Everything You Need To Know About Buying Meat

I’m Not Vegan, I Eat Meat

So you’re at the grocery story and you’re ready to get all your proteins for the week.

The problem is, there is a lot of meat and you aren’t sure what is quality and what is not?

What cut should you get?

What is Prime vs Choice?

What about 93% lean ground beef vs 80%?

What should you look for when buying chicken?

I wanted to put this together so that you had a better understanding of what you’re looking for at the grocery store and give you a better idea of what you should buy.

What To Look For When Buying Meat?


1. Know The Cut

When it comes to buying meat there are a variety of cuts that you need to be aware of. When someone says “cut” they’re referring to what part of the cow the meat is coming from.

The image above has a great breakdown of the various cuts of meat.

Front of Cow

Chuck – Large muscle group that needs a longer time to cook. Think pot roast.
Rib – Fatty and tough. Bone in has more flavor.
Brisket – Fatty meat that when slow cooked has a nice texture and should shred apart. There are two parts to brisket. The first cut is called the flat and it’s less fatty. The second cut is called the point which is fattier and good for smoking and barbecue.

Back Of Cow

Top Sirloin – Lean and tender but a tad higher price point
Tenderloin (Filet) – least worked muscle on a cow which makes it tender. Also low fat.
Flank (Short Plate) – Looks like a ping pong paddle. Very lean and mild in flavor. Cooks quickly.
Round – Found in the hind leg. Great for Roast Beef.

2. Know The Grade

  1. Prime Beef: The US has a grading system and USDA Prime Beef is at the top. It has more marbling (network of fine lines of white fat) than other cuts. This extra marbling, higher feed quality and aging adds to the flavor and texture making it the creme de la creme. It’s also the most expensive.
  2. Choice Beef: USDA Choice Beef is the next best grade of beef. It has less marbling than Prime but more than Select. This type of beef is what you would typically find at the local grocery store.
  3. Select Beef: Has the least amount of marbling which makes it much leaner, less tender and juicier than the other two. Definitely not top quality steaks.


Related: How To Grill The Perfect Steak


3. Figure Out What Type Of Beef Steak You Want

Filet Mignon (Tenderloin) – Comes for the heart of the beef tenderloin that has great taste and texture. Filets are the most tender steak you can buy but not necessarily the most flavorful.


New York Strip- Great for grilling. It has a strong beef flavor, it’s easy to cook and easy to cut. Very popular at steak shops.


Rib Eye – Lots of marbling throughout the steak. Very juicy steak and very tender. Somewhat difficult to cut through the marbling but worth it if you have the patience.


Porterhouse (T-Bone)- Combination of two steaks, New York Strip on one side and tender filet on the other. Tenderloin is larger on a Porterhouse than on a T-Bone.


Top Sirloin – A very juicy cut taken from the center of the sirloin. This is great for grilling and one of my favorite cuts. It doesn’t have a lot of marbling and the texture can be rough.


T-Bone – Identical to the Porterhouse however it doesn’t have as much tenderloin muscle on it. It’s both a strip sirloin (with the bone) and a tender filet mignon. Two steaks in one!



4. Understanding Ground Beef

Ground beef is beef that has been ground or finely chopped. It’s also referred to as ground hamburger since it’s used for hamburgers, tacos, and meatloaf.

Related: Beginners Guide To Meal Prepping

There are a variety of types of ground beef. They are:

Regular Ground Beef: Higher in fat content (20%-30%) which means it’s going to be juicy and packed with flavor. Usually cut from the trimmings of inexpensive cuts like brisket and shank.

Ground Chuck: Roughly 15%-20% fat content that comes from a cut of chuck. It’s not as fatty and can be labeled as lean ground beef.

Ground Round: Cut from the back (round) of the cow this cut has about 12% fat. Clearly not as much fat so it’s great to cook with other ingredients to add flavor with minimal fat. This is also referred to as extra-lean ground beef.

Ground Sirloin: One of the leanest and most expensive forms of ground beef. It can contain anywhere from 10%-14% fat and comes from the midsection of the animal. Also labels as extra-lean ground beef.


What To Look For When Buying Chicken

Chicken is good. You should eat chicken. However, you should be smart when trying to buy chicken. In order to be smart when buying chicken, that would require you to read labels. Here’s what you need to know

Cage Free: Chicken is free to roam in an area. Useless when it comes to meat as caging is used to make egg collection more efficient with laying hens.

No Antibiotics: Chickens never received medicine to help prevent disease or facilitate growth.

No Hormones: Growth hormones in poultry has been banned since 1959. They should all say this.

Natural: this term isn’t really regulated but it generally means “no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed.” So chicken is natural.

Naturally raised: Naturally raised chickens never receive antibiotics, hormones, or feed containing animal products.

Free Range: Chicken has access to roam pasture or outside of cage. There isn’t really a requirement so the chicken could technically stay caged for days even though there is a little door available for it to roam.

Organic: Naturally raised, in free range conditions, and receive entirely organic feed (no GMO’s)


Grading Chicken

Grade A means that it was free of broken bones and/or major skeletal deformities.

B and C grades mean chicken is mostly reserved for ground meat and processed products.


The Difference between Dark Meat and White Meat

Dark meat pieces (thighs and legs) are higher in myoglobin, a protein that increases in muscles with age and exercise. When exposed to oxygen the myoglobin process a darker and deeper color in meat.

When it comes to chicken, make sure you buy quality, store it properly and eat it before it expires.

Hope this helps!

Resources: Beef, Chicken

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