Everybody says that their beef is well marbled, but how do you really know? We recently submitted samples of our beef for nutrition testing by the esteemed Susan Duckett, Meat Scientist at Clemson University. We've gotten back our results and we truly couldn't be happier.
To set this one up, let's talk about the USDA Beef Grading system.
When you stand at the meat counter, trying to decide which cut of beef to purchase, you may have noticed labels like "Prime," "Choice," or "Select." These labels are part of the USDA grading system, which provides consumers with information about the quality of the beef they're buying. The quality is primarily determined based on two key factors: the marbling of the meat and the animal's age at the time of slaughter. Marbling refers to the intramuscular fat, which is one of the most significant factors affecting the flavor, tenderness, and overall quality of beef.
Here's the three main grades you'll need to know about:
Prime is the highest-quality beef grade and is reserved for the finest cuts. To qualify as Prime, beef must have abundant marbling, which results in a rich, juicy, and flavorful eating experience. Only about 2-3% of all beef in the United States earns the Prime designation, despite almost all of that being grain fed, making it relatively rare and often more expensive. You'll see Prime reserved mostly for high-end steakhouses and restaurants. Prime-grade beef averages between a 8.56 - 10.42% fat percentage to earn its title (keep those numbers in mind as we go).
Choice-grade beef is the most common grade found in supermarkets and restaurants. It's also characterized by a good amount of marbling, making it a popular choice for those seeking a balance between quality and price. Choice-grade beef is flavorful and tender, although not as richly marbled as Prime. Choice beef averages between a 4.99 - 7.34% fat percentage to gain its "choice" status.
Select-grade beef is leaner and has less marbling than Prime or Choice. It is a good option for those looking for a leaner cut of meat while still enjoying the flavor and tenderness of beef. Select-grade beef can be a cost-effective choice for everyday meals. Select beef averages a 3.43% fat percentage to be considered "select."
There are grades below these, but they're rarely sold in grocery stores as steaks (although we won't talk about that grocery store hamburger).
How Hi Bräu Measures Up
Now, while we can't officially claim any of these titles because we, along with most small family farms, choose not to be USDA graded, we have the science to put our numbers to the test against the USDA system. Upon Dr. Duckett's evaluation, we found that Hi Bräu's American Wagyu steak earned a Prime qualification with an 8.63% total fat percentage and our Angus hit an astounding 9.24% fat percentage, making it a true Prime steak...and those are 100% grass fed. Even our South Poll breed, among the leanest of our offerings, earned a Choice grading with a total fat percentage over 5.0%.
We should mention that it's incredibly hard to get abundant marbling on grass fed beef, which is why most grass fed beef gets a bad reputation. That difficulty is the reason that virtually all beef raised in America is fed grain...it's cheap and much easier to achieve marbling. The samples that we listed above were from animals that have NEVER eaten anything but the grasses that grow in our pastures.
So is that fat good for you? According the research by the National Institutes of Health, the primary fatty acid contained in intramuscular fat (marbling) is oleic acid. Even if you've never heard of oleic acid, you certainly have heard of its health benefits, as it's the most common fatty acid in olive oil.
We're incredibly proud to have the numbers to back up the beef we provide. We know it's one thing to talk the talk, but we're here to prove that we can walk the walk. Want to eat steakhouse quality beef from the comfort of your own home at an arguable fraction of the price? Give us a try.