

Choice — Choice grade is still a very good quality beef but has a little less marbling and will turn out less tender if overcooked. If using a loin or rib cut, this will be a great piece of beef. Choice is generally available in many stores, but you might have to ask for it or get it from the counter.

Select — Select grade beef has a lot less marbling and may be tough and dry if not prepared right. With a select cut, you should really consider a marinade to tenderize and make the meat more flavorful. Select is commonly available in most cuts.

Standard and Commercial — These grades are often sold as “ungraded” or by a store brand. If you don’t see a grade name on the meat, it could very well be down here. These grades definitely need to be marinated with a good tenderizing agent to make the meat good enough to eat.

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