Great Plains Beef

Grading Certified Piedmontese Beef
Applying USDA Grades Can Be Misleading

American consumers are used to judging beef using grades assigned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those grades range from Standard to Select, and from Choice to Prime, with Prime being a nearly perfect cut of beef—one that’s tender, juicy, and flavorful.

Those grades are based mostly on the presence of marbling (intramuscular fat) in the meat: in general, the more fat, the higher the grade. The grading system originated in the 1920s, when the industry sought a consistent and effective way to provide consumers with uniform indicators of beef quality. Conventional beef typically contains a fair degree of marbling, and that system has historically proven a reasonably accurate indicator of tenderness: After all, beef with more fat is typically more tender than beef with less fat.

Of course, no grading system is perfect, and the current system does not truly measure—or even purport to measure—nutritional profile, actual tenderness, or flavor. Mostly it measures fat.

But fat is not the only indicator of tenderness—lean beef can be tender, juicy, and flavorful, as independent studies have shown. One study from the University of Nebraska reports that, while lean Piedmontese beef was much lower in fat content than the Angus beef samples to which it was compared, it was nonetheless just as tender as the fattier beef. At the same time, the Piedmontese was significantly lower in cholesterol and calories than the USDA average for Choice cuts.

Therein lies the true magic of Certified Piedmontese® beef: With Certified Piedmontese, consumers enjoy the tenderness and flavor of Choice or Prime beef, but with the nutritional profile of grass-fed or Select cuts. The result is that Certified Piedmontese offers a healthier dining experience, but one that’s just as flavorful as one might experience with fattier beef.

Certified Piedmontese beef is unlike conventional beef, so it’s difficult to apply typical USDA grades to it: Naturally lean, tender, and delicious, it does not require marbling (that is, fat) for flavor. Instead of buying and ingesting fat, Certified Piedmontese beef customers are paying for and getting low-calorie, low-cholesterol beef that’s better for them than other beef, but which is also tender, juicy, and flavorful.