pelled to pay for this extra step, so ungraded cuts of
beef are still sold. But never at Costco.
The difference is in the grade
Beef is graded into eight levels, with Prime and
Choice being the top two grades. Costco carries only
USDA Prime or Choice cuts of beef, Scott says.
Top grades, low price make
Costco’s meats a sizzlin’ value
So what sets grades apart? It’s the degree of “
marbling,” Scott explains. Marbling is the small pieces of
fat within the meat (as opposed to what is found on
the edges). In general, the higher the amount of marbling, the more tender, juicy and flavorful the meat.
USDA Prime has the highest level of marbling
Buying GREAT GRILLING at the Volchok home always and represents only about 2 percent of all graded
starts with Costco’s classic steaks. No others will do. beef. Unsurprisingly, Prime is the most expensive
To discover the secrets behind these juicy hunks grade. (USDA Prime steaks are available on
Smart of beef, I tracked down the experts at Costco’s home costco.com, and Prime cuts are periodically avail-office. I learned a lot of interesting facts about how able at Costco warehouses.)
meat is processed and prepared, what the best cuts are Next on the grade list, and most popular among
and the best ways to match cuts and cooking meth- consumers, is USDA Choice, with sufficient marbling
Pat Volchok gives a ods. But what stood out in my research was how beef
behind-the-scenes look is graded—and what that means to Costco members
in the warehouses and online at costco.com.
at Costco products Costco’s beef buyer, Scott O’Brien, started off by
and services. telling me that all beef sold in the United States
Send your questions to: must pass inspection by the Food Safety and
b uyingsmart@ Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of
c ostco.com Agriculture (USDA). The actual grading of beef is
not a requirement. Sadly, not all retailers feel com-
for taste and tenderness but a
lower price. USDA Choice cuts
from grain-fed beef are available in Costco warehouses.
Number three in terms
of marbling and taste is
Grading is just the first
step in Costco’s meat program. According to Doug
Holbrook, an assistant
Pat Volchok and Costco’s
Charlie Winters prepare
to grill some tantalizing
48 The Costco Connection JULY 2006