8 Grocery Chains With the Best Meat Departments
With all of the discourse in recent years about plant-based foods, you may think that Americans might soon give up meat for good. Well, think again: 89% of Americans are meat eaters, and two-thirds see eating red meat specifically as a part of the American lifestyle, according to Ipsos.
In fact, meat consumption is actually on the rise, according to a University of Illinois study, which found that the per capita consumption of meats in the U.S. increased steadily every year from 2015 to 2019, reaching a whopping 264 pounds per person in 2020.
As meat remains a central part of most Americans' diets, the demand for top-quality meat departments at your local grocery store is as relevant as ever. Whether you are picking up your usual groceries for the week ahead or you are preparing a large cookout or barbecue, the meat counter is often an important stop. While pre-packaged meats can work in a pinch, many shoppers truly value butcher departments that offer the freshest, highest-quality meats that contain zero added ingredients, preservatives, or hormones.
If you want to feel confident that you are picking up the best slice of meat that money can buy, then you should prioritize the following grocery chains if you have them in your area.
Whole Foods' business model revolves around providing its customers with high-quality grocery products that are free of any artificial ingredients or preservatives. This practice is reflected in its meat department, which boasts a selection of "Animal Welfare Certified local, organic and grass-fed choice." Not only are Whole Foods' meat selections organic, but they also vary from the usual suspects like organic chicken, pork, and various cuts of beef to the more unique items like fresh cuts of lamb, as well as chicken liver and chicken feet. And while you will likely end up paying more for your meat at Whole Foods (unless you know how to save), the quality of what you are using your "Whole Paycheck" to buy is certainly among the best.
If you are searching for high-quality meat, look no further than your local Costco warehouse. Members can shop for a wide selection of both fresh meats (in bulk quantities, of course) as well as pre-packaged options for your next meal. You may find better prices at other competitors like Sam's Club, but Costco's meats are "generally regarded as fresher," according to The Grocery Store Guy. One Redditor noted, "We buy a bunch of our meat at Costco. Their prime whole ribeye is reasonably priced….but the quality is so much better than our grocery store advertised prime." Need more proof that Costco's meat department is top tier? Just ask celebrity chef David Chang who raved about the club's prime meats on a recent podcast. Chang specifically mentioned buying a brisket for just $49: "If you bought that at Whole Foods, it would be 150 bucks."
If you live in the Northeast, then you probably are not too far from a Wegmans. The meat department at this beloved family-owned chain sells a variety of fresh cuts of meat, including game like bison and duck. One Redditor especially liked how Wegmans offers higher-quality cuts of meat like Japan's prized wagyu: "It ain't cheap… But not sure I can get that cut of wagyu locally…anywhere else."
The motto at Sprouts is that "keeping food as close to nature as possible tastes best." That's why the Phoenix-based chain proudly sells wholesome meats like 100% grass-fed beef from Grass Run Farms. But the true hallmark of Sprouts' butcher shop is its sheer volume of options. Shoppers can select from a number of fresh meats like grass-fed lamb and all-natural poultry and pork, as well as prepared meats such as kabobs and burgers. One Redditor emphasized that "if you like thick cut bacon they have the best."
You may know and love Publix for its signature Pub Subs, but you can also shop for a variety of fresh meats at the southern U.S. supermarket chain. Publix offers a GreenWise lineup of meats, which contain "no antibiotics or added hormones" from animals that are "fed a 100% vegetarian diet." In a promotional video, the supermarket chain described its typical meat counter staffer as a "maestro" who will customize any cut to your liking, as well as offer recipes and other tips to boot.
Stater Bros. has been serving up quality meats throughout Southern California since 1936. According to its website, Stater Bros. offers fresh cuts of meat as well as vacuum-marinated meats in a variety of different flavors and seasonings. Its state-certified meat cutters go through a two-year training program in order to offer top-tier customer service, and that makes a noticeable difference. One Redditor gushed that "Stater Bros has been known for years to have the best meat department of all the major grocery stores."
Just like Costco, Sam's Club locations have fresh meat departments where its members can buy premium products in bulk. Whether you are stocking up for the month or you are preparing for a large gathering, you can find an assortment of meats like pork tenderloin, chuck roast, spare ribs, and more. And if saving on your next grocery run is a priority, it is worth noting that Sam's Club appears to have better prices than Costco, according to The Grocery Store Guy.
When it comes to a wide variety of products at low prices, customers turn to Aldi time and time again. That brand loyalty extends to Aldi's meat department, which consistently delivers on value. One Redditor shared, "I buy all of my meat at Aldi and think it's very good," while another Redditor admitted that they were once a "meat-snob" and weary of purchasing meat from Aldi at first, but "grabbed a beautifully marbled ribeye" and thought it was "fantastic and reasonably priced."