A trained eye can look at the numbers above and tell where the Prime steak is. Can you?
What is Marbling?
Fat is what make makes a great steak taste buttery and flavorful, and a lack thereof may leave one feeling sad and unfulfilled (amiright?). In beef lingo, 'marbling' is the term used to refer to the flecks of fat that are located throughout beef cuts and in between the muscle fibers. The more abundant and evenly-dispersed the marbling, the higher the quality of the steak. When cooked, that fats melts into the muscle fiber, infusing beef with flavor and keeping it moist and tender.
Honest Beef Ribeye Steaks
Note, however, that marbling does not refer to the outer layer of fat around the cut, which can be trimmed away. Nor are we talking about the fat that is located between larger muscles, such as in a chuck roast. Marbling is strictly regarded as the flecks in between the muscle fibers within the meat.
The three USDA quality grades most available to consumers are Select, Choice, and Prime. Select beef is the lowest quality grade and has the least amount of marbling, Choice denotes moderate to high quality, and Prime denotes high to excellent quality and has the most marbling. Prime is king, but only 5% of cattle in the US grade as Prime.
Where is marbling found?
Marbling is most bountiful in nonworking muscles, aka the "middle-meats," named for their location on the animal. Middle meats include the rib, short loin, sirloin, tenderloin, top sirloin, and bottom sirloin.
Middle meats are relative to outside meats, or the more heavily-used muscles. The outside meats include the chuck, brisket, flank, plate (skirt), shank, and round. The more a muscle is used, the less intra-muscular fat it contains, resulting in a leaner cut.
Why don't all steaks have high-quality marbling?
To get right to the bottom of it, marbling starts with genetics (read here about why Honest Beef only comes from Angus cattle). So, while marbling influences the taste of your steak, ranchers - by making wise breeding decisions - influence marbling.
We use purebred Angus cattle with good reason - they are an extremely high-marbling breed. Still, it's not always possible to tell what level of marbling an animal is going to have just by looking at their pedigree.
How to find a prime steak in an excel sheet.
Down to business. Honest Beef can guarantee high-quality marbling because we ultrasound all of our prospective cattle and identify which animals are most likely to have high marbling.
Keith, our go-to ultrasound guy, and me, Hannah.
The below screenshot is data from an ultrasound on 11 of our cattle. Only one of these columns concerns us right now: CAR MB toward the right. This stands for "Carcass Marbling," and denotes expected marbling. Of these 11 head, we've highlighted in red the four animals that have the highest CAR MB, and are most likely to be the highest-quality in the bunch.
So, how do we fine the prime beef? Tag Red 1b 382 has a CAR MB score of 8.01; anything above a score of 8.0 is expected to be prime. Voila!