Evaluating Beef Quality

Quality grading in beef is an evaluation of the factors affecting its taste, such as flavor, juiciness and tenderness. The factors that affect the quality of beef are its firmness, the maturity of the contributing animal, the meat's color, and the presence of marbling. Here, you will learn how to evaluate beef quality.

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One of the biggest determining factors in beef quality is the amount of marbling, which is the distribution of fat within the lean meat. Beef graders look at the amount of marbling in the ribeye muscle between the 12th and 13th ribs of the carcass; the amount found is what determines the quality grade the beef gets. Degrees of marbling are further divided into one hundred subunits, and are discussed in 1/10ths within the degree.

There are other ways to evaluate beef quality. Graders should also look for muscle firmness, proper texture and good color. Good ribeyes have evenly dispersed marbling in deep red, firm lean meat. As the contributing animal gets older, its muscles become darker and the texture becomes coarser. Where cattle are concerned, maturity is decided by the physiological age as opposed to the chronological age. Indicators for beef maturity are characteristics of the bones, color and texture of ribeye, and cartilage ossification.

The cartilage evaluated when determining beef maturity is that in the vertebrae, and as a bovine matures, it ossifies. In younger carcasses, the ribs are red and round, which lessens with age. Beef matures from the back to the front; ossification begins in the sacrum, progresses to the lumbar region, then to the thoracic region. Because maturation progresses in such a manner, even fairly young carcasses will show ossification in the sacrum.

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