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"AAA", Eh! Know your Beef.

In a few short months, we will be in BBQ season... Yea it's coming. Shopping for meat(beef) should be a pretty basic thing, but it's not. Most folks are familiar with the general offerings; extra lean ground beef, T-bone steak, New York striploin. This thread is presented to explain how to identify Canadian beef standards and grades. Yes, it's important, and sometimes your local grocery store makes figuring it out difficult.

How do I know the grade of the beef I am buying?

• Look for the amount of marbling in the meat.• Check for the grade designation called out on the meat package, at the meat counter or in the flyer.• Look for symbols similar to the icons shown here.• Ask the person managing the meat or butcher counter. They will know just what beef grade they have to offer.

What’s the difference between the 3 Canada beef quality grades?

Canadian beef is quality beef, raised with expertise, pride and care, in every province across the country. The most marbled, Canada Prime has enhanced juiciness and flavour, while Canada AA is typically a leaner and more budget-conscious option. Want something in-between – it’s Canada AAA. There is a beef grade to fit just what you’re looking for.

Which Countries Have The Best Grading System?

  1. Japan

  2. Australia

  3. Canada/USA tied for third

The Japanese Beef Grading System

The Japanese system is the most detailed. The grading of meat is managed by the JMGA (Japanese Meat Grading Association) Beef Carcass Grading Standard.

The overall grade consists of two grades: Yield Grade (designated by a letter) and Quality Grade (designated by a number).

Yield Grade measures the amount of usable meat on a carcass and range from A (the highest) to C (the lowest).

“A” usually means the cow was a fulblood Wagyu. “B” is usually a crossbred Wagyu. “C” is usually for Angus or Wholestain cattle.

Quality grade is calculated by evaluating four different factors:

1) Meat marbling

2) Meat color and brightness

3) Meat firmness and texture and

4) Fat color, luster and quality.

Interesting Note:

Japanese Kobe has a Canada cousin with similar qualities called Wagyu.

Where Japanese Wagyu Beef is from one of four purebred lines, Canadian, American, and Australian Wagyu Beef come from cross-breeding a pure-blooded Japanese Wagyu cow with a Black Angus. This produces incredibly tender beef with the incredible flavor of Wagyu that doesn’t become overpowering in its delectable richness. It’s a huge and satisfying steak that you can go ahead and eat or share with others. These steaks are visibly well-marbled with white veins of white fat within the muscle fibers of the cut. These veins of fat will render into the meat during cooking and enhance the flavor and tenderness of each bite.

Beef Breeds as a whole can be confusing. Every consumer cattle breed, from the Angus to the Shorthorn and even Herefords have unique characteristics, including markings, quality of fat, and personality. They have been bred to highlight the attributes that consumers find desirable in their meat.


Why is Canadian Wagyu so Expensive?

Canadian, American, and Australian Wagyu Beef is expensive because of the time and effort that goes into curating the quality meat that you are purchasing. Like Japanese Wagyu Beef, it comes down to the care, feed, and time that goes into producing a quality product. And these products, this beef, is literally a cut above. These steaks and other cuts, like ribs and brisket, are included in the top 2% of the consumable beef available in North America. That means that these steaks are Prime as graded by both Canadian and American standards. Meaning that these cuts of beef are less widely available as well.

One last thing to consider, buy local and organic. This is a more pricey option, but the benefits surpass the cost, at least in my opinion.

Heritage Breeds

Heritage breeds are distinct livestock that can be traced to the period before industrial farming and are considered endangered. Heritage livestock are generally heartier breeds that mature more slowly and are raised more naturally. Wagyu beef, from Kobe, Japan, and Berkshire pork are two examples.  However, the term “heritage” does not necessarily mean they are pastured using humane farming methods, or that their meat is superior tasting. Heritage breeds help keep diversity within livestock species and help maintain the earth’s bio-diversity.

Certified Organic

Livestock must be raised on a “certified organic” farm or ranch according to United States Department of Agriculture standards and fed only certified organic feed.


Naturally Raised

Animals are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics, and never fed animal by-products

No Antibiotics

Animals never receive antibiotics

No Hormones

Livestock never received growth hormones (Federal law prohibits the use of hormones in pork, lamb and poultry).

Grass Fed Meats

According to the USDA, beef, bison, lamb and goats can be labeled as grass fed if they forage on a diet of grass, legumes, and grain crops in their vegetative, ore-grain state. They must be allowed pasture to roam.

Join us this week with a look at cooking various cuts of beef and the best methods suggested for each type. In the meantime, why not join one of our online culinary programs, and up your game!

Cheers, and have a Happy Easter!


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