What is Select Beef?The word "select" is a quality grade given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to describe uniform quality beef and other meats (veal and lamb) in terms of tenderness, juiciness and flavor. Select is the third-highest meat quality grade, with prime being the highest and choice the second-highest.
This meat quality grade is given based on a combination of marbling and maturity. Marbling (or flecks of fat within the meat) adds flavor, and younger beef produces the most tender meat.
Therefore, the "select" grade will be given to meat that comes from very young beef but with only slight marbling. Select beef may not be as juicy and flavorful as meat graded prime or choice.
Select Meat: Uniform QualityIn the select category, the most tender cuts of beef will tend to come from the rib and loin primal cuts. Cuts such as these can be prepared using dry-heat cooking methods such as roasting and grilling.
Everything else, like rump or round, should be cooked using a moist heat cooking technique such as braising.
The "USDA Select" GradeFinally, cuts of meat that have been given a select grade will be marked with a purple stamp showing the words "USDA Select" inside a shield symbol. While this mark will only be visible on the primal cuts, the retail packaging will feature the grade mark.
It is illegal to misrepresent the grade of meat or the shield symbol, or to use misleading language to describe the quality of the meat.
Note that meat grading is entirely optional, and meat producers who request a quality grade for their meat must pay for the service. This differs from the system of meat inspection, which is required by law, but is not concerned with quality or tenderness. Also performed by the USDA (and paid for with tax dollars), meat inspection ensures that the meat you buy is wholesome, safe and has been properly packaged and labeled.