How often do you go to shopping for beef? I used to do it at least once every week, but as the pandemic turned our lives topsy turvy, I utilize a reliable online meat delivery service.
However, I remember when my mother sent me to the supermarket to buy beef for a Christmas dinner several years ago. My parents had planned to grill steak among other meals, and when asked to bring beef, I said, 'sure, why not.' Little did I know I was about to find out why not, in a not-so-pleasant experience.
Sitting on the shelves were perfectly aligned rows of meat in packaging with all kinds of grading labels. They said foreign words like Prime and Angus. Some of them seemed remarkably similar but had different stickers that I could not navigate. Had I cared less, I would have tossed a random package into the cart and taken it home. But my prudence got the better of me, and after vainly probing the salesperson, I had to go home and admit to my mother that I am unable to wrap my mind around all the labels present on the beef.
The Thing About Labels
I am sure that you had a similar experience working through the labels at first. Here is the annoying thing about labels-instead of making more sense as we think about them, they often leave us even more confused. If you have shared this mind baffling experience, you will grasp that the label is a bit like Neistzche’s abyss; if you gaze into it long enough, it gazes back into you!
Why Does It Matter
‘I just wanted to get some beef. Does the packaging even matter’? You ask.
Surprisingly, yes. Let me explain. The labels determine what content you will be consuming. What was the feed of the cows? Were they healthy and well-fed, or am I buying a product of animal cruelty? What amount of marbled fat will I encounter if I chose this for steaks? If you have any questions like that before buying meat, labels are your lifesavers.
Though it can be challenging to navigate if you do not have prior knowledge, understanding the labels is essential. It informs you of what happened to the beef before it became your diet and how its consumption will affect your health.
Commonly Used Labels
Here are some standard labels that you may encounter on packagings and what they mean.
It shows that the farming process did not include any potentially toxic chemicals, like those found in fertilizers. The farmers did not use any herbicides or pesticides because they can be harmful to the consumer.
Beef cut from grass-fed animals is notable due to the additional nutrients it offers, like Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. These do wonder for your skin and heart.
This label indicates that the beef underwent the art of dry-aging that chefs in historic times revered. It makes for beef that you can store for prolonged periods and enjoy as flavourful steaks cuts like Ribeye or Sirloin.
Lean Ground Beef
Its fat content does not exceed 17% according to guidelines, and there is a wide range of dishes that you can prepare from it.
Extra Lean Ground Beef
Often made from sirloin steak, its fat content is under 10%. You can use it in some mouth-watering recipes like hamburgers and cabbage rolls.
How Does Grading Work?
You will find various labels like the ones described above, but the most helpful ones indicate a grade. Normally, grading includes giving the subject a rank proportionate to the performance. Similarly, agencies like the Canadian Beef Grading Agency also assess the beef then grade it on multiple factors, like marbled portion and tenderness, which indicate its quality.
To ensure that you comprehend the difference and make the right choice the next time you shop for beef, I have compiled a list of the most significant grades below.
This grade measures the content or ingredients in the carcass of bovine after the butchers slaughter it. The label of AAA is symbolic of the highest quality, with the lowest proportion of marbling. If you are not a fan of marbled beef, this would be ideal for you because you will end up with a very succulent and juicy center. When used for steak cuts like ribeye or tenderloin, you can cook it to multiple degrees of doneness, and the product would be incredibly delicious and healthy.
Less than 3% of total beef production in Canada earns this grade. This rarely awarded label is a signpost of moistness and tenderness as it suggests that beef was subject to extensive marbling, which resulted in discernable white streaks of fat in the red meat. Most chefs reaffirm that fat is flavour, so if you want a premium quality tasteful beef, one with the Prime label would be a perfect choice.
Certified Angus Beef®
Taken from the classic black Angus cattle, it is the best Angus beef out there and certified, proving that you can rely on its promise to deliver a finger-licking flavour. Agencies only consider the best from the Prime beef for this label, which establishes it as a top-notch meat section.
It is moderately thick and has considerable marbling; hence you can use it to prepare a fulfilling meal that satisfies all your beef cravings.
Australian Wagyu Beef
This label affirms that the beef is imported from Australia and prepared from a special breed of Japanese cows with high intra-muscular fats. It portrays not only abundant marbling but also a unique texture that impressively melts in your mouth. It is due to a melting temperature lower than that of the human body. Besides, it is also healthy for organs like the heart. Owing to its exceptional firmness and buttery taste, I find it perfect for steak lovers.
With this newly gained knowledge of the labels and the grades, shopping for beef from supermarkets or online services would be much easier for you. You can effectively make sense of the multiple labels and not have to have a staring contest with them!