Are beef quality grades and eating satisfaction declining? No. The fact is that overall beef quality grades have steadily improved over the past 20 years.

Myth: Beef quality grades and eating satisfaction are on the decline.

The Facts: The entire beef community is committed to raising the highest-quality beef possible and consistently providing people with a good beef eating experience. Let’s discuss beef quality.

What is Quality Beef?

Most people describe overall beef quality as the combination of quality grades and eating satisfaction, including characteristics like flavor, juiciness and tenderness. Learn more in this video about beef quality.

How is beef quality measured?

Meat grading is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). There are eight quality grades for beef which reflect the amount of marbling (fat within the lean),  and the maturity of the animal.Grading is optional and paid for by meat processors. More than 90 percent of the beef available today is graded. Generally, only three grades are identified and sold to restaurants and at retail

USDA Prime steak has the most marbling

USDA Prime Steak

USDA Choice cuts have slightly less marbling

USDA Choice Steak

USDA Select Beef has the least marbling of the three

USDA Select Steak

        • To learn about the characteristics of each, check out USDA’s blog post and infographic below.

Beef Infographic

Is beef quality on the decline?

No. In fact, over the past 20 years, overall quality grades (such as Prime or Choice) of beef have steadily improved.

  • The percent of beef meeting USDA standards for “Prime” and “Choice” beef, which are the highest quality grades, is  high, at greater than 60 percent.
  • Since 1990, beef tenderness has also improved significantly, according to four iterations of the National Beef Tenderness Study, a benchmark of beef tenderness levels at retail and foodservice.
  • Beef tenderness and overall quality grades are also impacted by things like cattle genetics, diet and proper cattle management.
  • Beef tenderness can also be improved by tenderness management systems put in place b at multiple steps in the supply chain.
  • Consumers say taste is the most important attribute they consider when choosing foods to make at home or order at a restaurant and 86 percent agree beef tastes great.
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