Only beef that is USDA inspected, and graded, can carry the USDA shield of authenticity. Grading determines the quality rating of beef, and is determined by carcass maturity, firmness, texture, color of lean (muscle), and the amount and distribution of marbling (fat) within the lean.

Beef carcass quality grading is based on (1) degree of marbling and (2) degree of maturity.