Understanding your beef purchase


All beef is a nutritious, powerful protein and an excellent or good source of 10 essential nutrients. We’re so fortunate to have many options available, but it can become a little confusing. Knowing the labels on beef will help you make the right choice for what to serve your family.


Quality grades help consumers decide which beef cut to buy through an indication of level of tenderness and flavor. Marbling is the small flecks of fat within the lean and it makes the meat more tender, juicy and flavorful. Three of the most common grades are:

USDA Prime


This grade contains the most marbling. It is only roughly 5-6% of the beef produced and is usually sold to finer dining restaurants and some meat markets.

USDA Choice


This grade is often found in grocery stores. Choice frequently meets consumer satisfaction for taste and tenderness, but usually costs less than prime.

USDA Select


This grade has less marbling than prime or choice, making it less tender and flavorful. However, if you are looking for a lean protein, look for this label.


There are more labels than ever being used to market beef today. Below are some of the facts about what the labels mean about how the cattle are raised.

Certified Organic

  • Cattle can be grain-finished or grass-finished, as long as the feed is 100% organic.
  • Must be certified by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and have the official label

Naturally Raised

  • Cattle can be grain-finished or grass-finished – but there is no use of antibiotics, no preservatives and no added hormones
  • Must be certified by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service


  • Cattle spend their entire lives grazing on pasture


  • Cattle spend most of their lives grazing on pasture, then spend 4-6 months in a feedyard
  • Are free to eat an optimal, balanced diet of grasses, grains and other forages