There are seven grades of steer beef : No. A 1 or Prime, No. 1 or Choice, No. 2 or Good, No. 3 or Medium, No. 4 or Common, No. 5 or Cutter, and No. 6, or Low Cutter.
No. A 1, or Prime, Steer Beef
No. A 1, or Prime, steer beef has ideal conformation. The outlines are especially attractive and suggestive of high-grade, palatable flesh. The carcass is relatively short and blocky, and is heavily and uniformly fleshed throughout. The rounds, loins, and ribs are exceptionally well-developed and rounded. The chucks and plates are very thick and compact, and heavily fleshed. The neck is short and plump. The shanks are short and well muscled. The superior development of the round ex-tends well over, almost enveloping, the hind shank, giving much beyond the average amount of flesh there. Soft, pearly-white cartilages are found on the spinal processes or the chine bones and on the breast bones. The bones are soft and red with blood vessels, and the carcass presents every evidence that the animal had not gone far past 3 years of age.
The finish is ideal, being neither excessive nor deficient. There is an abundance of marbling in the thick cuts. The exterior surface of the carcass, including shanks and neck, is entirely covered with a smooth, brittle, slightly creamy-white fat that is not excessively thick or wasty at any point, the greatest depth being over the loins and ribs, which generally does not exceed three-fourths of an inch. The interior walls are well covered. The cod, kidney, crotch, and other interior fats are abundant but not excessive, and are firm, crumbly, and of creamy-white color. An excessive, or slightly deficient, amount of fat will bar from this grade a carcass otherwise of prime quality.
No. 1, or Choice, Steer Beef
No. 1, or Choice, steer beef does not differ radically from Prime steer beef. It is excellent quality, conformation, and finish, but is slightly below Prime grade in one or more of the qualifying characteristics. The greatest variations generally occur in quality and finish, but in no case are these pronounced.
The fat covering is smooth or slightly wavy. The cod, crotch, kidney and other interior fats may be slightly less or more than required for the ideal carcass. Often such fats are more abundant and wasty, but they are always of the best quality and are similar in color and consistency to those in Prime beef. The cartilages on the chine and breast bones are pearly-white, but may be slightly ossified, and the bones may be soft and red, or slightly hardened, and of grayish-white color, especially if the animal was nearing 4 years of age. Marbling is always present in the loins, ribs, and chucks, and the flesh is firm, velvety, and of an attractive light or cherry red color. All beef surpassing the specification for the Good grade, but failing to qualify as Prime, belongs in this grade. While No. 1, or Choice, beef may appear on the market at any time during the year, it is never abundant and is more in evidence in the winter and early spring. The weights are similar to those of Prime grade.
No. 2, or Good, Steer Beef
No. 2, or Good, steer beef has good conformation, finish, and quality. In these respects it is above the average, but does not qualify for Choice grade. The carcass generally does not have the blocky, well-rounded form of those in the superior grades, but is more angular. The hip and shoulder joints are slightly visible, the loins and ribs are moderately round and plump, but inclined to flatness. The rounds, while reasonably thick and heavy, are not full toward the shank. The shanks are inclined to be long and tapering, but not to a marked degree. The fat covering extends well over the exterior surfaces, generally is firm, and at times slightly bunchy, especially over the loin, rib, and neck. The lower part of the rounds, shoulders, neck and shanks generally has little or no fat covering. The cod, kidney, crotch, and other interior fats are in moderate supply, and are sometimes wasty. Fat generally does not extend completely over the walls of the forequarters, as in the better grades. The fat is of good quality, but often is soft and may have a slightly yellowish tinge. The cartilages on the chine and breast bones usually have lost their pearly luster and have become partly ossified and firmly attached to the bones, which, in such cases, are somewhat hard and gray. This does not apply, however, to carcasses of animals slaughtered under 3 years of age. The “eye’ of the rib and loin is above the average in thickness and shows some marbling, but the Good grade is the lowest in which this last characteristic appears.
The flesh generally is of good color, but may be a shade darker than that of Choice or Prime beef, and often is somewhat soft and slightly inclined to be watery. This grade is on the market in moderate quantities throughout the year, but is more abundant in the late fall, winter, and spring months. A very few Good steer carcasses average as low as 350 pounds. The range is from this weight upward.
No. 3, or Medium, Steer Beef
No. 3, or Medium, steer beef has irregular or rugged conformation. This is apparent in the general outline of the carcass, which shows a deeper curvature of the back, rough and proportionately large chucks and plates, long shanks, prominent hip and shoulder joints, flat or depressed loins and ribs, long neck, relatively long, flat and tapering rounds, and prominent bones. The flesh throughout the carcass is of average thickness and this grade reflects the average of quality of carcass beef on the market throughout the year. Because of the shallowness of flesh and thinness of fat covering, the broad sinew which runs along the backbone is often visible. The fat covering is fair over the back, but very thin or entirely absent over a large part of the rounds, chucks, neck, and shanks. There is a small amount of cod, kidney, and crotch fat. The other interior fats are present but very thin. They do not cover the inner walls of the forequarter, but are more in evidence in the hindquarter. They generally are of a yellowish-white color, soft, and of average quality. Usually the cartilages are hard and white, and the bones grayish, or white and flinty. This does not apply to carcasses of animals under 4 years old, a liberal number of which are in the Medium grade. The “eye” of the loin and rib, which varies according to the flesh condition and size of the animal, lacks the depth noted in the better grades, but in this grade is generally sufficiently thick to satisfy the average popular demand for steaks and roasts. The flesh usually is coarse, “stringy,” soft, and watery, and inclined to a slightly dark red color. It has no marbling, but has sufficient finish and quality to satisfy the average consumer. Carcass weights range from 350 to 750 pounds, according to the type and age of the animal.
No. 4, or Common, Steer Beef
No. 4, or Common, steer beef is decidedly deficient in quality, conformation, and finish. It is the lowest grade of steer beef appearing regularly on the market. The outlines are irregular, or angular, and rangy. The hip and shoulder joints are prominent, and the chucks and plates are relatively wide and thin. The loins and ribs are flat, or sunken. The broad ligament along the backbone is plainly visible. The rounds, neck, and shanks are long and thinly fleshed. Bones are prominent, and generally white and flinty, and the cartilages usually are completely ossified. Such beef has very little exterior fat covering, which is con-fined almost exclusively to a thin covering over the loins and ribs, and is of a yellowish-white color. The cod, crotch, kidney, and interior walls have very little if any fat, and this is of very poor quality. The “eye” of the rib and loin is decidedly lacking in size, which indicates a deficient covering of flesh throughout the carcass. The flesh is decidedly coarse, soft, “stringy,” tough, and watery, and of dark-red color. This grade is found on the market at all times, although in limited amount during late winter and early spring. Carcass weights range from 300 to 550 pounds.
No. 5, or Cutter, Steer Beef
Beef of the Cutter grade usually comes from ill-shaped, emaciated steers. Poor feeding, lack of breeding, and ald age are the main reasons for the appearance of this grade of beef on the market. The carcass is decidedly deficient in virtually all of the characteristics demanded by the consumer of block beef. Conformation is angular, and the only fat on the exterior surface is a thin covering over the back. The flesh on most parts of the carcass is so thin, and the ratio of bone to flesh so high, that few consumers will accept it. Hence most of the carcass is boned out and sold either as boneless cuts, or cured and used in sausage. Sometimes one or two cuts, usually the loins and ribs, are sold without boning, hence the term “cutter.” Although such beef is always present on the market in limited quantities, it is particularly noticeable after periods of drought and in sections where cattle raising has not made much progress, and where the purchasing power of the average consumer is very low.
No. 6, or Low Cutter, Steer Beef
Low Cutter steer beef is the lowest grade of steer beef recognized by the trade. It includes a nondescript lot of carcasses which are so deficient in flesh and fat that they can not be sold in retail cuts. They are therefore boned out, and used either for canning or sausage. Comparatively little Low Cutter steer beef is offered, under normal conditions ; but during periods of drought considerable numbers of steers, so emaciated that. the carcasses can be utilized only in this way, go to market.