What It All Means
USDA labeling and terminology could be described as a language that helps translate what happens on the farm into tangible information at the retail level. But it’s not exactly an end-alla label can only say so much about the quality or background of a piece of meat, and there are plenty of producers of high-quality beef out there who simply don’t participate in the AMS programs. As Krasner says, “There is no substitute for talking with the producer. Failing that, buy from retailers who have done the investigative work for you.”
It’s important to remember that all the labels out there don’t diminish the fact that you’re still making a choice when buying beef. There is a complex range of factors to consider, from the cut to the quality to the various ethical or environmental considerations. It all ultimately boils down to a personal decision. Different butchers, farmers, and chefs are likely to give a range of opinions on what good beef is, and just as many perspectives on how helpful USDA certification is in aiding their own criteria. And while a steak’s grade or certification may give you an idea of what to expect from it taste or texture-wise, you’ve still got to use your eyes and ask questions to get something that fits your taste and your budget.
Parking Lot Steaks Put To The Test
Our story on cheap meat being sold in a South Burlington parking lot got a lot of response. We got Facebook comments, emails and calls from viewers who bought steaks from the truck parked at the University Mall. Many said they ended up paying more and buying more than they expected. And the reviews were mixed.
Some described the steaks as:
“So thin, and when I unwrapped them, they just fell apart. Very disappointed. Asked for my money back.”
“They taste OK but very tough, like there’s lots of in them.”
Some went as far as calling it a scam. But others thought they got a great deal.
“We grilled up 1 of every variety to try and each one was better than the next!! Highly recommend!!!”
One customer said they got the deal on rib-eyes and said,
“Rather thin but very tasty! Some of the best tasting I have ever had!”
Since your reviews were so split, I decided to find out for myself. I went with Assignment Manager Garrett Heyns to the U-Mall parking lot and picked up 20 rib-eyes for $30, and then a few rib-eyes from a local grocery store.
Let’s first examine the cost. The meat from Star Steaks was $6 a pound. The store-bought rib-eyes were more than twice as costly at $14 per pound.
I prepped the grill and threw on the steaks. They only took about one minute or so to cook on each side. After they were ready, I gave them a try. The first was the frozen rib-eye.
Next, was the store-bought rib-eye. They were definitely a little thicker.
Snake River Farms Top Pick
Snake River Farms is a family-owned business out of Idaho whose meat is used by Michelin-star restaurants.
Luckily for us, they also sell directly to the public via their website.
Their claim to fame is their American Wagyu beef, which comes from crossbreeding imported Wagyu cattle with American Angus.
Their beef is rated higher than USDA Prime .
You can choose from a huge variety of cuts but you cant go wrong ordering the American Wagyu Ribeye fillet, the new york strip or the filet mignon.
They also sell top-quality Wagyu beef brisket and Kurobuta pork.
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Best Mail Order Steaks In 2021
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Until recently if you wanted to buy the best quality steak you were severely limited by where you lived.
Luckily we are now spoilt for choice, with a range of specialty butcher shops delivering restaurant-quality steak online.
Even if you live in a small city, these online butchers deliver steak to your door anywhere in the continental United States.
Weve rounded up the best mail order steak companies in the country for buying steak online.
Door To Door Meat Bundle Scam
Have you been approached, without appointment, by a door to door salesperson selling meat bundles from the back of a truck? If not congratulations as these hustling scammers are like a plague with outbreaks in nearly every community. They are now easy to recognize as the technique and sales pitch is near identical only the name of the peddler changes. It starts with a knock at the door and there stands a stranger asking if youd like to get a great deal on steaks?
Although they are highly trained and usually take advantage of the naive and the elderly, if you were a victim you, dont be embarrassed as you are not alone as these guys play by a different set of rules and many are experts in the con.
Because the product typically comes from large processors sold through brokers of the lowest grade beef pumped up with unpronounceable additives and preservatives it has to be packaged in colorful boxes for presentation purposes, and then sold by the pallet to companies that in turn have their delivery guys to go sell it for a commission. If you search for variety steak case , meat bundle, six pack steak case or meat scam youll undoubtedly find numerous companies throughout the U.S that use this approach. Many are being sued, investigated by various enforcement agencies, and an untold number of victims.
Links open in a new window so you can recycle after looking at the comparisons. See any similarities? And these are just a few of the door to door meat companies
Read Also: Best Place To Order Steaks Online
Certified Very Tender Only At Harris Teeter
As the first and only retailer in America to offer USDA Certified Very Tender beef, Harris Teeter is proud to now carry the USDAs tenderness shield on a number of very special cuts of Harris Teeter Reserve Angus beef.
So, for those who value tenderness, take notice: Theres only one place you can find beef thats not just tender, but backed by the USDA your local Harris Teeter meat case. For a Certified Very Tender dining experience, try picking up some Harris Teeter Reserve Angus beef today.
Is It Cheaper To Buy Meat Online
Generally the meat you find from online butchers caters to the high end of the market.
This makes sense, people looking to order steak online are looking for a way to get their hands on the best quality grass-fed, Wagyu or sustainable raised beef. Not save money.
Having said that, some of the companies in our guide are cheaper than others, so its definitely worth shopping around.
Wrapping it up
You now have no excuses for wasting money on cheap steak from the supermarket.
If you dont have any good butcher shops near you dont despair. We truly live in a golden age for meat lovers with the best butchers delivering amazing quality steak to your door.
You might also want to check out our guide on where to buy Wagyu Beef online.
If youve never ordered steak online before you should definitely give it a try. Its a safe and convenient way to try steak that could previously only be tasted in the finest restaurants.
Not sure what steak to order? Check out our guide to the best steak for grilling.
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We are proud to be the first producer in over 20 years to produce a full line of local, sustainable beef, pork, lamb, goat and other proteins under USDA inspection.
The Best Places To Buy Meat Online
With so many online butcher shops available, choosing one may seem overwhelming. However, having a wide selection is a good thing when it comes to finding the best meat delivery service for you. For those who want to buy meat online for special occasions or without a planned shipping date, consider FarmFoods, Harry and David, and Snake River Farms. Want a monthly meat delivery? Subscription boxesâlike ButcherBox, Carnivore Club, and Porter Roadâare great options if you know you want consistent shipments. If you’re searching for organic, pasture-raised, or grass-fed cuts of meat, our lineup features all of the above. Tip: While you stock up on meat, consider adding plant-based meals into your menu to maintain a healthy lifestyle that’s good for both you and the environment.
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Akaushi Beef American Wagyu Steaks
Imported into the US on custom-outfitted 737’s in the early 1990’s, American Wagyu Akaushi Beef comes from the Japanese Red, a distinct and rare breed of Japanese Wagyu from the southern island of Kyushu.
Landing smack-dab in the middle of the marbling spectrum, Akaushi perfectly blends the intensity of Prime Angus with the succulence of Wagyu. With its lush, beefy flavor and “fork-tender”, melt-in-your-mouth disposition, Akaushi will be for many of you The Holy Grail of Steak. If you love Prime Angus, you’ve got to try American Wagyu Akaushi Beef. Great on the grill or seared in cast-iron.
Best For Charcuterie: Carnivore Club
Building your own impressive charcuterie board has never been easier with the help of Carnivore Club. The subscription service delivers premium cured meats from around the world, like Italian salumi, Spanish smoked ham, or South African Biltong, focusing on a different artisan every month. You can also order individual products and past boxes from popular makers on the site if you dont want to commit to a subscription.
To buy: Starting at $25 per box carnivoreclub.co
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Standard Commercial And The Lowest Of The Low End
The five lowest grades of beefStandard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Cannerare at the bottom of the beef hierarchy. These account for less than 1% of all graded beef, but that low figure can be attributed to the fact that most beef that isn’t likely to make the top three categories won’t be put up for grading.
Standard grade beef comes from very lean cattle less than 42 months of old, while the bottom three grades consist of meat from animals that are advanced in age. You might see Standard or Commercial beef cuts sold in grocery stores, although there usually isn’t any effort to advertise a grade on the packaging. Utility, Cutter, and Canner are mostly reserved for ground beef and processed products.
Whats Your Beef Prime Choice Or Select
The USDA grade shields are highly regarded as symbols of safe, high-quality American beef. Quality grades are widely used as a “language” within the beef industry, making business transactions easier and providing a vital link to support rural America. Consumers, as well as those involved in the marketing of agricultural products, benefit from the greater efficiency permitted by the availability and application of grade standards.
Beef is evaluated by highly-skilled USDA meat graders using a subjective characteristic assessment process and electronic instruments to measure meat characteristics. These characteristics follow the official grade standards developed, maintained and interpreted by the USDAs Agricultural Marketing Service.
Beef is graded in two ways: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass. From a consumer standpoint, what do these quality beef grades mean?
Prime beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling , and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking such as broiling, roasting or grilling.
Standard and Commercial grades of beef are frequently sold as ungraded or as store brand meat. Utility, Cutter, and Canner grades of beef are seldom, if ever, sold at retail but are used instead to make ground beef and processed products.
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Best For Specialty Meats: D’artagnan Foods
If your local grocery store is struggling to keep chicken and beef on the shelves, specialty meats like rabbit, duck, and veal probably arent making the cut. Thankfully, D’Artagnan Foods is stocked with hard-to-find cuts. The gourmet shop not only sells a variety of high-quality beef, but also exotic finds like milk-fed pork, Australian lamb, heritage turkey, quail, and poussin. Whats more, D’Artagnan touts that its hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats come from free-range animals who were humanely raised and harvested.
You can shop the selection by cut, cooking method, or themes like Spring Favorites or French must-haves. Also make sure to check out the gourmet shops prepared food. It sells dozens of different charcuterie, caviar, truffles, mushrooms, and more.
To buy: Starting at $25 dartagnan.com
Mail Order Steak Companies That Do Meat Right
by M. W. Byrne
While apple pie gets all the good press as being the patron food of the United States, the truth is that steak is what comes to mind when you think of a really pleasurable piece of Americana. Steak is one of the greatest pleasures, but with the demand for beef growing all the time, getting a good steak is more and more difficult. If you dont live near a premium butcher, youre stuck taking whatever fatty, sloppy castoff cuts the grocery store feels like putting out. Unless you go the mail order route.
Ordering meat through the mail means youre going to pay for it sight unseen. You could easily lose money this way and get an inferior piece of beef that is tainted with disease. To save your dollars and cents, as well as rescue your palette from horrific cuts of gristle and fat, we did the gustatory research to find the 16 best companies for mail order steaks of any size and shape.
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The Butcher’s Choice Filet Mignon Gift Box
The butcher’s choice filet mignons are exactly that, the Butcher’s choice steaks! These specially reserved steaks are the very steaks that butchers would take home to enjoy with their families. Each steak is hand-selected and hand carved to ensure you get the best cut possible, and then wet-aged for a minimum of 28 days to intensify its naturally delicious flavor. That is why our filet mignons are among the most flavorful, juicy, and tender filet mignons you’ll ever eat. These exquisite steaks are sure to satisfy!
Angus Is Good Harris Teeter Usda Choice Reserve Angus Beef Is Better
Whether your guests enjoy their meat rare, medium or medium well, Harris Teeter USDA Choice Reserve Angus Beef is consistently tender, juicy and rich with flavor. Every time you watch your guests take a bite of their steak or roast, smile happily and say, Youve got to taste this beef, youll be glad you selected Harris Teeter USDA Choice Reserve Angus Beef – the gold standard of Angus beef.
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Best For Bacon: Goldbelly Bacon Subscription
Frankly, its hard to think of dishes bacon cant improve. Its the perfect way to round out a breakfast sandwich, add an extra surprise crunch to leafy greens, or even infuse smoky goodness into cocktails. So, if youre bacon-obsessed, add this subscription from Goldbelly to your cart.
Each month youll receive a fresh box of up to five pounds of the good stuff from purveyors across the country. Past shipments came from Nashvilles Loveless Cafe, Brooklyns Peter Luger, and James Beard Award-winning Smoking Goose Meatery.
To buy: $59 for three months goldbelly.com
Buying Meat Off A Truck Check The Seller’s License
That’s what Steve Jewell called the steaks and chops he was offered recently by a salesman going door-to-door in his Minneapolis neighborhood. The frozen, vacuum-packed meat came in an unlabeled box. The salesman said he was at the end of his shift, so he was offering the meat at cost.
Jewell passed on the deal. “I don’t want a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy when I’m buying meat,” he said. “I don’t care how cheap it is.”
Still, he wonders where the meat came from.
He’s not the only one.
While not as common as magazine, candy or firewood hawkers, door-to-door meat salesmen have been ringing doorbells — and raising eyebrows — for many years, said Dave Read, director of dairy and food inspection at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture . As the weather heats up, Twin Cities residents can expect to see more meat vendors plying the streets.
That has Read and other food safety experts concerned that the promise of bargain-priced meats may to be too tempting to resist.
Established door-to-door sellers, such as Schwan’s and the Iowa Steak Company, are licensed, inspected and clearly identifiable. But many others, who may be unlicensed, are selling unmarked meat from the back of a pickup truck. They’re pitching rock-bottom prices, but lingering questions about the source, quality and safety of the meat they’re offering remain.
These sellers often can be identified by the urgency in their pitch, said Read.
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Harris Teeter Rancher Beef Always Tender And Juicy
From rancher to retailer, Harris Teeter Rancher Beef is carefully checked and tracked to make sure it meets our strict guidelines for quality and tenderness. Harris Teeter Rancher® Beef guarantees tender moments with your family around the dinner table. Thats because our ranchers produce great tasting beef that consistently earns the exclusive Tender Verified seal. For your family, that means beef that cooks up tender and juicy time after time or we will double your money back.