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Costco - Prime Beef Vs Choice test

After talking about the choice Vs Prime steaks at Costco on another thread I decided the only real way to get to the bottom of this was to do SxS tests. I'm starting with Top Sirloin steaks and will follow up with Rib Eyes and NY strips in the future. I also mentioned that the meat cutters seem to really hack up the meat in our area. We have some thing like eight Costco's in our area and I frequent four on a fairly regular basis so this is not a single unit issue. I'll post photos of the poor cuts as well.
I spoke to a meat cutter who indicated that all of the Prime beef Costco is getting is imported from Mexico and graded in the USA and this is how they are allowed to use the USDA Prime rating. I searched through a stack of packages and could not find any Prime Top Sirloin with a USDA inspectors roll stamp. I picked the best package of both the prime and choice I could find. When I show the SxS comparisons they will be of the best steak from each package. Sadly the prime steaks were cut even more poorly than the choice. Both packages were roughly the same weight. Choice was $3.49 a pound Vs $4.99 for prime.
I did a tasting with three others. Three agreed that the choice had a better flavor or was "beefier". Every one agreed the Prime was more tender. When I told every one that the Primes were roughly $6 more for the package every one agreed the Choice was the better buy.
I want to be clear that we only tested a few steaks from one store and while this is subjective my hope is that it is better than no direct comparison at all.
Lets start with a shot of what a properly cut Top Sirloin should look like.
The first image is NOT Costco meat.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Now the labels from each package.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Fritter

      The next two photos show the packages SxS and one of the primesteaks that has been "hacked". That divet in the steak is a knife cut. This was the worst steak in the prime package. Over all two steaks in the prime package were poorly cut Vs one in the choice package.

    2. Here we have a close up of the two lesser steaks from the Prime package. The first is obviously not the best steak. The second is cut in a pie shape and is wedged (uneven thicknes). If you compare these to the standard butchers cut in my initial post you can see some of these are more like chunks of beef than steaks. Average weight was roughly 20 ounces each.

      1. In this set there is a shot of the uneven thickness of the Choice steaks and then a SxS comparison of the Prime Vs Choice. The last photo on the right will be the one that I suspect most of you will be interested in expanding.
        My personal conclusions were a bit of a draw. The Primes were more tender but they only displayed a minimal amount of improved marbling over the Choice. The six dollar premium on the package of prime won't break the bank for many but as one of my guests said it will still buy starch and veg for a dinner.
        There were some comments in the other thread that these Prime steaks are the same as steaks used in restaurants. Many steak houses have a standard SOP not to buy Texas Beef so I don't think in those cases beef imported from Mexico would work. Unless any one plans to run a restaurant and use Costco as a meat supplier I'm not sure that will be relevant to most.
        The Prime top sirloins I tested here were not nearly as good as other prime top sirloins I've had or used in the paat. The price at Costco is far lower although the true end price is a bit deceptive based on the yield. I will be grinding about 50% of this purchase because the meat is so poorly cut.
        Having said that I don't mind a fresh ground sirloin burger and $3.49- $4.99 a pound isn't a bad price for that.
        I should also note the Prime steaks were far wetter. On the other thread another CH mentioned that they felt the Costco steaks in Canada had been needled. When I was processing my photos I did indeed see what appeared to be holes in one of the prime steaks. When I use the next batch of the prime Top Sirloins I will closely inspect them. I had not thought of that even though I have worked with a fair amount of needled meat. The texture of the prime steak was indeed similar to meat that had been needled or tenderized.

        1. Sorry for the photo error on my last post but I can't edit the photos. Here are the two correct images.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Fritter

            Thanks. That was damn interesting!
            Timing was perfect. I was at my local (Des Moines,Ia) Costco Saturday. They had the Prime sirloin. It's the first Prime beef I've found there in all the time I've been a member.(3yrs?)
            The cuts were as you described, and pictured. A bit of a mess. One chunk almost 3" thick. at one end, tapering to maybe 1/2 ". The marbleing looked no better than the choice.
            GF wanted to buy a pack, but I talked her out of it. When I've been lucky enough to find Prime beef in the past, just the appearance brought tears to my eyes. This did not excite me.

          2. Thanks very much for this interesting research and all the photos!

            5 Replies
            1. re: GretchenS

              Thanks. The taste tests were fun. :)
              Prime rib eyes have been fairly common here so I hope to do the same with them in the future.

              1. re: Fritter

                The Costco in my area usually has western Canadian beef, grade "AAA" from Alberta. This is typically raised on grass and hay, hormone free, and finished on grain, usually barley. Sometimes the rib eyes look nicely marbled, but most are typical "AAA".

                Is it practical for you to compare a "AAA" rib eye from Windsor, to a corn finished USDA Choice rib eye from Detroit?

                1. re: jayt90

                  Honestly I don't know. I'm not sure what the laws are regarding carrying fresh meat across the border. IIR the US gets uptight about fish coming in to the US.
                  I haven't been to Windsor in a while but that might be a good reason to go.
                  I'll look into that. I think it would be an interesting comparison and I could get some dill pickle potato chips!

                  1. re: Fritter

                    Canadians can bring back groceries including meat from the U.S., duty free.
                    I believe that custom is reciprocal, but have not been in MI or NY recently. Have to get a passport now! I hope the border situation becomes more reasonable soon.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      I haven't crossed in a while but in the past the problem was never going into Canada it was getting back into the USA. Not that I'm against smuggeling a steak. (shhhhhh)
                      I used to work at DTW and knew the head customs inspector so I'll try to see what I can find out. In fact I'm headed to Comerica Park on Sunday any how so maybe we will swing over to Windsor. If not then maybe in the future.

            2. Great write-up. Thanks.

              Can't wait for the ribeye and NY strip editions ...

              1. Nice taste tests, I would have skipped the top sirloin all together and just tested strip sirloin and rib-eye's. Both cuts have great beefy flavor and are totally grill worthy. My Costco always has nicely cut and trimmed steaks and, at times, I've asked the meat dept to give me special cuts, thicker steaks, with no problem.

                4 Replies
                1. re: cstr

                  Top sirloin when cut properly is an excellent grilling steak that is often over looked. Check out the per pound price compared to flank steak, tri-tip or even chuck short ribs at Costco. I will be testing the Rib eyes and NY strips in the future but this is not the normal way I purchase beef as I prefer to buy whole sub-primals and wet age the loins 5-7 weeks before cutting.
                  I was un-able to do the Canadian beef comparison this past week end as we had huge storms this and were with out power (except for generator) until this am.

                  1. re: Fritter

                    I've dry aged a whole boneless rib-eye for 7 days, trimmed cut into thick steaks and grilled, awesome.

                    1. re: cstr

                      That sounds amazing. How big was it before you cut it into steaks? I dry brine rib eye steaks all the time.

                      1. re: Phurstluv

                        I'd say maybe 8 or 9 lbs., it probably lost about 1/4 of it's weight. Grilled them with some sea salt, they were fab!

                2. Prime at 4.99....are you sure ......the Costco's I go to it is 9.99 and still a great deal. It is also obvious from looking at the marbling if you compare.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: celeryroot

                    If you see top sirloin for $9.99 a pound I would suggest you run from that store! ;)

                    1. re: Fritter

                      it's the prime rib eye that is 9.95.......... but 4.95 for prime still seems cheap

                  2. Time for steak test part two. I had intended to compare Costco choice Vs prime Sirloin strips (Aka NY Strip) this time but Costco did not co-operate and there were no prime strips available. Since there has been a bit of chatter about CAB lately I thought I would compare Costco Choice to CAB choice. Pre cut Choice NY strips at Costco $7.97. In my area we have a chain of grocery stores (Meijers) that carries CAB. I do not normally shop there. Today CAB choice NY strips were $6.99. I do not know if that was a sale price or not. Neither my receipt or the butchers label indicated that it was.
                    My intent was also to do a dual test with pre-salting Vs no salting. There has been a lot of talk about that here lately as well.
                    The first two photos show the CAB Vs the Costco choice raw. The Costco steak is much darker as it has been air drying in my fridge pre-salted for about 30 hours. It has developed a bit of a gloss or sheen from the salt.
                    The CAB steak is fresh. Marbling is fairly equal.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Fritter

                      Too many variables! You're doing 2 different types of meat AND 2 different cooking methods at the same time! How can you expect any meaningful results out of that? You don't know if a given result is because of the quality of the beef or of the cooking method (or something else... aging, or whatever).

                      1. re: Bat Guano

                        It's not rocket science but I guess I should try to make sure the beef is from the same cow, the loins were both from the left hand side etc.
                        Both steaks were cooked exactly the same except for pre-salting. Since the concensus of many here is that this "improves" the steak that should have put CAB at a disadvantage if any thing.
                        There was no aging involved so that's not a factor.
                        Both were NY strips. Both choice.
                        Both cooked the exact same amount of time at the same temperature.
                        Close enough for me but I'd be glad to see your photos and test results. ;-)

                        1. re: Fritter

                          As a matter of fact I did a pre-salting test once, and took the trouble to cut the steaks myself from the same subprimal, so the salting was the only difference. This way someone else could follow my experimental method and either replicate my results or not; but that's the scientific method, whether applied to rockets or steaks. I found I liked the steak not salted before cooking better, BTW; and the one I left salted for several days was terrible. Sorry, no pictures....but here's the thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/595107. Costco 'choice' ribeyes; before I started seeing the Primes there.

                          1. re: Bat Guano

                            Your link is not working and I don't doubt your results but with out photos it becomes just one persons opinion. Even though I have put up photos detailing the price tags I still have non-believers on the prices I paid! LOL
                            Read the thread title. This is a comparison of different meat grades. I find it curious that you suggest my method was non-scientific and yet you arrived at the same results. As I also noted earlier this test was only for pre-cut steaks as that's the only way Costco carries Prime grade meat in my area.

                            1. re: Fritter

                              My only point was that to get reproducible results you should try to reduce the number of variables, to one per experiment if possible. Since you're testing Prime v. Choice, that should be your only variable; you introduce another one with the differences in salting, so this complicates the interpretation of your results (e.g., is the tenderness because of the grade of beef, or the salting? How do you know?) The fact that my results were similar to yours means nothing in the discussion of method. In my case the salting was the only variable; as noted, the steaks were adjacent cuts from the same sub-primal; cooking was as close to identical as possible. If I were to test different grades of beef I'd try to salt and cook them exactly the same.

                              I finally broke down and got some Costco Prime bone-in ribeyes - not really a sacrifice, since they were only 7.99/lb. - but no Choice to compare them with. I'll have to suffer through them without the intellectual satisfaction of a scientific comparison. I'll note if I think they're that much better than the choice I've bought quite often in the past, though.

                              1. re: Bat Guano

                                Our local Costco does not carry bone in prime rib eyes in the fresh meat department. I do want to note my tests are for fresh meat only. Costco is carrying other prime steaks in the freezer section and some times on line. Those are both different products.
                                As for my variables I'm comfortable with my results with the under standing that this is not an absolute scientific test but rather a test of practical application.
                                Here Costco prime Rib eyes in the fresh meat department are $9.99 #.
                                The CAB bone in strips I tested were indeed on sale for $6.99. Normal price $10.99#. While they were better tasting they were not enough of an improvement to justify a $3 per pound premium.
                                I did stock up on sale so it will be a while before I get to the Costco Choice Vs prime rib eye comparison.
                                Next I will do bone in NY strip CAB choice pre-salted VS not. If any one has parameters they are interested in with regards to pre-salting times please speak up.
                                Also in regards to image size for those of you on a PC you can maximize the images by holding the CNTRL key and tapping the + key. This will should increase the photos size with out any loss of resolution.

                    2. The pre-salted steak had more of an even reaction across the entire surface. I am personally not a fan of this as the appearance resembles a steak that has been cooked under the broiler. However I think it's very subjective. IMO people make a bit to much of this. It does not make the steak cook more evenly, taste better nor will it make the steak more tender. Both steaks cooked very evenly.
                      The winner? While the Costco steak was good the CAB had a better flavor and was more tender. If you view the cross cut photo you can see how much more relaxed the muscle structure is in the CAB vs the very tight dense flesh of the Costco beef.
                      Again it's just one off the cuff test but I do think it's a solid reminder that even those of us ardent Costco fans need to shop diligently.
                      My next comparison will be CAB choice rib eye VS Costo prime rib eye.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Fritter

                        I see you're still at it, my friend! Way to go, hope you won't need a by pass by the end of the summer! LOL!

                        PS - what type of salt, and how much are you using? Are you dry brining, by letting cold air circulate around the meat and for how long? Yup, more variables!!

                        1. re: Phurstluv

                          Fine sea salt. As I noted this steak was pre-salted for about 30 hours. The only real difference is the finish on the steak. No effect on taste. I can see the benefit if you are cooking on gas or can not achieve a high grate temperature.

                          1. re: Fritter

                            Oh, I don't think I would use fine sea salt. The coarser the better, in my experience. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by the finish on the steak, you mean the sear, the way it looked? A little hard to tell from the pics.

                            The only time I use fine sea salt is in conjunction with porcini mushroom powder, mixed half & half, and that gives the steak a great crust. I am only talking about grilling as well, the only way I like to cook steak. But I only do that prep on occasion. Mainly it's just kosher salt & steak seasonings, which also has coarse salt in it.

                            1. re: Phurstluv

                              I can't say I think the grind of salt would matter given enough time. It's all going to dissolve on the surface. Yes the finish or the sear was an even golden brown across the top. The salted Costco steak is the one in the fore ground in the left photo (next post up-thread with photos). You will have to maximize them to see much. Not a large difference either way. I really think the biggest factor by far is the grate temperature. Having said that next time I'll try Kosher salt and see if I get a different result. :)

                              1. re: Fritter

                                I have two kosher salts at hand, Windsor and Diamond. They are similar and fine grained as coarseness goes.
                                Windsor pickling is a true coarse salt, no additives, but for a light crunchy carse salt, at the table or at the grill, I always reach for Gros Sel Guerande, from north east France. It is not expensive compared to Maldon flake salt.

                                1. re: Fritter

                                  I only rec the coarser salt b/c using a finer salt it's easier to over do it. Will wait for your next report.

                        2. I thought I would bring this back up as I went to Costco steak hunting today. All of the Prime grade ribe eyes had been heavily needled. The marks were so heavy and distinct I would have bought a package just for the photo if they wouldn't have been $25 for two steaks (smallest package). None of the other prime steaks appeared to have been tenderized. Why Costco is doing this with some meat and not others is certainly a mystery to me but on another thread some one else mentioned that all of the steaks in their local (Canadian) Costco were needled. Choice grade steak should not require this let alone any quality Prime grade Rib eye. I just can't bring myself to buy a prime grade steak that's been needled.
                          We are now seeing a package or two of Porterhouses and bone in Rib eyes but they are terribly cut plus more per # than many of our local meat markets.

                          24 Replies
                          1. re: Fritter

                            I bought a couple Prime RibEyes a couple weekends ago. There was no evidence of needleing, they were nicely cut, well marbled, and the best steaks I've had in some time. They only had 4 or 5 packages out, and the others weren't cut nearly as well.
                            I guess it can be hit or miss. This time, I hit.
                            The Prime Sirloins didn't look good. Again.

                            1. re: Bobfrmia

                              The prime sirloins I saw yesterday were devoid of any marbeling. I've looked at the Prime Rib eyes several times at Costco and have never seen any that were needled in the past. I'll keep an eye out and try to finish this project in the future.

                              1. re: Fritter

                                Wow, it's just so unbelievable, they feel the need to tenderize a Prime Rib Eye. Have you ever asked to talk to anyone in the 'meat dept.'? Some Costcos have staff that is friendly & accessible, others not so much.

                                I guess I should just consider myself lucky as the one I go to in Culver City CA does not needle their steaks. I've never noticed on any cut of meat I've gotten there, and I would not miss it, if they did. Keep us apprised! ;)

                                1. re: Phurstluv

                                  I've been buying Costco Prime for years, always excellent, needling?? maybe this is a Canadian thing but, I've never seen this in the US stores.

                                  1. re: cstr

                                    I'm not in Canada and the packages were marked as from the USA. There was no one around or I would have asked. What really confuses the bejeebers out of me is why some steaks are getting needled and not others. I have to wonder if the meat from select packing houses is coming from Texas/Mexico and they tenderize those steaks as a SOP.
                                    I'll keep an eye out and try to talk to some one next time.

                                    1. re: Fritter

                                      "I have to wonder if the meat from select packing houses is coming from Texas/Mexico and they tenderize those steaks as a SOP."

                                      What is meant by this comment? Isn't Texas still in the US and, if so, held to the same standards as every other state?

                                      1. re: Rene

                                        Many steak houses do not accept beef from Texas packing plants. Even though the vast majority of beef in the US comes from a few packing houses they have many plants. When we view the codes on the sides of a case we can see where the meat is from.
                                        In the case of Costco as I posted up-thread with photos much of their prime beef is coming from Mexico and getting graded in the US.
                                        This meat would never be accepted in many restaurants including a few I have worked for. Since they no longer exist I see no harm in saying that was the standard SOP for Paragon steak houses (Mountain Jacks) in the past.
                                        So it may be possible that cases of meat from select plants is needled even though it has all been graded "prime".

                                        1. re: Fritter

                                          Interesting. At Costco Canada there is some USDA Choice in the busiest season (midsummer) in addition to Alberta AAA.

                                          Prime has not yet appeared. I have only seen needling on large round or sirloin roasts, and then only rarely.

                                          Here is one customer's take on Costco in Mexico

                                          1. re: Fritter

                                            Are you saying that there is Mexican beef that's being packed and graded in some plants in Texas? And if it's being graded in the US, and meets the same grade criteria, then why won't some restaurants accept it? In what way is it lower quality? Since I'm in Texas, this issue seems likely to affect me....

                                            1. re: Bat Guano

                                              May be referring to the Oprah / mad cow disease situation??? There is nothing else I can find to suggest there is a problem with Texas beef while researching the allegation.

                                              1. re: Rene

                                                I have no idea what you mean by "allegation". This has nothing to do with Mad Cow or any other disease.
                                                Clearly there is a reason why Costco is needling some "Prime" steaks and not others.
                                                I'm not making any "allegations" and I have no idea where you came up with allegations about disease.
                                                I'm just sharing my experience as a Chef in regards to meat packing houses and how many restaurants operate. Your not likely going to find many trade secrets or SOP manuals in a Google search.
                                                This is directly from the current SOP manual of a national high end steak house;
                                                "We only accept beef from the midwest that has been corn fed. (no Texas Beef)".
                                                This may or may not be why Costco is needling some of their "prime" beef. Either way I would sincerely hope we would all agree that a quality rib eye even graded choice, let alone prime should never be needled to tenderize it.

                                              2. re: Bat Guano

                                                "Are you saying that there is Mexican beef that's being packed and graded in some plants in Texas?"

                                                Please read my prior posts and view the photos of the Costco meat labels I have posted. That should be self-explanitory.

                                                "if it's being graded in the US, and meets the same grade criteria, then why won't some restaurants accept it?"

                                                Simply because meat may be of the same grade it's not all equal. That's just an example of marketing playing on the lack of consumer knowledge. Beef quality changes with the way the cattle are raised, fed, finished etc. as does the cost.
                                                There is no comparison between the lowest common denominator of a choice or prime grade Vs the highest. Grass fed beef that is graded prime Vs Prime CAB Vs Prime Costco Vs Prime Waygu are all very different products and price points even though they may all be graded the same.

                                                1. re: Fritter

                                                  Luckily I have friends in the know... we are basically talking about the difference between corn fed and grass fed beef.

                                                  Allegation: assertion, declaration

                                                    1. re: Rene

                                                      "Allegation: assertion, declaration"

                                                      Yes I undertood the word. Clearly you do not as you won't find allegations of Steak Houses not using Texas Beef because of mad cow or any other disease in my posts.
                                                      I'm glad you were able to understand (after I posted corn fed beef only)
                                                      what the issue is for some restaurants. AFAIK This only impacts buyers large enough to make specific contracts with their vendors.
                                                      I'll leave a link to Lobels. Here's what they say about their prime beef;

                                                      "Our USDA prime beef comes from the very finest corn-fed cattle the Midwest has to offer."

                                                      As I noted earlier. This is the same as many high end steak houses and some reject Texas beef in their purchasing contracts. Lets also remember that we are only talking about beef from large packing houses. (IBP, Excel, National beef, swift) all of which I have seen at Costco.


                                                      comprehension: understanding, intellectual ability

                                                      1. re: Fritter

                                                        Decided to let this go... not worth the time.

                                                        1. re: Rene

                                                          I was at Costco today, All of their beef states country of origin, "USA". That says it for me.

                                                          1. re: cstr

                                                            " All of their beef states country of origin, "USA"

                                                            Lets try that photo again. The Prime labels here say ;
                                                            "Product of USA and Mexico, processed in the USA."
                                                            Printed right on the label.

                                                            1. re: Fritter

                                                              Not at my Costco, the USDA Prime label stated country of origin USA..

                                                              1. re: cstr

                                                                Costco gets meat from every major US packing house. Not all of the stores have all of the exact same products on the same day. The beef that is from Mexico and marked as such appears to be the meat getting needled. Clearly Costco has concerns about the tenderness of that product irrespective of the grade or they would not tenderize it. Others have reported seeing needled meat at Costco (USA) as well.
                                                                Not all of the "prime" steaks sold in the US are from the USA as you can clearly see in the photo. The steaks at "your" Costco next week will quite obviously not be the same ones that were there yesterday and the quality as well as country of origin may vary.
                                                                Next time I'll pick up a pack so I can post photos.

                                                                1. re: Fritter

                                                                  I had a chance to talk to the butcher at my Costco today. I asked him about the needling and he said ALL costo fresh cut steaks are needled except flank steak and tenderloin.
                                                                  He did say the frozen prime meat is not needled as they don't process that in the store
                                                                  I do intend to ask at another store as well and see if I get the same response.

                                                                  1. re: Fritter

                                                                    I don't know if this is always the case, but I've tried the NY Strips in the frozen packs twice, and I personally found those to be more to my liking. They tend to be marbled more uniformly, trimmed better, and of course, it's hard to beat the convenience factor of the vacuum packing for storing. I think they're a buck more a pound. Just my .02.

                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                      Were the steaks you bought frozen the Prime steaks? I have yet to try those but I am not a fan of needling so I may try them next.

                                                                      1. re: Fritter

                                                                        They were labeled Prime. Whether they were needled or not, I don't know.

                                2. I was at Costco today, and they had one package of Prime Bone in Ribeyes, 7.99 a lb.
                                  They are freakin gorgeous. I haven't seen this kind of marbleing in years. Over a lb ea, for 18.00. I wish I could post a pic. These steaks would easily be 40.00 ea at a high end steakhouse. They go on grill tomorrow. I'll let you know if my excitement is warranted.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: Bobfrmia

                                    I was back in Costco this week. None of the prime steaks were needled. Go figure.
                                    They had bone in Prime Rib eyes that were from Canada and processed in the US. Some of the best Prime steaks I have seen there and indeed they were $7.99 #.
                                    Now no way would I ever compare these to steaks in the $20 a pound price range let alone $40. That's getting a little un-realistic based on what I saw but I do agree they were very nice. In comparison I was in Ann Arbor today at a specialty meat market and picked up dry aged choice Porterhouse's for $9.99 a pound that had just as much marbeling.
                                    I hope your Rib eyes taste great. I also hope we continue to get more Prime beef from Canada as it appears to be a vastly superior product.

                                    1. re: Fritter

                                      I've never seen prime beef from Canada or the U.S. in the Toronto area warehouses.
                                      They do have bone-in prime rib steaks at $8/lb, clearly labelled Canada AAA which is a step down from prime. Most beef in Canada is finished on a combination of grains, barley especially in the west. We don't have a strong corn lobby, so it is not nearly as important as in the U.S.

                                      There is so little Canada prime, and it all goes to restaurants or high end butcher shops.

                                      The recession hasn't changed that.

                                      1. re: jayt90

                                        I'm not an expert on meat grading, but might Canada's grading system be more precise or different relative to the US system? I'm thinking of Japan's system, where prime cuts (as opposed to "Prime" grade) have several gradients (I think A1-A7), where as the US systems seems to just top out at "Prime," leaving it up to the consumer to determine and seek out cuts that are more "Prime" than others. Since US "Prime" can be pretty broad-ranging in quality and marbling, I'm wondering if Canada's superior grade lines might overlap the US's grading? Anyway, is Canada's grading system more similar to Japan's or the US?

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          Canada does not have as many distinctive grades as Japan. Our grades are Canada 'A'. 'AA', 'AAA', and Prime.
                                          USDA Select overlaps Canada 'A' and 'AA';
                                          USDA Choice overlaps Canada 'AA' (top end) and Canada 'AAA'.
                                          As I mentioned there is very little Canada prime available, but much more USDA Prime is available to U.S. consumers or chefs. Almost all of it is corn finished, while Canada 'AAA' and Prime is grain finished.

                                          There is another difference in grading: the Canadian inspectors consider the whiteness of the fat, whereas yellow or older fat can pass inspection in the U.S.

                                          1. re: jayt90

                                            Thanks for the detail - our US system seems too vague in comparison to other countries' systems. Thank you again.

                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              USDA inspectors consider other factors besides the amount of fat as well. Many often over look the yield grade and maturity. You can be sure Costco dos not. This is one of the reasons there is a world of difference between the prime at Costco and the prime at Lobels or that that high end restaurants use.
                                              Here is a PDF that may help explain our system a little better. Costco is handling the Canadian Beef the same way as the Mexican Beef. IE: Importing it into the US and then processing and grading. It's not Canadian prime it's Canadian beef that has been graded USDA prime.
                                              Either way it's certainly a far nicer product from what I have seen at Costco in the past and it's less expensive! The Mexican/USA Prime boneless rib eyes were $9.99 Vs. the Canadian/USA bone in prime rib eyes at $7.99. The bone will account for part of that but $2 a pound less for a better product is a BIG bonus.
                                              I still hope to get to the Windsor Costco this fall and look for the Canadian AAA beef so I can do a direct comparison.


                                              1. re: Fritter

                                                Did you ever make it to Windsor to do a comparison? And can you confirm that one is indeed allowed to bring meat over the border?

                                                I was just at the Bloomfield Twp Costco but hadn't read your post yet... I'd be interesting in trying the prime cuts if they're from the U.S. or Canada, but not Mexico. Did you find the non Mexican prime meat at the Lakeside store if you recall? thanks.

                                        2. re: Fritter

                                          I've never seen this kind of marbleing in a choice cut. I've rarely seen it in a prime cut. Oh well, I'll know more later.;-)
                                          My package says Product of the USA.

                                          1. re: Bobfrmia

                                            Sounds like you got some nice steaks!

                                            1. re: Fritter

                                              Maybe my hopes were to high. Maybe looks can be deceiving.
                                              These were good steaks. They weren't nearly as great as I had hoped. They seemed to lack the big beefy flavor that I had hoped for. Tender, juicy, just not enough taste of beef. Almost like the fat content overwhelmed. Normally, fat has flavor. This didn't seem to be the case. It was very good, just not all that I expected.

                                              1. re: Bobfrmia

                                                The supply line is fast. It's fast enough to get us Copper River salmon within a few days. The beef is shipped in Cryovac, prepared in store. Your steaks may have been 2 weeks old at best, whereas dry aged would be 4-6 weeks old, without wet aging.

                                                1. re: jayt90

                                                  In all fairness there isn't a lot of comparison between air freight on fresh fish Vs cryovac beef sub-primals. Every steak house I have worked at with out exception requires at least a two week hold for wet aging on cryo beef after it is received. No question Costco is not doing that. However if you buy a whole rib eye sub-primal you can wet age it in your fridge 2-6 weeks and then cut your own steaks. This takes an investment in time and $ but rib eyes and NY strips are very easy to cut. Any one with a decent chef's knife can do it if you have the freezer space to store the steaks after you cut them.
                                                  Wet aging makes a big improvement in taste but it's not even in the same realm as dry aging.

                                              2. re: Fritter

                                                Bought a couple of the Prime Ribeyes again. One looked more like a New York Strip. Cooked one the same night. Very good, just again not the big beefy flavor I'd hoped for. Cooked the other (strip looking one) tonight. I bought them last Friday, so it had almost a week in the fridge. It was better. Way better. About an 18 oz steak, and I killed it and wanted more.
                                                Probably didn't hurt that I worked 11 hours today, and had a Surly Furious to drink with it, but if I could get that flavor every time, I'd be quite happy.

                                        3. Costco here in Calgary serves 100% Angus beef which had been aged for 21 days. All Alberta Beef So not sure what it is like in the US but here it is to die for and is by far way better than any beef in the US and you can taste the diffence. I mean literally taste the difference compared to any grocery store. The only thing close in cosideration is Coop

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: burge

                                            I am not going to get into the Alberta Beef vs US beef thing because I have never eaten Alberta Beef. What I will say is that anybody in the meat business knows that there are 3 levels of prime beef. Slightly Abundant (Bottom), Moderately Abundant (Middle) & Abundant (Top)

                                            The Top grade prime is extremely rare and extremely valuable. 80% of it, whether US or Canadian is shipped to places like Japan where the wholesale price is 2 to 3 times the Retail price Costco sells their prime for. The remainder is reserved for the very best privately owned streak houses in North America and the ENTRY level is about $125,000. a plate Alacarte. If you think you are getting this grade of meat at ANY Costco at a price 3 times less than the Japanese or the best of the best private steak houses are paying your NUTS.

                                            The middle grade prime is also extremely valuable and 80% of it is also shipped to places like Japan where the wholesale price is at least 2 times that of Costco's retail price. The remainder is bought up by the very best steak house chains where it STARTS at about $75.00 a plate & a very few high end internet butchers like Lobels of NY. Again, you have a prayer in H*LL of getting it at Costco 2 times less that the best steakhouse chains pay.

                                            Bottom prime. This is what your getting at Costco which is often not any better that the best of the top choice. For this reason, most good steak houses buy the best of the top choice. Much cheaper by the pound and less waste (smaller fat cap).

                                            BOTTOM LINE: Forget about reading the grade on the package (Choice vs Prime).....LEARN WHAT TO LOOK FOR....."Light cherry color, White fat, as many small flecks of fat "marbling" evenly distributed within the lean. There are so many video's / You Tubes on the net covering this subject.... become educated and get the best steak at the best price. Costco has good meat and more often than not you can find a top choice steak just as good for a lot less $$$.

                                            1. re: Tom34

                                              Well hre in Calgary we are lucky the south has some Prime but the CAB is good I posted a photo of Tenderloin and it was like that totally amazing. So Tome you are right on the money and one thing For Costco is that you get the top meat even though we have the best beef in the world arguably here there is still good beef out there

                                              1. re: burge

                                                Yeah Burge, my post wasn't really aimed at you. The picture you posted proves my point that top choice can be and often is just as good as bottom prime. Unlike a specific quality bolt that is exactly the same as every other bolt of the exact same specification, beef comes from a living animal of which no 2 are the same and to add to the problem it is graded by a "human" who for all practical purposes is making a snap decision by looking at one spot on the entire carcass. It is at that point & only that point that the side of beef receives its grade stamp. If low wage "meat cutters" at Costco are re-grading it as they open the cryovac packages they are breaking the law and would be shut down.

                                                I have looked in meat cases on many occasions a saw a bottom prime graded steak that was no better than the top choice steak sitting next to it and in some cases the top choice steak was actually nicer at 1/2 the price.