how does marbling affect beef grading

Marbling (intramuscular fat) is the intermingling or dispersion of fat within the lean. Graders evaluate the amount and distribution of marbling in the ribeye muscle at the cut surface after the carcass has been ribbed between the 12th and 13th ribs. Degree of marbling is the primary determination of quality grade.

Marbling is a unique pattern of white intramuscular fat in meat that creates what is known as the “marbling effect.” This intramuscular fat impacts the flavor, tenderness, and texture, especially in red meat. It is important to not get intramuscular and intermuscular fat mixed up. While the intramuscular fat provides tenderness and flavor to the meat, intermuscular fat does not not enhance the flavor and is usually removed from the meat.

– In the U.S., Australia, and Japan, human graders are used to visually inspect the quality of meat. The amount and distribution of the white fat flecks in the meat is used to determine the meats overall grade.

– In the United States, the U.S.D.A has 8 grades that beef can be classified into. Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner. Meat graded Prime will have the highest levels of marbling and will be considered top of the line. Meat graded at the lowest levels, like utility, cutter, and canner, are most often used for ground beef.

What Factors Affect the Marbling in Meat?

The amount of marbling in meat is determined by a combination of factors:

  • Breed – Some breeds have a natural tendency to be more marbled. Breeds such as the Kuroge-washu, which give us Wagyu beef, have a higher quantity of intramuscular fat that produces higher levels of marbling and higher levels of healthy fats (higher in Omega-3s compared to Omega-6 fats). American Angus and Herefords are breeds also known to produce quality marbling.
  • Type of Feed – A cows feed plays a vital role in the overall marbling and quality of meat that is produced. Cattle that are underfed, or fed an inferior feed, will not gain weight properly…marbling will disappear from the muscles quickly and can be difficult to restore if it has gone too far into decline. Cattle that consume a diet of grains often marble more easily than those whose food consists only of grass. However, cattle kept specifically on feedlots and fed grass pellets may not receive the exercise or nutrients needed to create the levels of marbling found in grass fed cattle that feed on open range and pastureland.
  • Age at Slaughter – Age is an important factor when it comes to the quality of beef. As a general rule, young cattle, or Veal, will have less marbling due to the fact that intramuscular fat is the last to develop. This means that younger cattle will normally have less flavor and be less tender…older cattle may have less marbling as well due the loss of intramuscular muscle and fat as they age. Depending on how they are fed, cattle can be ready to butcher somewhere between 14-36 months of age.

The level of marbling in your meat will also be determined by its location on the cattle. Areas of the cattle in which the muscle are used less, such as the loin, will produce more fat and therefore more marbling. Lean muscle, like in the legs and rump, produces less fat and less marbling. It is simple science.

how does marbling affect beef grading

Beef cuts with less marbling, such as USDA Select, can be cooked on the grill just like USDA Choice or USDA Prime grades but may need to be monitored a little closer and cooked a little less to keep it as tender as possible. Cuts with more marbling, such as USDA Prime, may be grilled with high heat to a medium or medium rare for excellent results in flavor and tenderness. Certain cuts, such as the tenderloin (filet) and top blade (flat iron), may naturally be more tender –regardless of the degree of marbling or the USDA grade.

Grilling season is upon us. It’s time to enjoy that wonderful smell of meat cooking across neighborhood backyards. With so many choices available at your store and meat counter, choosing the best cut of meat for your dish can be overwhelming. With a bit of beef knowledge, you can avoid that problem, and be the king or queen of the barbeque.

Selecting the right USDA grade of beef for your dish will help guarantee your culinary success. When beef is cooked, the degree of tenderness is mostly dependent on the amount of fat in the meat. USDA Prime beef has the highest marbling score or fat content, followed by USDA Choice. USDA Select has only slight marbling.

The next time you visit the supermarket or your favorite steak house, apply your beefed up knowledge on marbling, tenderness and grades to grill your beef to perfection!

The USDA grade shields are regarded as symbols of quality American beef. Large-volume buyers such as grocery stores, military institutions, restaurants, and even foreign governments use the quality grades as a “common language” within the beef industry, making business transactions easier. The shields also mean you can shop with confidence, knowing that your beef will have the quality and consistency that you count on to make your dishes delicious.

What makes Marbling Important?

Marbling is important because it is what makes your favorite steaks juicy and flavorful. It keeps them moist during cooking, so that natural juices dont evaporate in the pan like they would if there were no marbling at all! Overcooking will result with all of this fat being cooked away – leaving you with a dry, tough steak, not the juicy, tender steak you expect. Fifth and Cherry Cutting Boards. Hand Crafted. Superior Quality

Marbling (intramuscular fat) is the intermingling or dispersion of fat within the lean. Graders evaluate the amount and distribution of marbling in the ribeye muscle at the cut surface after the carcass has been ribbed between the 12th and 13th ribs. Degree of marbling is the primary determination of quality grade.


How does marbling affect meat grading?

Marbling is what gives beef its flavor, juiciness and tenderness. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) employs 200 highly-skilled beef graders who, sometimes with the help of electronic monitoring, evaluate several factors that determine the grade, including the amount and distribution of marbling.

Does more marbling mean better steak?

The presence of marbling has an extremely positive effect on the eating quality of beef, in terms of tenderness, juiciness/moisture and flavour. The fat makes the meat softer and easier to chew, as there is simply less muscle fibre and collagen per unit volume of meat.

Why is marbling in beef particularly important for enhancing?

Marbling generally improves the eating quality of beef, particularly palatability traits such as juiciness and flavour. Intramuscular fat is the last fat deposited in the animal so the finishing stages of an animal are most critical.

What are the factors affecting marbling in beef?

The accumulation of marbling is remarkably affected by genetic, sexual, nutritional and management factors. In this review, the adipogenesis and lipogenesis process regulated by various factors and genes during fetal and growing stages is briefly presented.

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