USDA PRIME is the most expensive grade. It's also higher in fat, calories and cost per pound than USDA CHOICE.
USDA CHOICE has a high amount of fat-- but less than PRIME. It also cost less.
STORE BRAND LEAN is a grade of meat featured in some supermarkets. These meats are government-inspected for wholesomeness, but it is not graded by the government. It has less fat than USDA CHOICE and is usually less expensive. It's a good idea to see what grades your store carries at the meat counter.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has set standards for regular ground beef. Its fat content cannot be more than 30%.
Some stores carry lean and extra lean ground beef. On average, regular ground has a 28% fat content. Lean averages 23% fat, and extra lean 18% fat. The fat level may vary from state to state, depending on state law. It may also vary from one store to another.
Here are three key facts about ground beef:
1. Regular ground beef costs less than lean and extra lean. But it contains more fat. You can remove much of the fat in cooking.
2. Lean and extra lean cost more. But since they have less fat, they do not "cook down" to the extent that regular ground does.
3. After cooking and draining, the fat content in regular, lean and extra lean is about the same.
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