Quality USDA Beef Grades
All meat that is sold must, by law, pass inspection. Meat products are among the most highly regulated and supervised products in the food supply. Meat inspection is funded by taxes.
USDA Meat Grading
Meat grading is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Beef quality grades indicate palatability characteristics such as tenderness, juiciness and flavor. Unlike inspection, grading is optional and paid for by meat processors. More than half of the beef available is graded.
There are eight quality grades for beef which reflect the amount of marbling (fat within the lean), firmness, color and texture of the beef, and the maturity of the animal. Generally, only three grades are identified and sold to restaurants and at retail.