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Feb 16, 2012 06:43 AM

meat labels in BC - grades and other terms

can someone pls explain to me the meaning of the meat labels esp re: "grades" in BC
* fish / seafood - i haven't seen "grade" levels on seafood (fish etc) aside from the "wild" term - which i hope means native species harvested from its natural environment (but by what standards of harvest - that's a diff discussion isn't it?)

which terms are USA and which are Canada?
for example, i have been reading here on the BC forum re: the "deals at costco" thread - and meat often comes up - and the AAA etc etc.

i realize also that there are terms that may not be overseen by an inspection agency ... i mean, if the butcher says dry-aged for X days - then i suppose the consumer has to trust that to be the case

i am sure that cbc marketplace has done some sort of undercover investigation : )
didn't they do a cross-country DNA test on store-bought fish - some of which was bought at a store in greater vancouver area?

thank you

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    1. re: fmed

      thank you FMED
      these are very interesting websites

      the comparison betw/ Cdn and USA rating names is useful as many of us in greater vancouver go both sides of the border for shopping / travel - i'm sure.

      one question - it says "no yellow marbling" -- i always thought that "yellower" fat meant grass fed as opposed to feed lot.

      any input?

      thank you

      1. re: Georgia Strait

        In this context (conventional beef production), fat from older cattle is yellow and fat from younger cattle is white. In some parts of the world, yellow fat is a desirable trait (grassfed, etc)....but here, we are used to seeing pearly white fat on cherry red meat.

    2. Why are you concerned about grades? Are you trying to find the best steak, cost no object, or trying to avoid 'bad' meat? Have you had bad experiences with purchases that might have been due to grade?

      I, as a US consumer, pay virtually no attention to grades. I look at the meat, judge it from past experience, and price, and buy or pass. Most beef grading has to do with the appearance of the fat, its color, is distribution, abundance (e.g. marbling). In a steak at least, more distributed fat means more flavor and tenderness. But in a braising cut (chuck, shank), grade is much less meaningful.

      Pork isn't marbled. Most of the fat is in layers under the skin, or between muscle groups. Again cut makes a big difference - tenderloin, loin, ham, shoulder etc.

      With chicken size and age are the big variables. Older has more flavor, but is tougher. But in the modern markets, old birds are retired layers, and likely to be sold frozen as stewing hens. Most poultry is young; with some difference between a 3lb fryer and 5lb roaster.

      The other side to buying meat, is choosing the best cooking method for the meat that you do have. The key things to recognize are fat, connective tissue (which requires long cooking), and grain of the meat.

      As to fish identity, I think that is more of an issue if you are trying to buy a particular fish based on reputation or status. You are more likely to buy a fake if demand for the real thing exceeds supply. So, again, ask yourself why you want to buy a particular fish? If you buy something and are happy with it, learn to recognize it by appearance, not just name.

      9 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        thank you for your detailed answer and ...

        also your good question. (why am i concerned about grades)

        answer = i am interested and curious - as it has come up in some other threads (like, what is a good deal at Costco - some consumers like the meat and cite grades and prices etc)

        for that matter - i wonder when grading and such came about - i suppose some time when we stepped further away from our food sources. We all grew up with Woodwards out here in Vancouver - and i think our parents knew that the beef was from the DLR. Even our pets ate the ground up real range cattle trimmings from the downtown store.

        good point you make about choosing best cooking method for the material/product.

        1. re: Georgia Strait

          What paulj raised is interesting and IMHO, pertinent. I live in Calgary. If you will indulge me, I almost always shop at Superstore, a bad but convenient habit, and I sometimes buy strip-loin steaks - AA, used to be AAA, but no difference. They were always lean with no visible marbling. Today I was in Costco, and their strip-loin - AAA was well marbled. I did a triple take. I don't recall seeing marbling on strip-loin before. I was salivating but didn't buy because of an expired membership.
          Still, I have more meat charts 'than you can shake a stick at' - what a strange expression ;)

          1. re: rosetown

            Costco usually has good beef - much better than Superstore in my estimation. Their prime rib is usually always very good too. Another note to the OP - AAA is usually packaged in black styrofoam packs instead of the usual white, pink or beige.

            1. re: fmed

              Isn't the black packaging "prime"? Or is that another description for AAA? In any case, I understand that Costco is pretty much the only big box store that carries it.

              As for the Costco membership ... one can get around the membership requirement by getting another member to purchase a gift card for them which functions (iirc) as a temporary membership with a limited monetary value. A good way to go for people that don't or don't want to shop Costco very often but want to take advantage of pricing and/or availability of certain items.

              1. re: bill_n_opus

                Oops...yes. Please note this correction OP.

                1. re: bill_n_opus

                  Prime is actually tje grade above AAA (so its the highest grade in fact) and yes Costco is the only place i've ever seen it

              2. re: rosetown

                ok - this is a diversion off the thread but how did you even get in to costo calgary w/o a valid membership?

                back on topic - i would like to know more about marbling --- is there a good site with visual examples?

                1. re: Georgia Strait

                  In Vancouver, as long as one has a card, one can enter the Costco building. (no-one really checks the dates) However, a valid membership is required at the time of purchase. YMMV.

                  1. re: Georgia Strait

                    " i would like to know more about marbling --- is there a good site with visual examples?"
                    Hope this google link works:
                    beef marbling scale