How To Pick The Best Meat At The Grocery Store

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Hands down, the most stressful part of our grocery run used to be walking into the meat department or butcher shop. We knew a little bit about basic cuts of meat, but felt totally out of our depth when surrounded by literal walls of all different cuts of meat. Don’t worry though, we’ve done our research and come up with some fool-proof tips and tricks to help make the process of choosing your meat stress and hassle-free.

We’ll break down the actual, most basic cuts of beef at the end, but first, here’s what to look for any time you step into the meat department, regardless of the specific cut you’re looking for.

Read the Sell-by Date

  • Buying something on the sell-by date doesn’t mean it has expired, but always look carefully at the meat; you can’t always trust a date and it’s good to double check
  • If there are two options and one has a sell-by date that is the current date, choose the one with the sell-by date that is a couple days away

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Check for Moisture

  • Beef is much more fresh when there is minimal moisture inside the package
  • The tighter the packaging, where the plastic is touching the beef, the better
  • You don’t want any oxygen in the package
  • If the tray is deeper and the plastic bubbles over the meat, you can bet that it’s been processed and pumped full of gas to maintain a red color

Product Placement

  • The freshest-cut meat is usually placed in the back of a row, so reach to the back of the shelf for the freshest product

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Compare Color

  • Fresh meat (unless dry-aged) should not be brown or spotted
  • An older cow will have darker color, indicating the meat will be tougher
  • Grass-fed meat is also darker and often tougher
  • Lighter meat is often grain-fed
  • Brighter red meat usually means the cow was younger and will be more tender
  • Freshly cut meat is always lighter, but will soon turn to a darker red once exposed to oxygen

Check Label for Fat Content

  • Ground chuck: 80 to 85 percent lean / 15 to 20 percent fat (ideal for burgers)
  • Ground round: 85 to 90 percent lean / 10 to 15 percent fat
  • Ground sirloin: 90 to 92 percent lean / 8 to 10 percent fat

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Notice the Marbling/Fat Pattern

  • Prime – the most coveted, expensive and marbled grade
  • Choice – medium amount of marbling that is not always as even
  • Select – the most lean grade of beef with the least marbling
  • Look at the lines of fat running through the meat; the more fat distribution, the better
  • Grass-fed fat marbling is more yellow
  • Grain-fed fat is bright white

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  • Make sure that your meat is cold before purchasing
  • Purchase meat as the last point of your shopping
  • Get your meat into your refrigerator quickly

Regardless of what you’re looking to buy, employing these tips will help guarantee you get the best product available, every time! Go forth into your local butcher shop and prosper – you can tackle anything now!

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