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Prime question

skihornskihorn Posts: 600
edited 3:51AM in EggHead Forum
If a grocery store uses "prime" to describe a steak is that always assumed to be the USDA designation? (I know "prime rib" is an exception and not necessarily prime.) The reason I ask is that I always read on here that it is very hard to find prime meats, since the restaurants take the limited supply. However, the HEB grocery store near my house always has prime meats and the price isn't too extravagant. $16.99/lb for boneless ribeye is their every day price. The sign in the butcher window simply says "prime" and makes no mention of USDA. For those in other parts of the country, HEB is a well respected chain here in Texas, and I am sure they would not do anything specifically prohibited by law. However, I thought perhaps HEB has their own version of prime, and perhaps so long as they don't advertise it as USDA Prime then that is okay. If it really is USDA prime, I guess I should count myself very lucky!

Freddie
League City, TX

Comments

  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,172
    I would ask the guys behind the meat counter to see a subprimal still in the cryovac. It will show the grading stamp on it.

    That said, at the price you mention I certainly hope it is USDA Prime. That's a few bucks per pound more than butcher shops here in Atlanta charge for steaks, and a little more than double what I see per pound for the subprimals.
  • NC-CDNNC-CDN Posts: 703
    I just got a ribeye yesterday for around $6.99 a pound I think (bone-in I believe). It is not prime though, but was on sale. As far as cost I think that has to be prime. I never see it here. I've looked! Not that I could fork over the extra $ for it. I'm sure if you ask the guy behind the counter he isn't going to lie about it. Who knows who you could be.
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,172
    In a lot of grocery stores it isn't the concern that the guy is going to lie to me, it's that he just isn't going to know the actual answer and will tell me what the sign says. Very few stores, at least around here, have very knowledgeable people behind the meat counter.

    Another reason to play nice with your local neighborhood butcher shop.
  • skihornskihorn Posts: 600
    Thanks guys. I guess from what you are saying about price it probably is prime. I had just heard so much about how hard it was too find prime I just assumed that it would be more expensive when it was found. It is impressive that they have it all the time in numerous different cuts.

    Freddie
    League City, TX
  • Ya got that right, Fidel. Most of the guys in the chain stores are meat cutters, not butchers. And many know little about anything other than basic cuts.
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    skihorn: In this neck of the woods, that would be a fair price. I have seen prime ribeye steaks as high as $21.99/lb (Publix). I just paid $10.09 and $10.19/lb for the whole subprimal Prime grade Strip & Ribeye, which I am currently dry aging.
  • Austin SmokerAustin Smoker Posts: 1,467
    Freddie, rest assured the HEB "Prime 1" is indeed USDA Prime. I routinely purchase whole cryovac packages of their stuff and it does have the USDA Prime designation.

    Enjoy it, cuz as Fidel says, it ain't cheap....which is why I learned to do my own trimming. I believe the last time I purchased a whole Tenderloin, I got it for $9.99 per lb.
  • FLbobecuFLbobecu Posts: 309
    Also, the steak/cut of meat should have considerably more marbling than any Choice steak would.
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,172
    Maybe, maybe not. The grading is so subjective that it is quite possible (maybe even likely in some instances) to have choice graded meat that has more marbling than a prime graded steak.

    The difference between the 97th percentile and the 98th percentile in a subjective grading is negligible at best. In other words, there isn't much room for error and no discernible difference from the best steaks that come from a carcass graded as choice and the worst steaks that come from a carcass graded as prime. Until you cut into that subprimal you really can't tell what you're going to get.
  • FLbobecuFLbobecu Posts: 309
    Fidel wrote:
    Maybe, maybe not. The grading is so subjective that it is quite possible (maybe even likely in some instances) to have choice graded meat that has more marbling than a prime graded steak.

    The difference between the 97th percentile and the 98th percentile in a subjective grading is negligible at best. In other words, there isn't much room for error and no discernible difference from the best steaks that come from a carcass graded as choice and the worst steaks that come from a carcass graded as prime. Until you cut into that subprimal you really can't tell what you're going to get.

    Absolutely - I've seen Choice in some instances have more marbling than Prime steaks, but they don't last very long in a retail setting. In fact, I'll say, at least around here, it's much more rare to find Choice meat that looks better than Prime, than to find Prime it self.
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    they don't grade the meat though...
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • FLbobecuFLbobecu Posts: 309
    stike wrote:
    they don't grade the meat though...

    Who doesn't? The retailer in question - "HEB"?
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,172
    No retailer grades their own beef or everything in the counter would be prime.

    It's all done by government inspectors to get the USDA stamp.
  • FLbobecuFLbobecu Posts: 309
    Fidel wrote:
    No retailer grades their own beef or everything in the counter would be prime.

    It's all done by government inspectors to get the USDA stamp.

    Right, right - I guess I was thinking / reading something else.. lol @ me. :silly:
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 28,742
    Question here. Carcasses are graded on the rib eye between the sixth and seventh vertabrae I think. How do you get a whole primal that is prime?

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • FLbobecuFLbobecu Posts: 309
    Little Steven wrote:
    Question here. Carcasses are graded on the rib eye between the sixth and seventh vertabrae I think. How do you get a whole primal that is prime?

    USDA grading is based upon the 12th and 13th bone.

    What exactly do you mean how do you get a whole primal that's Prime? Once the inspector checks between the 12th and 13th bone, he decides the grade, and grades it. Once that's done, the whole carcass is "select", "choice" or "prime" - or if you buy Wagyu, varies from 1-11.
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 28,742
    I was wondering how you get a whole primal once it is cut

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • FLbobecuFLbobecu Posts: 309
    Little Steven wrote:
    I was wondering how you get a whole primal once it is cut

    Get in contact with a meat supplier - or ask any decent butcher shop if they can get you one.

    I don't often see whole primal cuts sold, retail, so I can't help ya very much. But the sub-primal cuts (strip, ribeye, sirloin, etc.) are becoming popular around here and other forums.
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    he means after they cut into it to determine grade, the primal is not longer whole, it's been compromised.

    heck, maybe all the whole primals are from the other side, steven. :laugh:
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • CrimsongatorCrimsongator Posts: 5,791
    Prime is a quality grade that is measured on the beef carcass. It is measured between the 12th and 13th rib by cutting the ribeye and checking for marbling and area. When the carcass is determined to be prime, the whole thing is prime.

    You can find prime meats and you will see their USDA designation on the cryovac. It is almost always displayed where the meats are sold.
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