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Mailbag: Is The Beef Better At Craft Or Costco?

By Chuckmonster on Monday, 19th August 2013 9:53pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 12


Every so often we like to dip into our mailbag and pull out some of the more thought provoking inquiries.

Today's email comes from Z, who wrote:

During a recent trip to Craft@MGM, one of my dining companions inquired as to what grade of beef was being served. I scoffed at the question, but the answer pissed me off royally.

Our server told us that outside of one Prime grade flank steak, the rest were Choice grade or Choice+ (if thats even a thing). I don't go to a steak restaurant to get cuts I can buy at Costco! The meal was average. Anyway, I just thought it was incredible that a STEAKHOUSE would serve anything less than USDA Prime.

Rant over.

There is no such thing as "Choice+" it was a fabrication by the server. There are multiple levels of beef quality grading - Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner - in descending order of quality. Carcasses are also graded on a 1-5 scale for yield as well, the higher the number, the more usable meat.

PRIME from the USDA:

Prime beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling (the amount of fat interspersed with lean meat), and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking such as broiling, roasting or grilling.

CHOICE from the USDA:

Choice beef is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts can also be cooked with dry heat if not overcooked. Such cuts will be most tender if braised, roasted or simmered with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.

SELECT from the USDA:

Select beef is very uniform in quality and normally leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. Only the tender cuts should be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should be marinated before cooking or braised to obtain maximum tenderness and flavor.

According to the CraftSteak menu, only the flat iron steak is denoted as "Prime." We'll assume that the flank Z mentioned is the flat iron, somehow lost in translation.

Craft offers Domestic Wagyu (New York Strip, Ribeye, Skirt Steak, Filet Mignon, Flat Iron) and Japanese and A5 Wagyu (New York Strip, Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, Rib Cap cuts. Japanese Wagyu beef is graded on a letter based yield grade: A (above standard) B (standard) C (below standard) and number based marbling grade: 5 (excellent) 4 (Good) 3 (Average) 2 (Below average) 1 (Poor). Wagyu A5 is the best Japanese Wagyu beef you can get. Wagyu marbling grade 4 and lower is roughly equivalent to USDA Prime.

This implies that the Domestic or A5 Japanese Wagyu cuts at Craft are indeed better than Prime. It also implies that the flat iron - a wagyu delicacy - might be a somewhat strange outlier, less so the 24 hour shortrib.

My guess is that the server you had either didn't know what they were talking about OR they didn't take the time to explain it to you. Maybe a little bit of both.

Tom, do you care to weigh in on this?

Update: @tomcolicchio responded via superfriend @RussellSauve:

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Tagged: craftsteak   colicchio   steak   meat   beef   wagyu   usda   trampstamp   mailbag   


Comments & Discussion:

It sounds like the server didn't take the time to explain. I looked around online and was surprised to find out that apparently there is such thing as Choice+, with more marbling than a standard Choice steak. However, a + or - doesn't transfer to the official USDA grading. For more information than you could possibly want about beef grading, Texas A&M's extension service has you covered.


Incidentally, paying a premium for beef because it's Wagyu is a sucker bet. American Kobe is to Japanese Kobe as American Champagne is to French Champagne. Which is to say, they aren't even in the same league.

they occasionally have prime steaks at my local costco...

mine too... gotta eyeball the stickers, also the cuts in the blue styrofoam are prime

@cosmicjester i bow down to the better binger.

Do you know if the Japanese A5 Wagyu is imported or is it also just "domestic" Wagyu but under a different classification? (Given the price difference I would've assumed NOT... but then I always go for the sucker side bets too...)

Japanese A5 Wagyu is imported and has only become available in the US again in the last couple of months. There are sellers of US Wagyu that use the A5 label, but it's more of a marketing thing due to USDA standards.

It was my understanding that most (if not all) the restaurants in a casino source their products from...the casino, which they buy in bulk. so the meat/poulty/fish used at your fav food network stars fancy shmancy restaurant is the same stuff used by the buffet crew (albeit, prepared differently).

Chef Tom Colicchio has weighed in via twitter. https://twitter.com/tomcolicchio/status/369669535105695744

Diablo, It's possible all restaurants source through an industrial food distributor like US Foods or Sysco, but even these enormous distributors have tiers of food quality, so I doubt that a specialty restaurant is receiving the same food as the buffet.

There are companies like Buckhead Beef (which is a well-regarded meat purveyor) that are owned by the food service providers (Sysco bought them in 1999). Some of them still operate under their own nameplate but at the same time, also provide product for the food service company. There's a number of restaurants in Las Vegas that get their meat from Pat LaFrieda, one of the best meat purveyors in the country. More than likely that steak you may be enjoying that night at Gordon Ramsay Steak is likely to have been shipped out from the East Coast early that morning on one of the first airline flights out of Newark or JFK. There are plenty of regional purveyors that provide top notch meats.

Mmmmmm, that special Imported from Newark flavor!!

VIMFP is going to be a top notch meats.

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