HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Organic, USDA prime, I am confused.

  • 8


I am looking for organic, USDA prime beef. Not only I cannot find that in Baltimore, but the ones I found in DC (searching from here) are only organic or only USDA prime.

The only place I found is a online seller from California, but I don't know if I can trust that. He sells the steaks too low, as opossed to other online sellers that only sell USDA prime and not organic.

I recently did read something from a farmer, that organic meat is not often certified as USDA prime because of the way they are raised. He said that if you don't feed the animal with grain in the last days of his life, it will probably not get to be USDA prime.

I saw in a previous post about Laurel meat market but I didn't see anything about being organic. I also saw the organic butcher but it is not USDA prime.

Anyone have any idea of where to find that? Or perhaps there is no such a thing?

Thank you very much.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Ok this will be a shipped to you deal if you want to proceed.
    Google Niman Ranch.

    Really big in the San Fran bay area.

    1. And be careful for what you wish for. I'm a tad rusty now on the details, but the label "Organic" is not always (and actually usually is NOT) what you think it is.

      Most small farmers cannot afford to live up to the inane requirements for "Organic", but they treat the livestock better, and the quality shows it. So, drop that requirement, read up, and help us all find the way.

      1. from what I understand true organic ranching never uses antibiotics or BGH,

        but the USDA won't certify if they've been fed any of that in the last 30-40 days before slaughter. if it's found in their system it won't get a USDA rating.

        is each and every animal tested? no, it's a random selection of the herd brought to market. are there holes in the process? no doubt.

        1. I believe that organic beef can never be graded "prime." In order to develop the complex marbling required to be graded prime, cattle needs to be fed lots of corn. Cattle fed lots of corn need to be fed antibiotics, so can't be organic. You have to choose one or the other.

          As an aside, Niman Ranch is not the entity it used to be.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pikawicca

            that sounds right pika, I was researching lamb and USDA requirements 2 months ago and that rings a bell

          2. pikawicca, this is exactly what I did read somewhere, that if the cattle doesn't eat any corn, then the marbling is not going to be good enough for USDA prime.

            Perhaps I should turn to kobe beef? But it is too expensive! I cannot afford 170 dollars per steak.

            I will give more searching time to this matter and I 'll be back with more questions, and of course, if I find something, suggestions.


            1 Reply
            1. re: kostbill

              True Kobe beef from Japan is from grain-fed cattle.

            2. There's a another reason organic beef is often not graded that's actually more common for a lot of small ranchers that I've talked with in the past. The cost for USDA grading is paid by the producer. A lot of ranchers and small meat-packing operations opt-out to keep their costs down because frankly the demand for a USDA grade won't add that much more to their organic label. So, they may raise Prime quality meat, but just not have it graded as such.

              BTW, organic rules do allow finishing with grain (organic only) in the last phase before processing. Again, some ranchers opt not to for cost reasons or because they don't consider the practice fully organic.

              The use of Organic labeling is federally-regulated with required standards and fines. Not everyone agrees with the standards but that's par for the course. Labeling something "Natural" however is pretty much buyer beware.

              Enough said, before I get booted for being off topic. Did you try checking with Cierello's to see if they have or can get organic prime? All their beef is prime so they may be able to help.