What it Means to Stand Against USDA Grading
“Certified Piedmontese beef does not score itself through the USDA. We are a truly unique beef selling against the grade and what it stands for, and we’re proud of it.” – Ben Mohl, Marketing Manager.
When it comes to ranking beef quality to find the most tender, juicy, and flavorful beef, the industry relies on the USDA Beef Grading system: Prime, Choice, Select, or Standard. But this ranking is limiting and, unbeknown to most Americans, does not account for all breeds of beef. Piedmontese is a breed of domestic cattle that originated in the region of Piedmont, in northwest Italy. Piedmontese cattle carry a unique gene mutation identified as an inactive myostatin allele that causes hypertrophic muscle growth, or double muscling, to produce beef with very little fat but is naturally tender and rich in protein and nutrients.
USDA Beef Grading
USDA Beef Grading is an integral part of the beef industry set by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and the AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service). The grading system originated in the 1920s when the industry sought a consistent and effective way to provide consumers with uniform indicators of beef quality. The grading system predicts the overall eating experience of beef when cooked. It relies on two points: The overall maturity of the carcass and the amount of marbling present in the ribeye of the carcass. Historically, conventional beef has proven the grading system to be a reasonably accurate indicator of tenderness: After all, beef with more fat is typically more tender than beef with more meat.
However, no grading system is perfect. USDA Grades is a helpful system – that is, if you’re dealing with standard breeds of cattle. But the Piedmontese breed is anything but standard. You can tell the difference by simply looking at a raw steak: Certified Piedmontese meat does not have the fatty marbling lauded by USDA grades. It is a rare and unique breed with a muscle makeup that produces unrivaled tenderness without excess fat.
Standing Against the Grade
How would you grade a beef whose tenderness comes from the meat itself and not the fat? According to USDA Researcher Dr. Larry V. Cundiff, Piedmontese cattle produce 14% more lean meat than other premium breeds. He also notes that Piedmontese beef is “exceptionally tender.” Simply put, Piedmontese beef is a beef that stands against USDA Grading.
USDA grades do not measure actual tenderness; it measures the amount of marbling. A greater amount of marbling equates to a higher level of tenderness in the USDA grading. That is why we look to a test that directly measures tenderness: The Warner-Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF) measures tenderness based on the amount of force required to move a steel blade through a ½-inch cut of meat. Put to the WBSF test conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
Certified Piedmontese beef proved to be more tender than cuts from conventional cattle, with tenderness on par with Prime and Wagyu products despite being much leaner:
With Certified Piedmontese, consumers enjoy the tenderness and flavor of Prime beef, but with the nutritional profile of grass-fed or Select cuts.
Certified Piedmontese cattle aren’t just born different. They are raised differently, too. They spend most of their lives on open rangelands, feeding on native grasses and crops tended by the ranchers who care for them. The Certified Piedmontese program is based on the close and continuous study of the Piedmontese breed and the careful alignment of a comprehensive nutrition regimen that meets the animals’ distinct dietary needs to yield truly superior beef.
To solidify the integrity of the Certified Piedmontese program, we assess each animal with DNA testing performed by an independent lab to ensure the presence of the inactive myostatin gene unique to the Piedmontese cattle breed. The analysis confirms the genetic composition of each animal and ensures that the unique genes of the breed are present. The result? An outstanding brand of beef that dispels the notion that fat alone equals tenderness.