Prime beef is a
cut above the rest
Consumer reporter Pat
Volchok gives a behind-the-scenes look at Costco
products and services.
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PRIME BEEF is the pot of gold at the end of the
meat lover’s rainbow, delivering the best meat-eating
The pleasure of eating USDA (United States
Department of Agriculture) Prime beef, which
makes up less than 4 percent of annual beef production, has traditionally been reserved for connoisseurs who frequent upscale restaurants, hotels and
But with more people eating and entertaining at
home, the high-end meat locker recently opened
just enough for Costco beef buyers to nimbly step in.
The result is Costco’s blockbuster Kirkland
Signature™ USDA Prime meat warehouse program.
I catch up with Costco beef buyer Joe Rubino,
who reports, “Costco is one of the largest buyers of
fresh meat in any category in the country. Add to this
a double-digit increase in Prime sales last year. No
other retailer comes close to matching the scale of
our USDA Prime beef program—or our low prices.”
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82 ;e Costco Connection JUNE 2011
Prime beef is the top of eight USDA beef grades,
followed by Choice and Select.
Although there are many considerations when
grading beef, foremost is the amount of marbling
(those delicate flecks and tendrils of fat) found
within cuts. USDA Prime has the most marbling.
Choice, although still high in quality, has less, and
Select runs a distant third.
Costco—a cut above
All Costco beef has the USDA shield on the
package. Some retailers are not as forthcoming. I
recently heard an advertisement for Reserve beef,
while others advertise “prime cuts” or “choice selections.” Unless the beef carries the USDA grade
shield, what you are buying may not be the real deal.
At the moment, USDA Prime beef is available
in four different cuts at Costco warehouses. Each
warehouse serves up at least two or more of the four.
Prime rib-eye steak. This cut is the champion
of the grill. Each boneless steak is a minimum
14-ounce cut of tender prime rib.
No bones about it: Costco’s Prime rib-eye is my
favorite steak, with its buttery, big beef flavor, especially after grilling. Other Costco members must