Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: August 30, 2022

I’ve been on a carnivore diet for more than ten years, so meat has become a crucial part of my lifestyle. Through trial and error, I’ve perfected various methods to get the best cut.

In this article, I’ll share everything you need to know when shopping for different types of meat.

Quick Summary

  • There are several things you should look for when buying meat.
  • It’s crucial to check the package and visually inspect the meat.
  • One of the most affordable ways to buy meat is to buy from online delivery services.

7 Things to Look for When Buying Meat

A shopper looking for raw meat

As I said, buying meat requires being on the lookout for some factors that’ll tell you whether the cut is worth the purchase.

1. Label Info

If you’re buying a packaged product, make sure to check the label.

Each meat package has to specify the type of meat (pork, beef, poultry, etc.) and the meat cut (steak, shoulder, eye, etc.).

The label also has to specify:

  • Weight
  • Price per pound
  • Total price
  • How to handle the meat
  • Production and expedition dates

Some labels also include the nutrition info and how to prepare the meat.

Another thing to look for on the label is the inspection stamps. All meat has to be inspected according to the USDA standards [1]. The stamp means the meat is good for consumption.

“The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) requires that all meat sold commercially be inspected and passed to ensure that it is safe, wholesome, and properly labeled.”
- U.S. Department of Agriculture

Another stamp you can find is the label stamp, which tells the meat quality.

2. Visual Inspection

A person holding two raw chickens in a supermarket

Rely on your senses, especially sight. Here’s what color each kind of meat should have:

  • Pork — Should be pink to red, and the fat should be white without any dark spots.
  • Beef — Bright red color if fresh, or dark purple color if in a bag.
  • Lamb — Soft pink or red with white fat.
  • Poultry — Should be pink, blue-white, or yellow color, both in and outside of a package. This depends on what the poultry has been fed. Don’t buy if there are any purple or green patches or dark wing tips.

Note: If the meat is brown, it’s fine in most cases. It only means it’s been exposed to oxygen. In fact, game meat should be dark brown.

3. Look for Meat Fat

Cuts with fat are juicier and more tender after cooking. Streaks of fat throughout the muscle are called marbling. The more marbling, the more tender the meat.

The amount of fat is especially important for tender cuts, such as filet mignon, ribeye, and other cuts that intensify the steak’s flavor when cooked.

4. Check the Package

If you’re buying packaged meat, it’s crucial to inspect the package. There shouldn’t be any damage or dirt on it. If you see dirty stains, it means the meat wasn’t handled in sanitary conditions, and if the package is open, the meat was exposed to the outside elements.

Overall, the state of the package isn’t a guarantee of food quality, but it can be an indicator of a bad cut.

5. Check the Storage

Check the fridge and freezer if you’re buying beef at the supermarket or a butcher shop. They should be set at the correct temperature for storing meats, so it stays fresh.

If the fridge or freezer seems unusually warm, or you see them leaking or dripping water, they could be broken. This means the meat isn’t in the best condition, and you may waste your money.

6. Check the Dates

A shopper choosing between two meats

There are two kinds of dates on the package: sell-by date and use-by date.

The “best before” means the manufacturer states the food is fresh at its best before a certain date. You can still eat it after the date, but the consumer has to decide if it’s safe.

The use-by date is more important because it tells you how much time there is before the meat gets spoiled. In other words, you should eat the meat on, or even better, before the use-by date.

This is especially important for ground beef. Ground meat has more surface exposed and goes through more processing, so it can spoil more quickly compared to standard cuts, such as chicken, Wagyu beef, and more.

7. Talk to the Butcher

You can simply order from the butcher if you already know what you want to purchase. But also use their expertise.

For example, ask for advice if you’re uncertain what kind of sausages you need for a certain recipe. They can tell you what to look for, what cut you need for your dish, how to cook it, and more.

Some butchers give discounts to regular customers, so you may pay cheaper for bones and other foods.

FAQs

How Can You Tell Good Quality Beef?

You can tell good quality beef by the amount of marbling it has. It shouldn’t have any discolorations or tears in the package.

What Is the Most Cost-Effective Way to Buy Meat?

The most cost-effective way to buy meat is to buy frozen meat in a store or buy in bulk from meat delivery services.

How Should You Buy Meat?

Food safety is extremely important, especially when it comes to meat. You should check the package and the color, check if it smells funny, and ensure there’s a good amount of marbling on the beef.

Don’t be afraid to talk to the butcher. Explain what dish you’re preparing and ask for clarifications or recommendations.

Finally, buy from verified suppliers. To assist you, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best meat delivery services. Each of these online businesses only sells the highest quality cuts. The animals are sustainably raised, without any hormones or additives, to ensure the juiciest cuts. Check them out and choose your supplier.


References:

  1. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/inspection/inspection-programs/inspection-meat-products

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