Beef 101

Beef Facts

Beef is the most popular meat sold in grocery stores today, with over 25% of Americans eating beef on a daily basis. On average men will consume 6.9 oz.      of beef per day, and women will consume 4.4 oz.

Beef is a very good source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins B3, B6, & B12. Which is why The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating 5.7 oz.  of meat per day as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Buying Beef 

Beef is divided into large sections called primals when processed. Primals are then cut into individual steaks and other retail cuts. There are 8 main primals: chuck, rib, loin, sirloin, round, brisket, plate, flank. Each primal offers unique characteristics and flavoring that helps to create a variety of great cooking and grilling options.

Cattle is graded based on the amount of fat content, as known as “marbling” found within the cuts of beef. Grading serves to identify the eating characteristics and to identify the tenderness of the meat. The 3 most common grades of beef from highest quality to the lowest, are as follows:

  • U.S. Prime - superior grade with exceptional tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Has the highest degree of fat marbling and is derived from younger beef. Prime is generally featured at the most exclusive upscale steakhouse restaurants. Only 2% of all beef is graded prime.
  • U.S. Choice - second highest graded beef. Choice is a quality steak particularly if it is a cut that is derived from the loin and rib areas of the beef such as a tenderloin filet or rib steak. Choice is the best bang for your buck.
  • U.S. Select - generally the lowest grade of beef. Select beef will be less tender & flavorful compared to prime or choice. Select is generally coarser and therefore, not nearly as enjoyable or desirable. Not recommended.

Storing Meat

Meat is very perishable, and must be kept cold at all times. Meat stored at 38 F will keep longer than that stored at 42 F. We recommend setting your refrigerator to 38 F. Store meat in the meat compartment, in original packaging, for no more than 2 to 4 days. Use meat that has been ground within 1 to 2 days. The sooner you cook the meat, the better. If you do not plan to use meat within these storage times, freeze immediately. Cooked meat will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

Freezing Meat

Swanson Natural products are frozen before shipment in commercial freezers. The more quickly meat is frozen the better it will store and taste. Upon receiving your order if you do not plan to use your products within 1 to 2 days, freeze immediately. You can refreeze meat that has been thawed in the refrigerator as long as it has been kept cold at all times and is refrozen within 2 days of being thawed. We recommend using all frozen products within 3 months.

Thawing Meat

Keep meat frozen until you are ready to use it. After thawing cook steaks, chops, breasts, and roasts within 2 days, cook ground meat within 1 day. Below are 3 safe ways to thaw meat:

  • Refrigerator - We recommended and prefer this option because it helps to maintain product integrity. Place frozen meat into your meat compartment within your refrigerator. Steaks, chops, breasts, and ground meat take about 24 hours to thaw. Roasts take longer, up to 48 hours to thaw. It is okay to refreeze meat if thawed this way.
  • Cold Water - In a pinch, use this method. Fill your sink with cold water (do not use hot water) and place products in original packaging into water. Change water every 30 minutes or so it doesn't warm. 1 lb. products will take about 1 hour to thaw. Roasts will take about 2-3 hours. It is unsafe to refreeze products if you use this method.
  • Microwave - Only use this method for smaller packages of meat. Remove meat from package and place on a plate. Use defrost function and check meat frequently. Cook immediately after thawing. It is unsafe to refreeze products after using this method.

Safe Handling

Clean your work space after preparing meat. We recommend using a cutting board that you can run through the dishwasher after every use. Make sure to wash your hands after handling raw meat as well. Cook meat thoroughly. The USDA defines a minimum safe internal temperature of 145 F for cooked steaks, chops, and roasts and 160 F for cooked ground meat. Keep cooked food hot. The danger zone is between 40 F and 140 F, so don't let cooked meat sit for more than an hour. Don't take chances, when in doubt throw it out.

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