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Nov 2, 2009 04:15 PM

U.S. vs. Canadian beef in Canadian restaurants (split from Ontario board)

[From the Chowhound Team: this thread was split out from a discussion of a restaurant opening in Toronto.

As well, just found this study comparing US and Canadian beef (Texas University based study):

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  1. The study shows no difference between USDA Choice and Canada AAA. strip loins,trimmed, 1" thick and cooked medium.

    There is not much Canada prime available, and many high price restaurants choose USDA prime because the supply is more consistent.

    8 Replies
    1. re: jayt90

      "There is not much Canada prime available"... I just don't believe that. I sure would like to hear what the cattle farmers have to say.

      1. re: Marniee

        I find it a little disturbing that this has turned into a political beef debate/issue on a new restaurant opening?

        I'm assuming the owner (don't know who owns this place) has used his/her own money to open up this restaurant, so doesn't this owner have the right to use whatever grade/type of meat they want? Of course if someone feels strongly about their beef and cattle, then they also have the right to not eat at this establishment. But I think it's a bit unfair to single out this new restaurant and make their entry onto the scene about beef/cattle practices. Perhaps this should be on another board discussing cattle farming? Otherwise I think this entire Toronto board could be filled on who is or isn't using local produce, local meats, local cheeses, etc. etc.

        1. re: Marniee

          I have never seen Canada prime beef for sale. I have heard that it can be bought at Oliffe, but they promote USDA prime heavily.
          Most major steakhouses sell USDA prime.
          I have had beef as good as Canada Prime from Cumbrae's, but their beef is not graded, so I have to rely on the butcher's advice.

          Tell me where I can buy Canada Prime at retail?

          1. re: jayt90

            Are you sure Cumbrae's doesn't grade their beef? Their Cumbrae's rib-eye steak that I got very recently were certainly as marbled as any Prime-grade steak I've ever tasted. And Cumbrae's person told me it was Canada Prime grade(all their beef is at least Triple A I was told). I think I've heard that Bruno's has Canada Prime grade beef. Last summer when I was visiting Toronto, I got some Canada Prime beef at another Toronto butcher shop(I can't remember the name, but I think it's on College street).

            1. re: BLM

              As far as I know, from visiting Cumbrae's, and looking at all their website information, they do not grade their beef,but just offer the best possible from their own sources.
              Grading beef in Canada is done by inspectors at extra cost to the abattoir. And it is a guessing game: the inspector has to rate how a carcass will come out before it is cut up, based on fat layer, feel, appearance, and color. It is easyto see why Cumbrae's would avoid this step, as they can pass this type of test without paying for it.
              What you are being told at the counter is not the same as accurate information from one of their butchers.

              1. re: jayt90

                I went beyond the counter people at Cumbrae's to get the beef that I wanted. I turned down the meats at their counter, as I wanted more marbling & more aging. Eventually I got the best they could offer me(without reserving in advance). I didn't reserve in advance, as I didn't originally intend to get any beef from there. The Cumbrae's person I'd asked(he wasn't working at the counter) told me it was Canadian prime grade that I got. If their meats are not graded(like Niman Ranch meats in the states), then what I got would definitely been graded at least Canada Prime if it was done.

                1. re: BLM

                  Cumbrae's beef is not graded, despite what they may claim at the counter.
                  It is a cost saving measure.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    I trust your information is correct. Just that, I find it a little odd that I was given the grade information by one of the Cumbrae's butchers(not a counter person).

      2. As someone who has lived for many years in both countries, there are three big differences for consumers and all three favor American beef:

        (1) In the U.S., USDA Choice is widely available and the mainstay in the beef counters at most mainstream supermarkets. There is very little of the lesser quality Select grade. In Canada, the lesser AA grade, which is similar to Select, is dominant in mainstream supermarkets and that's what most Canadians consume.

        (2) It's much cheaper to buy USDA Choice than it is to buy AAA, so Canadians who want better quality meat will pay a small fortune compared to what Americans pay.

        (3) USDA Prime is available at the retail level and is easily found in most major cities as well as online. I've never seen Canadian prime for sale at the retail level. If a Canadian knows of a source, please do share.

        7 Replies
        1. re: CookatHomeinLondon

          What sort of Canadian hell did you live in? You can get Canadian AAA at any of Co-op, Safeway, and even Costco in Calgary. People still buy AA, of course, but the idea that AAA is hard to find is ridiculous... from where I sit.

          In Calgary.

            1. re: John Manzo

              In Montreal, you can find AAA beef, but it's not everywhere in Montreal. It's not hard to find AAA here, but it's not easy either.

              1. re: BLM

                i guess us albertans actually have some perks

              2. re: John Manzo

                Are there many places in Calgary that you can obtain Canada Prime grade beef(either at restaurants or butcher shops)?

                1. re: BLM

                  i get sterling aaa at sobeys in strathmore

                2. re: John Manzo

                  I wrote that AA is dominant in supermarkets, not that AAA is not available. In the better (I use that as a relative term) supermarkets in London, ON, I'd estimated that 90% of the beef is AA or USDA select. AAA is available but costs a premium compared to USDA Choice in the U.S.

                  By comparison, in better U.S. supermarkets, you'd have a hard time finding USDA Select -- It's almost all Choice with usually a small election of Prime.

                  The result is most Americans eat better quality beef than do most Canadians.