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What to Look for When Buying Holiday Meats

What to Look for When Buying Holiday Meats

Kathie Smith | The Blade

Some people think it isn’t a major holiday unless turkey is served. For others, a special roast is on the menu.

It’s best to decide what your holiday entree will be and then special-order it.

Beef, pork, and veal have individual qualities that should be considered when purchasing them. As you plan your holiday entrees, select the best product for the price you want to pay.

When buying beef, understand the grading and/or branded programs to help in making your selection. There are three primary grades: Select, Choice, and Prime.

Select has the least amount of marbling, making it leaner but often less juicy and flavorful than the other two grades.

Choice cuts tend to have more marbling than Select, but a little less marbling than Prime. Choice is the most widely available grade in supermarkets.

Prime has the most marbling and is usually sold to restaurants.

“The grading is administered by the USDA, which indicates palatability, juiciness, tenderness, and flavor,” said Meghan Pusey, director of National Cattleman’s Beef Association communications, in a phone interview. The factors used to determine quality grades are maturity, marbling and muscle firmness, color, and texture.

Beef quality and yield grading is voluntary and paid for by meat packers. When buying beef, check to see if that information is available.

Another option is to buy a product from a branded beef program. “Most national retailers or branded beef programs have certain criteria,” said Ms. Pusey. For example, Certified Angus Beef is a Choice product that is the Angus breed, which is sold at area stores. Laura’s Lean Beef, Wal-Mart’s Steak House Steak Collection, and Niman Ranch are other branded programs you may see in supermarkets.

There also are specialty and premium cuts available during the holidays. Consult your butcher or meat department manager.