Become a Master of Beef Nutritional Terms and Claims

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Have you ever felt overwhelmed when shopping for a cut of steak? With all the different options available; lean, extra lean, organic, wagyu, grass or grain fed; it’s little wonder that you feel like you have to be a master ‘steakologist’ to choose a steak that will be juicy, tender and mouth wateringly delicious.

This guide will help you master beef label terms and nutritional claims. You’ll be able to choose a cut of steak that not only tastes great but is also good for your health.

The missing link in your diet

Three pieces of steak on grill with red flames behind grill

Beef is a rich source of iron and high quality protein. This nutritional powerhouse is jam-packed with zinc, vitamins and minerals, including B12, B6 and omega-3. It’s called a ‘complete’ protein source as it contains all essential amino acids. If your workout goal is to build muscle, then you need to add beef to your fork. The Australian Healthy Eating Guidelines recommends 3-4 serves (100g) of lean red meat every week. The perfect portion of beef is the size of your palm. If you are testing this, make sure your steak isn’t sizzling hot.

Lean vs regular beef

With all these nutritional benefits, you may question the value of spending a little extra to buy lean or extra lean cuts of beef. You can trim fat off regular meat and make it a healthier option. Otherwise, you can choose a lean or extra-lean cuts which have the fat trimmed off the meat. Trimmed beef contains an average 5.3g fat and 1.8g saturated fat per 100g.

Lean beef
Buy: Sirloin top side steak, top round steak, eye of round steak and bottom round steak.

Regular beef
Avoid: Flap steak, filet mignon, porterhouse steak, skirt steak, t-bone steak, rib-eye steak.

Grass vs grain fed: Which is the best?

All cattle are fed grass for the first few years of their life cycle. Grain-fed cattle are fed a grain based, nutritionally balanced feed during their final months. This feed offers a consistent meat – with consistent colour in fat and meat, and may give higher levels of marbling. Grass-fed cattle are raised on land with access to grass. Despite the different feeding methods, the nutritional profile of grass-fed and grain-fed beef is similar, although the longer cattle are fed on grass, the higher their levels of omega-3.

Some people argue that the diet of a grass-fed cattle makes the beef more nutritionally balanced and better tasting.

Organic and certified organic:

The term “organic” does not currently have a legal requirement in Australia, so the definitions of organic can differ depending on the body that has certified the product.

Generally speaking, organic produce is grown and produced using no chemicals or pesticides. All aspects of the supply chain involved in the production of the product, from farm to store shelf, are made with ecological, economic and social sustainability in mind.

Nutritionally, there may be some positive differences including different fatty acid profiles of organic produce due to more natural feeding regimes, and a higher micronutrient content.

In Australia, specifically “Australian Certified Organic” has one of the most tightly regulated accreditation standards, but you will pay significantly more for Certified Organic meat and chicken.

Does it make the grade?

MSA Grade Beef

MSA grade refers to Meat Standards Australia grade. The aim of the MSA grade is to assure consumers that the cut of beef will be the quality that is shown on the label – when cooked by the method shown. This labeling system can help explain differences in prices and help you select beef at the quality that you want.

Tenderness, Juiciness, Flavour and flavour

The MSA grade score is calculated, out of 100, with tenderness 40%, juiciness 10%, flavour 20% and overall taste and liking 30%. Factors such as maturity, colour, firmness and texture effect the quality of the grade and overall flavour of the beef.

Tips for buying steak
• Purchase trimmed lean or extra-lean cuts where possible. The leanest cuts are generally fillet or tenderloin, filet mignon, topside, silverside. Brisket, ribs and sirloin/Porterhouse/New York cuts tend to be fattier cuts.
• Check the texture and firmness; A piece of steak should hold its shape and not feel slimy or gelatinous.
• Marbling (intramuscular fat) is threads of fat that are dispersed through the meat. Marbling increases the flavour and tenderness of the meat, and is a good indicator of the quality of the cut.
• Stay away from brown or grey meat, as it won’t have a pleasant taste when cooked. A vibrant colour is an indication of the freshness of the meat.
• Ensure that pre-packaged meat doesn’t have excess moisture pooled in the bottom of the tray.
• Purchase steak that has a consistent thickness as it will cook evenly.

Want a juicy, tender and delicious steak? Book your table at your local Hog’s Breath Cafe today!