What Are Some Different Cuts and Grades of Meat?

The USDA grades the quality of beef from highest to lowest quality as follows: Prime, Choice, Select, Utility, Cutter and Canner. Cuts are not officially regulated by the USDA, but the most commonly seen are tenderloin fillet, New York strip (sometimes called Kansas City strip), rib eye, chuck steak, round roast (or round steak) and sirloin.

The USDA, or United States Department of Agriculture, grades beef on a scale of seven categories determined by the amount of marbling (or intramuscular fat) the carcass displays. In an average American grocery store, most beef is graded as Choice, though some Standard beef can be found in supermarkets as well. Higher-end grocers often sell prime beef at a premium.

Cuts of beef vary by name and are not regulated by the USDA. However, all cuts fall into nearly universally recognized sections of the beef carcass, often referred to as primal cuts. These include large sections of muscle such as the chuck, which comes from the shoulder of the cow; the round, which comes from the rump; the rib, located in the rib section; the loin and sirloin, which run along the vertebrae; and the flank from the belly. Other primal cuts, from which less popular retail cuts are derived, include shank, short plate and brisket.

The USDA also grades beef based on the proportion of lead muscle to larger fat deposits. These grades are assigned letters, such as Grade A, Grade B and Grade C, and are determined by the depth of fat between the skin and vertebrae of the carcass.