5 Best Places to Buy Meat: Unbeatable Quality & Prices

Whole Foods offers high-quality, organic meat options like grass-fed and local beef, ensuring taste, health, and animal welfare standards are met.

Grocery Store Meat

Four US companies dominate 85% of beef processing…there’s not a lot of choices for pre-packaged meat. But what about grocery stores? Where’s the best grocery to buy from? Here are a few options.

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1. Best for Quality: Whole Foods

Whole Foods
Source – Whole Foods

Whole Foods prides itself on its organic food and high standards for meat. For example, beef has to be raised on pastures for two-thirds of its life, and they provide many different options depending on what you’re looking for:

  • Grass-fed
  • Local
  • Dry-aged
  • Grain-finished

2. Best for Selection: Sprouts

Sprouts adheres to Animal Welfare Standards for all their meats, ensuring no unnecessary cruelty. They prioritize chicken welfare and prohibit supplemental growth hormones in all their meat. Their frozen food meets organic standards, and even their hotdogs are nitrite-free.

Sprouts
Source – Sprouts

If you can’t access Whole Foods or want an alternative for quality meat, try Sprouts. Their fresh beef is USDA Choice, ensuring juiciness and flavor. They offer grass-fed options rich in omega-3s and minimally processed with no artificial ingredients. Their chicken is also high quality, with methods to lock in juices and no added hormones. While not the cheapest, the quality justifies the cost.

3. Best in the South: Publix

Publix

If you’re in the South, you’re in luck. Publix also has some excellent quality meat, and there’s a Publix around every corner when you’re down there. Publix can also be somewhat more affordable than Whole Foods and Sprouts, which are known to be expensive. By shopping here, you can save money without compromising the quality of the meat.

Publix offers antibiotic-free and ready-to-cook meats, with customizable cuts like Jamaican Beef Patties. Their meat cutters can accommodate specific requests, ensuring a balance of health, quality, and affordability. However, accessibility outside the South is limited.

4. Best for Value: Aldi

Aldi
Source – Aldi

Are you looking for an even more affordable option? Aldi is proof that good quality meat doesn’t have to break the bank, and it’s available all over the US, despite its origin being in Europe, so it shouldn’t be challenging to find one.

While Aldi avoids big brands and emphasizes local sourcing, their meat undergoes testing and meets high standards like other top grocery stores. Their careful selection allows them to offer quality meat at lower prices. If you prioritize specific big-name brands, Aldi might not be your best bet. However, for quality at great prices, it’s worth considering.

5. Grocery Store Meat Alternatives

Now, shipping and logistics have dramatically improved over the past decade, and buying meat online is a viable alternative to buying it in a grocery store. And if you are buying high-quality cuts, you might even score better pricing. Here are some of our favorites.

Crowd Cow

Crowd Cow Brisket 5 Best Places to Buy Meat: Unbeatable Quality & Prices

Crowd Cow offers meat sold by the box, ensuring guaranteed quality and potential savings for bulk purchases. However, ordering online and shipping costs might be drawbacks. They provide grass-fed and pasture-finished beef options. Opting for a full box can yield the best price.

FarmFoods

FarmFoods Brisket 5 Best Places to Buy Meat: Unbeatable Quality & Prices

FarmFoods is an online store that specializes in selling a huge selection of meats. They have a comprehensive selection of beef, including brisket-like flat and point, as well as other meat products (like bison!). The benefits of buying from FarmFoods are that they provide a wide range of goods, they maintain high standards of quality control, and free delivery is available on purchases of $99 or more.

Snake River Farms

Snake River Brisket 5 Best Places to Buy Meat: Unbeatable Quality & Prices

Snake River Farms is the best place to get beef online. They’re a top provider of American-raised beef and pork. The benefits of purchasing from Snake River Farms include their strict quality standards, the range of cuts they provide, and the fact that they source all of their meat domestically.

Agridime

Agridime Brisket 5 Best Places to Buy Meat: Unbeatable Quality & Prices

Agridime is a store that specializes in selling high-quality meats. They have a wide selection of different beef cuts and sizes to choose from, and their prices are very competitive. If you’re looking for the best place to buy meat online, Agridime is definitely a store worth considering. Their quality is top-notch, and their prices are very reasonable.

Porter Road

Porter Road Brisket 5 Best Places to Buy Meat: Unbeatable Quality & Prices

Porter Road is an online butcher that sells high-quality meats of every cut. The firm has a dedication to sustainable farming and only purchases meat from animals that were not given antibiotics or hormones. Beef is available in a variety of cuts, with free delivery on purchases of over $100.

Amazon Fresh

Amazon Fresh Brisket 5 Best Places to Buy Meat: Unbeatable Quality & Prices

Amazon Fresh offers convenient delivery of quality meats with a wide selection. Prices are competitive, and orders over $50 get free delivery. Keep in mind, that inventory may vary weekly, and prices can be higher than other stores. Overall, it’s a convenient option for quality meats.

Your Local Farmer’s Market

Farmer's Market Meat

Your local farmer’s market is an incredible place to buy meat. You can not only get high-quality cuts grown with amazing methods – you might can even work it out to buy a whole cow. Also, you can develop relationships to get the most out of your spending.

What to Look for When It Comes to Meat Quality

When deciding what grocery store to go to to get your meat, you need to know how to pick the best. This is what to look for.

A USDA Label

USDA Steak Grades 5 Best Places to Buy Meat: Unbeatable Quality & Prices

On any meat you buy, you should look for a label from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which rates the beef and lets you know its quality. There are three different ratings that the USDA uses: 

  • USDA Prime Beef: Generally sold in hotels and restaurants, this is beef from young, well-fed cattle that you should have no issue with.
  • USDA Choice Beef: It’s still high-quality beef but with less marbling. It will still be juicy and full of flavor.
  • USDA Select Beef: Leaner and more tender because of the even less marbling. It may not have as much flavor, but great for marinating.

If the beef you’re buying doesn’t have one of these labels on it, it’s time to walk away from it.

Marbling

Meat Marbling

Marbling, visible as white streaks in meat, indicates higher quality. More marbling means juicier and more tender beef. It’s easy to identify and doesn’t require expertise. Simply check the meat’s appearance and labels for a quick assessment.

Grass-Fed Beef

Grass Fed Cow

If you’re on the hunt for good-quality beef, you should also look for the grass-fed variety. Only about 4% of cows used for meat are grass-fed, but the number is growing every year, and there’s good reason for that. Grass-fed beef offers higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals, along with lower saturated fat content, making it beneficial for heart health. However, there’s a slight risk of high cholesterol or parasite infections. Despite this, many enjoy its deeper, slightly gamier flavor profile.

What Else Should You Look For?

Even when you’ve found the right place to go, and you know what determines good quality meat, there are some other things to watch out for. Don’t forget these, or you may end up buying a subpar cut that isn’t worth the money.

  • The Sell-By Date: Check the sell-by date on meat packages. While not federally mandated, it’s a safety measure. Freeze or cook meat within two days if unsure. Avoid meat past its sell-by date to prevent foodborne illness.
  • The Position on the Shelf: Pay attention to where meat is placed on the shelf. Stores often stock older meat in front. For the freshest option, check the back or bottom of the cooler.
  • Condensation on the Packaging: Watch out for condensation inside meat packaging, indicating air and moisture penetration. If present, opt for a different package for longer freshness.
  • Good Cuts: Choose meat with smooth edges, indicating quality. Jagged edges may suggest lower quality or bone remnants, especially in poultry. Consistency in cuts reflects the butcher’s skill and meat quality. If inconsistency persists, consider trying a different store or butcher.
  • Functional Fridges and Freezers: Ensure meat is stored in properly functioning refrigerators or freezers to maintain quality. Check the fridge’s temperature before purchasing chilled meat, as prolonged faults can affect meat quality. For frozen meat, confirm the freezer’s coldness; signs of water dripping indicate insufficient cooling. Verify the meat’s storage conditions by assessing the fridge or freezer’s interior before making a purchase.
  • The Smell: Trust your sense of smell when buying meat. While fresh meat has a distinct odor, avoid meat with strange or rotten smells. Report such instances to the grocery store to prevent potential health risks for unsuspecting customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if meat is quality?

To gauge meat quality, check for firmness and dryness rather than wetness and wobbliness. Look for marbling, which enhances juiciness and flavor. Opt for evenly and carefully cut pieces. Avoid processed, pre-spiced, or pre-marinated meat, typically made from lower quality cuts.

Is market meat better than supermarket?

Market meat is often better than supermarket meat because if you are looking for a cheap and convenient option, the supermarket may often win the day for you. However, if you are planning a more substantial meal, you may opt for the butcher shop route as they can provide a quality and fresher source of meat than can be found in a supermarket.

How do you pick healthy meat?

To pick healthy meat, opt for cuts with minimal visible fat, such as “choice” or “select” grades of beef instead of “prime.” Look for packages labeled with words like “round,” “loin,” or “sirloin” for lean cuts. Additionally, choose ground meat that is lean or extra-lean, containing no more than 15% fat.

What is the top grade of meat found in grocery stores?

“Prime” meat, with its rich fat marbling, is the highest grade found in grocery stores and favored in fine dining. “Choice” meat, a step below, is more commonly found in supermarkets and less upscale dining places.

What is the most expensive grade of meat?

Kobe beef is the priciest grade, distinguished by its rigorous grading system. Only the finest meat receives the esteemed “A5” rating, leading to its high demand and price ranging from $100 to $300 per pound or more, depending on the cut and grade.

What is the mid-quality beef sold to most restaurants?

The mid-quality beef sold to most restaurants is known as Choice. Choice beef is commonly found on supermarket shelves and mid-level restaurant menus. It is USDA-graded and has a decent amount of marbling, although it contains less fat compared to Prime beef. Additionally, the fat distribution in Choice beef may not be as even.

How do you know if meat is good at the grocery store?

To determine if meat is good at the grocery store, it is crucial to rely on your senses of touch, smell, and sight. Ensure that the meat feels firm when touched and inspect the packaging for any signs of tears, holes, or excessive liquid. Additionally, the meat should be cold to the touch and have no unpleasant odor.

What is the healthiest beef to buy?

The healthiest beef to buy includes round, sirloin, or loin cuts. According to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, the top five lean cuts are eye of round with 1.4 g of saturated fat and 4 g of total fat, sirloin tip side steak with 1.6 g of saturated fat and 4.1 g of total fat, and top round roast and steak with 1.6 g of saturated fat and 4.6 g of total fat.

Where is the safest place to buy meat?

The safest place to buy meat is likely a whole-animal butcher shop, which can be found in growing numbers across the country. These shops purchase entire pasture-raised animals from local farms, process them on-site, and employ knowledgeable butchers who can provide information on the origin of each cut and offer cooking recommendations.

What state has the best quality meat?

The states that have the best USDA prime beef are Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas. These states are known for their high-quality beef production due to favorable conditions for raising cattle, such as abundant grazing grass and a suitable climate for growing feed crops.

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