The USDA shield is on every
package of Costco’s Kirkland
Signature Prime meats.
agree, as it tops Costco Prime beef sales in dollars.
(USDA Prime standing bone-in rib-eye roasts are
typically available two weeks before Christmas.)
New York steak. This lean cut also weighs a
minimum of 14 ounces. Meaty and a grilling classic,
boneless, evenly marbled New Yorks are sought
after for their bursts of juicy flavor and tenderness.
Newbie cooks will appreciate the extra thickness,
since thicker steaks are usually easier to cook.
Boneless top sirloin steak. The number-one
USDA Prime seller in pounds at Costco is also
Costco’s least expensive Prime cut. Broil, grill or
pan-fry these quickly, as top sirloin is very temperature sensitive. The more you cook it, the less tender
Filet mignon (tenderloin). If you are among
those who hunger for USDA Prime, you must try
this Costco delicacy. As the name “tenderloin”
implies, filet mignon comes from the most tender
part of the beef. It is butter soft and also the leanest
and most expensive of the four Costco Prime cuts.
Filet mignon is great simply grilled, but for a truly
great gastronomic experience use this cut for fondue and stroganoff. (Note: This delicacy is limited
to select warehouses.)
I ask Joe about Costco’s additional behind-the-scene requirements.
He says, “No matter if it’s Prime or Choice
grain-fed beef, we check and double-check, includ-
ing two internal meat inspections.”
The first point of contact for Costco’s USDA-
certified Prime and Choice beef is at Costco’s own
distribution centers. This is where sections of fresh
beef that have been vacuum sealed (to protect flavor
and freshness) are delivered from USDA-certified
packers. If accepted, the meat is shipped via refrig-
erator trucks to warehouses for hand-cutting and
-trimming by Costco’s own meat cutters.
Cutting specifications for USDA Prime and
Choice beef are the same. The goal is consistent,
leaner cuts, so each is sliced 1¼ to 1½ inches thick,
with excess gristle removed and external fat whittled
to about a quarter inch.
I’m particularly pleased that fat and gristle are
removed, as they add from 19 percent (rib-eye) to
30 percent (top sirloin) of additional uneatable
weight. At Costco, members pay only the price per
edible pound; this is not so with some retailers.
Joe reports, “All that’s left for our members is a
beautiful cut with very little plate waste.”
I ask about spiking meat with carbon monox-
ide, as it keeps meat looking a nice fresh red past
use-by dates. While this treatment is not yet banned
in the U.S. or required to be noted on labels, it con-
tinues to be popular with many retailers. It is not
allowed at Costco.
For warehouse savings in the extreme, consider purchasing vacuum-packaged cuts by the
case or individually, and cut and trim the meat
yourself. Special values are listed on a board at the
Everyday Costco savings are, of course, still a
meaty proposition in the individually cut, trimmed
and ready-to-cook program.
I tried to compare Costco USDA Prime beef
with Prime beef sold by other grocery stores in my
area but could not find any offered. So, I enlisted the
help of Costco regional beef supervisors, many of
whom also had no luck. Those who were able to
find USDA Prime in retail stores report prices ranging from $26.99 to $42 per pound for tenderloin,
compared to $16.99 per pound at Costco; top sirloin
ran from $7.59 to $14.99 per pound, compared to
$5.99 at Costco. (Prices were checked and gathered
on March 7, 2011.)
Making the grade
Before ending my visit I ask Joe about a blog
that states Costco’s Prime is not USDA stamped on
the external fat.
Chuckling, he reports, “Remember how we trim
the inedible fat down? The USDA stamp is cut off,
but you’ll find the official shield with the words ‘USDA
P;;;;’ prominently displayed on each package.”
Real gourmet steaks at Costco prices? I am
Chuckling, he reports, “Remember how we trim
COSTCO.COM also offers
Prime beef. Each 100 per-
cent traceable steak is cut to
order by specialized meat
cutters, vacuum sealed,
flash frozen and shipped in
dry ice to ensure consistent
quality. As with the ware-
house Prime beef, quality is
100 percent guaranteed,
and, unlike most online beef
sites, refunds are available
at any Costco warehouse.
Shipping is done via
second-day air on Mondays,
Tuesdays and Wednesdays
only. This guarantees that
the steaks are not sitting in a
UPS hub over the weekend.
Be careful: Some web-
sites state “shipping and
handling standard” but then
slip in an additional exorbi-
tant shipping fee, citing
perishability. Not the prac-
tice at Costco.com.—PV tice at Costco.com. —PV
KANSAS CITY STEAK COMPANY
CRAIG WILSON, COSTCO’S vice president and general merchandising
manager of quality assurance and food safety, offers these food-safety tips:
• Start with clean hands and a clean work surface.
• Keep raw meat and poultry apart from veggies and cooked foods by
using separate and clean cutting boards.
• Cooking longer is safer than cooking quickly.
• Cook steaks 135 F to 145 F.
• After removing from the grill,
place meat on a clean
platter or cutting board—
not the one used prior to
• Perishable foods should sit
out less than two hours,
and if it’s a hot day less
than one hour. Refrigerate
• If marinating meat (not
necessary for Prime cuts),
discard leftover marinade
prior to cooking. Do not
reuse or serve on the side.