first standards for grading beef were put into service in 1917.
Since then, United States Department of Agriculture inspects and
assigns beef one of seven grades.
The grades are, in decreasing order:
Most meat found in supermarkets is Choice. Prime is available
from butchers and the meat counter of upscale supermarkets. Grades
below Select are usually used for products like cold cuts and
The primary factor in determining the grade of beef is the amount
of marbling present. Marbling refers to the mixture of fat in
the muscle tissue. Meat with a lot of marbling has a lot of small
strands of fat mixed into the meat, creating a marble-like appearance.
The fat makes the meat tender when cooked, so the more marbling,
the better the beef is.