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Choosing Quality Meats
Do you know the secret to choosing quality meats? Too often, price is the only factor for consumers who want to purchase meat products. This can be deceiving as price is relative to what the store can charge and not to the quality of the meat being sold. Shelf life is also another factor when it comes to choosing quality meats. In order to purchase the freshest meats possible, here are some tips to help you find the best cuts to cook with.
We will be focusing on beef, pork and lamb when choosing quality meats in order to give you the best information to make an informed decision.
How Do You Go About Choosing Quality Meats?
Depending on what cut of beef you choose, it should be fresh and red in color. Beef should also be well marbled with fat but try to avoid those meats that have an excess of fat since beef is very expensive and we are paying for meat and not fat. When looking at vacuum-packed meat, make sure it is more of a purplish-red color as it hasn’t been exposed to the air yet. If you are buying ground beef , the leaner the better. Try to stick with 90% as it cooks better without all the fat.
Many consumers in the U.S. are not aware that beef should be hung and not put out on the shelves. European butcher shops make sure the when choosing quality meats, they have their beef eat grass to give it a nice color and texture.
Different Grades When Choosing Quality Meats
There are 5 grades of beef available:
- Select – This cut has the leanest amount of fat and is sold in grocery stores.
- Choice – Has more fat than select but is leaner than prime. Also sold in stores.
- Prime– The fat is well marbled and is mostly sold in restaurant and specialty butcher shops.
- Commercial – These meats are lower in quality and used in commercial applications.
- Utility – As with commercial, this meat is of lower quality. It has more tendon and connective tissue and the meat is very tough so it is not useful for either restaurant or household applications.
Beef raised today does not resemble the beef of 80-100 years ago. Today, beef is raised on a corn diet and can harbor the deadly e-coli virus as well as “Mad-Cow Disease”. If you are not aware, U.S. raised, hormone-treated beef was banned by Europe back in 1989. This has made it even more important to the consumer to buy beef that is grass fed (their natural diet) as well as being free-range animals. Studies have shown that this type of meat has more essential fatty acids and leaner protein. When choosing quality meats, you must take this information fully into account.
Pork is the most consumed meat in the world. And as so, the grading system is much different than with beef. It only comes as USDA inspected. When choosing quality meats, your pork should be pinkish in color and the fat marbling should be both white and firm. Because of the breeding techniques over the past 25-30 years, pork has become much leaner than it used to be. This means you must be very careful when you go to choose pork.
If you want to buy healthier pork, choose certified humane raised pork as it raised free of growth hormones, dangerous antibiotics and drug-resistant bacteria. Also, humane raised pork are raised in their natural habitat eating their natural diet. This reduces the threat of disease and improves the nutritional content of the animal thereby giving you healthy meats to eat.
When choosing quality meats, lamb should be at least 25 pounds before is it considered to be both a wholesome and nourishing food.
Depending on the time of the year, spring lamb has a delicate texture and a buttercup-yellow fat that is firm. Christmastime lamb has a darker colored meat and more of a white colored fat. Always check the smell. It should not have any strong odor at all and the meat should be dry without any type of moisture when you run your fingers through it.
When choosing quality meats, mutton should have a bright red color with a good amount of hard, white fat. Good mutton also has white bones because the blood leaves the bones as the animal ages. Many people don’t like mutton as it has a gamy taste but since it has a higher fat ratio to meat than lamb it needs to ripen up to three weeks. Cutting most of the fat and pink skin off will give it a milder taste.
Learning How To Start Choosing Quality Meats
If you can afford it, the best way to start choosing quality meats is to go to a butcher you can trust. He will show you different cuts of meat and what to look for. He will also give you much better cuts than a grocer can and will cut them to your specifications.
Meat is a healthy part of of a good diet and by following these directions you should be able to start choosing quality meats for your family in no time.