How to Tell What’s Prime and What Isn’t

Google U.S. Prime Steakhouse and you’ll get over 7.7 million listings in return. Considering that only 2% of all USDA graded beef legitimately qualifies as “Prime”, there are more restaurants across America claiming to serve “Prime” than there is actual prime beef available.

What’s in a Word?

The word “Prime” can be used in many ways. As an adjective – first in quality or value, as in first rate: This steak is prime! As a verb – to prepare or make ready: Prime the grill to prepare beef. As a noun – the highest quality, choice, best part of anything: I ordered Prime steak.Prime definition

According to a recent U.S. restaurant census conducted by The NPD Group, there are over 600,000 restaurants in the U.S. We see items on restaurant menus like Prime Rib, Prime Steaks, Prime Beef and Prime Burgers, described in a variety of ways, but are you truly being served USDA Prime graded beef?

Remember, of all the beef produced in the U.S. only about 2% is certified as USDA Prime grade. Some restaurants use clever menu descriptions that mislead their guests into thinking they’re ordering certified USDA Prime beef when in reality they may be serving something else. One well known national restaurant chain proudly promotes “U.S. Prime” on their menu, yet USDA Prime Graded beef is not served for all their steaks.

Other popular merchandising terms are, “Prime Cuts”, “Prime Aged” and “Prime Beef”, but none of these terms guarantee certified USDA Prime Graded Beef is being served. Using “prime” terms, allows restaurants to buy lesser grades of meat and sell them as “prime”. The ultimate goal being to make an extra buck by getting a premium price for a less than premium product.

USDA primeWhile there are no guarantees for truth in advertising on restaurant menus, one way to determine if you are ordering the real thing is to look for the words “USDA Prime”, or a symbol bearing the USDA PRIME shield. If you just see “U.S. Prime”, it means nothing.

Making the Grade

The USDA has ten degrees of marbling that determine the grades of beef. Marbling is the term used to define the abundance of little flecks of white fat that visually appear within the meat muscle – the more marbling, the higher the quality grade.

MarblingMost restaurants serve these three grades: PRIME, CHOICE and SELECT. USDA Prime is the highest quality grade designation in terms of marbling which helps deliver tenderness, juiciness and rich flavor.

Beef inspection is mandatory, however, beef grading is a voluntary practice. Yes, you can purchase State Inspected beef that is not graded by the USDA, or even USDA Inspected but ungraded beef. When beef is USDA graded, it is given a USDA shield stamp. That shield is the most accurate way to determine what grade of beef you’re actually eating.

Other marketed terms, which can be confusing, are: “Certified Angus Beef” (CAB), “Black Angus”, “Angus Beef” and “Premium Angus”. These terms describe the breed of the animal, not the USDA quality grade related to marbling. There are hundreds of branded and private label beef programs claiming to be unique in some way, but unless that Premium Angus carries a USDA grade certification, it is only describing the cattle breed, not the quality grade.

The next time you dine at a “Prime Steakhouse” look for the words “USDA Prime” or the USDA Prime Shield on the menu. (Use the same rule of thumb when buying raw meat.) If they’re not present, ask more questions. Avoid having, and paying more for something less than certified USDA Prime beef.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Buedel Brings the ‘Q


Chicago Meat Company Featured on National BBQ TV Show

Buedel Meat UpCHICAGO – Local meat purveyor to top restaurants and hotels, Buedel Fine Meats, is the new meat sponsor for Destination America’s hit show, BBQ Pitmasters, where 18 teams of BBQ pros compete to win $50,000 and a coveted spot in the Kingsford Invitational next November.

What the Heck is a Pitmaster?

Pitmasters are dedicated cooks who reach professional standing on the competition BBQ circuit. “The winningest man in barbeque”, Myron Mixon, is the lead judge on BBQ Pitmasters. A cookbook author and entrepreneur, Mixon has won over 2,000 competitions and is considered a leading authority on barbeque.

In perpetual hot pursuit of the perfect ‘Q, Pitmasters apply rubs, sauces and flavor enhancing injections with the tenacity of a food scientist. Select meats, choice equipment and heat source management play a big role in competition strategy.

Buedel Brings the ‘Q

BBQ teams assemble in front of the judges each week to find out what they will be cooking to provide a level playing field for the Pitmasters who must come prepared for any barbeque scenario. The big meat reveal puts Buedel at the forefront of every episode, providing an unprecedented opportunity to capture initial reactions from the pros, and gain public exposure for their brand.

At the halfway point of Season 5, Buedel has already supplied a visually enticing array of meats ranging from 15 pound pork shoulders to 30 lb. prime rib roasts. The on camera response to Buedel’s meats has been overwhelmingly positive and often subsequently shared by the Pitmasters across social channels:

…those Pork Butts and Ribs I cooked on BBQ Pitmasters were rock solid [and] some of the FINEST I HAVE EVER COOKED!!!!  – Chris Chadwick, Hawg County Cookers, on Facebook

Positive Press for Chicago

Anytime a local company can grab a positive spotlight on the national stage, it’s good for the City and the economy. The results have been so positive in fact, Buedel just added a Shop for BBQ Pitmaster Meats page to their new retail site in answer to public interest for the meats being cooked on the show.

“Our experience has been no less than fantastic working with BBQ Pitmasters,” says John Cecala, VP & Principal at Buedel, “and we are very proud to be a part of the show.”


BBQ Pitmasters is on the Destination America Network, which is owned by Discovery Communications. Saturdays: 9pm Eastern, 8 pm CST. Episodes Remaining: 5/17, 5/24, 5/31 & 6/7 Finale

Buedel Fine Meats is one of the leading quality purveyors to restaurants, hotels, resorts, and e-commerce serving local, regional, national and global markets. They are the oldest family owned meat supplier left in Chicago – 2014 marks their 107th year in business.

Additional Quote: “BBQ Pitmasters was looking for a high quality meat supplier for Season 5, and they called us!” – John Cecala, VP & Principal, Buedel Fine Meats.

Media Contact: JJ Rusch

@BuedelFineMeats  Facebook Fan Page  LinkedIn Company Page

Tags: Buedel Fine Meats, BBQ Pitmasters, Destination America, Discovery Networks, Myron Mixon, Barbeque Competition, BBQ Competition Circuit, Kingsford Charcoal, Kingsford Invitational, #BBQ, #Pitmaster, #CompetitionBBQ, #StartYourFires, #LoveGrillin, #TuffyStone, #MoeCason, #MyronMixon  @DestAmerica, @Lord_of_Q, @TuffyStone, @Ponderosabbq

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May is National BBQ Month!

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Meat Picks | 5.8.14

Beard Winners

PurplePigThe James Beard Award winners were announced earlier this week. Of the many winners (see full list here), three Chicago stars shined bright.

Jimmy Bannos Jr. of River North’s The Purple Pig was a co-winner in the Rising Star category for chefs under 30. Dave Beran of Next won Great Lakes Best Chef and Outstanding Restaurant Design (75 seats or less) went to the design team at Lawton Stanley for their work at Grace.

Congrats to all!

Burger Bonanza

FlipTSignatureRiversBurgerMay is a popular month – gardens are tilled and grills get fired up – it’s also National Burger Month. (Read Art of the Burger and Fun Facts for the Burger Connoisseur.) River’s Casino came up with a nifty promo this year: a different burger every day for $10 at FlipT – great deal.

Rivers Chef Jason Herling brought some burger samples to Windy City Live last week. He said it took them two weeks to come up with 31 different variations and at 25, it got challenging. There was the Saigon, Philly, Makin’ Bacon, Carnivore and French Connection, to name a few, which had brie cheese, carmelized onions and pear slices – but his personal favorite remains their signature Rivers Burger, with cheddar, jalapenos and a large onion ring (pictured above).

FlipTChallengeRivers took their burger bonanza one step further by adding a weekly burger eating contest to the mix this month. Every Thursday in May, at 5, 7, or 9, you can challenge the (professional) standing consumption record of 5 Rivers burgers in 6:45. The first person to break the record wins $5,000; if you can come within 5 minutes of the record, you win a free burger every week for a year. Who’s hungry now?

NRA Countdown

Housewares – March, Restaurant – May, are fixtures on the Chicago convention scene. This year’s NRA Show (National Restaurant Association) is the 95th (yes, ninety five!) Anniversary of the annual event. Over 60,000 industry buyers from all 50 states and over 100 countries will pile in to McCormick Place May 17-20 to peer, poke NRA 2014and peruse through more than 900 product categories.

One of the new additions to this year’s show is the Foodamental Studio where attendees can learn (for free) from award-winning chefs such as, Tim Graham of Travelle, and then have the opportunity to try out the new skills for themselves.

If you’re going to the show, please stop by and see us! Buedel’s booth # is 7863!


NtlBBQMonthMay is also National BBQ Month. According to the HPBA (Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Association), 58% of adults agree that cooking out is more fun and relaxing than dining out – being outside is great! In honor of National BBQ Month, the National Barbeque Association (NBBQA) is running a Facebook campaign throughout the month too. Simply post your best what-bbq-means-to-me pic on their fan page and win a prize.

From the desk of John Cecala ||  Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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The Vegas Strip Steak

Vegas Strip RawYou may not know who Tony Mata is, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Flat Iron Steak, a cut he discovered years ago. Mata’s most recent discovery is a new type of strip steak.

Antonio (Tony) Mata is a meat scientist, product development specialist and self-proclaimed Meat Geek®. A native of Mexico, he studied at the University of Arizona where he earned his Ph.D. in agricultural biochemistry and nutrition. Dr. Mata has been involved in adding value to the carcass for most of his professional career.

A Cut is Born

In 2012, Mata was searching new ways to glean value added beef cuts, in conjunction with the Oklahoma State University Food & Agricultural Products Center. Through research, he discovered a new cut of beef from the shoulder, or chuck, normally used to make ground beef. Using non-staVegas Strip Cut Outndard butchering procedures for loin seams – a big outside the box move – he was able to discover the new cut.

The chuck is an inexpensive primal cut that by its nature contains a lot of connective tissue, fat, cartilage and gristle. Dr. Mata’s butchering procedure, since patented, was to trim the bad from the good and yield a tender cut of meat, he ultimately trademarked as The Vegas Strip Steak®. Delivering tenderness, flavor and visual appeal, the steak weighs in at about 14 oz and can easily be cut into smaller portions.

Vegas Strip TendernessTenderness  It is tenderness that is the most important characteristic in a beef cut; it is also the most challenging to deliver. The tenderness of the Vegas Strip Steak® is on par with the New York Strip Steak. It does not require aging or marinating to achieve desired tenderness.

Flavor  Steak flavor can vary across cuts, and steak lovers are dedicated to their favorites. The Vegas Strip Steak® offers universal appeal and solid steak flavor that satisfies any beef craving.

Appearance While tenderness and flavor matter most, visual appeal can enhance the overall enjoyment of steaks. The Vegas Strip Steak® portions beautifully and can be grilled, pan fried, roasted or smoked; it works well in just about any presentation a chef may wish to plate.

Vetting the Vegas

Vegas Strip by Rick GreshDr. Mata worked side-by-side with Chicago’s very own Chef Rick Gresh to validate product performance, establish target specifications, develop and identify menu possibilities and confirm profit potential. Chef Gresh, highly excited about the opportunities the steak would bring to menus, regularly features The Vegas Strip Steak® at David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago.

The Vegas Strip Steak® is available exclusively through specially appointed partners of Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef. (In the Midwest, Buedel Fine Meats is the branded Creekstone Farms partner.) Affordably priced, it wholesales for under $7/lb, which in comparison to steaks cut from the strip loin, rib eye and/or tenderloin, delivers remarkable value.

Round Up

blogcollage2If you haven’t tried The Vegas Strip Steak® yet, but it sounds familiar, the cut was most recently showcased on BBQ Pitmasters. (Buedel Fine Meats is the current season’s chosen meat provider.) When the Lone Star Smoke War episode aired, the BBQP judges referenced Dr. Mata, but just one of the Pitmasters competing that day had heard of or cooked a Vegas Strip Steak® before then. Yet, all the pitmasters fired them up to perfection and loved their visual and tender flavor rendering.

Dr. Mata done good!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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