6 Best And 6 Worst Grocery Stores To Buy Meat

Grocery shopping can occasionally be overwhelming, especially regarding the meat department. Supermarkets today offer an incredible variety of fresh, frozen, and prepared meats. With so many options and different stores, it can feel grueling sometimes to decide where to shop and get through your grocery list. With all the mixed reviews and resources on the web and on social media, we wanted to set the record straight on what to expect from your favorite supermarkets and their meat departments. 

Multiple factors go into choosing the right place to shop for meat, including convenience, price, quality, and taste. So many stores sell overlapping brands that cost and convenience heavily influence the deciding factor. It's essential to read the labels and the stores' quality promises on their websites in addition to checking their reviews before making any purchasing decisions. Reviews and posts on social media can also aid in picking out the best products for your specific meal and needs.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry. We researched all the top grocery store chains and their meat products to provide the information you need to shop more efficiently during your next trip to the meat department. Here are the six best and six worst grocery stores to buy meat. Our rankings may surprise you. 

Worst: Target

Kicking off our list, one of the worst places to buy meat is our favorite superstore, Target. While this store draws us in for items like home decor, hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and snacks, meat should be low on your list here. The retailer first opened its doors in the 1960s but didn't roll out its grocery section until 1995 (via Nasdaq). It took years for most locations to offer a full "superstore" format that includes all the groceries, like meat and produce, that you would find in your local supermarket.

According to Showbiz Cheat Sheet, Target does not specialize in meat. It doesn't have the expert butchers like many other stores, so stick to other grocery stores if you want high-quality products. "Especially in the meat and produce department, you're just not going to find the freshest selection," Showbiz Cheat Sheet writes. In addition, the deals will likely be better at grocery stores that have a separate meat counter.

While the quality and price are less optimal than other stores, Target does set expectations with suppliers to follow or exceed its standards for meat and poultry. These standards include but are not limited to adhering to national guidelines from organizations like National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation. We appreciate Target's step toward food animal welfare but will likely choose to buy our meat products elsewhere.

Best: Wegmans

One of the best grocery stores to buy meat is one of our favorite food markets, Wegmans. The East Coast-based grocery chain offers all the central departments you expect in your grocer, with the addition of an extensive prepared foods department. This store is for you if you want to buy pre-made meals that include meat. Some of these offerings include meals like homestyle meatloaf, pulled pork, parmesan chicken, and roasted turkey. 

The incredible variety Wegmans offers makes it a crowd favorite among meat lovers. One Reddit user shared Wegmans offers "some of the best choice ribeyes." Reviews like this make us want to race to Wegmans to try these meats immediately. Another Reddit fan shared that "Wegmans prime is better marbled" than Wagyu from other stores. Marbling on beef improves the quality and flavor, according to Stanbroke Steak School. This fat makes the meat easier to eat, so don't sleep on this meat when you see it at Wegmans.

If you live in proximity to a Wegmans store, consider yourself extremely lucky. Some refer to the chain as the "grocery store of champions," and that's not a title we share lightly. Wegmans provides incredible variety, comparable prices, and high-quality meats that will leave your dinner party guests in awe.

Worst: Trader Joe's

Next on our list is a crowd favorite for snacks, pre-packaged meals, and seasonal offerings, but less popular in the meat department. Think crackers, frozen meals, and all the peppermint you can imagine during the holidays or pumpkin spice in the fall. Trader Joe's also focuses heavily on customer service, making patrons feel at home in these stores to ensure they want to return. It's no secret Trader Joe's overstaffs its establishments to ensure employees can properly engage and interact with customers.

This store does an excellent job with marketing and packaging, causing consumers to over-purchase attractive packages they might not need. When it comes to specialty meat products, shoppers may go overboard and spend more than they would at a traditional larger grocery store. Budget shopping expert Laura Greutman told CNBC that Trader Joe's meats sometimes contain less in each package and cost more than what other stores offer, especially chicken. You can sometimes find a package of chicken selling for a dollar or two less per pound at stores like Walmart and Costco. In a post about shopping for meat at Trader Joe's, one Reddit commenter said, "I honestly don't buy fresh meat at TJs because it's not my 'meat' store ...  way too many bad experiences with stuff rotting." 

While we love grabbing holiday snacks and other specialty products from Trader Joe's, we'll likely skip the meat department on our next visit and opt for one of the large grocery stores.

Best: Sprouts

This grocery store draws inspiration from farmers' markets, healthy choices, and organic grocery options. If you're looking for one of the best grocery stores for meat, look no further than Sprouts. Sprouts Farmers Market prides itself on offering a variety of better-for-you items that you can't find at any superstore.

According to Price of Meat, Sprouts offers the best selection of meat, especially beef. "Their beef is always fresh, and they never freeze it. It's rated USDA Choice, which means you know it will be juicy and flavorful," according to Price of Meat. The beef at Sprouts is 100% grass-fed so you can guarantee flavorful and high-quality meat. The company's commitment to high-quality sourcing and animal welfare proves how incredible the meat department is at Sprouts.

In addition to packaged meats, the butcher department at Sprouts offers some of the freshest foods with trained butchers who can cut meat and craft artisan sandwiches for customers. The deli sandwiches from Sprouts also taste better than many popular sandwich shops. While not all products at Sprouts are cheap, you get what you pay for with the quality. The stores often run sales, so keep an eye out for deals on high-quality meat products.

Worst: Whole Foods

Whole Foods didn't get its reputation for being expensive for no reason. Over the years, someone coined the phrase "whole paycheck" to make fun of the healthy food store's prices while one Insider comparison from 2016 found the chain to be more costly than other stores. After its 2017 merger with Amazon, some prices decreased, especially for Amazon members, but when it comes to meat, are you getting the best bang for your buck? We dove in to see if the higher priced health food store's products are worth the hype and cost. 

Bloomberg reported that the chicken from Whole Foods might not be as elite as consumers once thought. Whole Foods 365 brand creates the idea that meats, especially chickens, are treated with better care and are an exclusive product you can't buy elsewhere. But researchers have discovered that some other stores sell the same chickens under different brand names for less money.

Business Insider also noted Whole Foods charged the most significant premium in its meat department, and some prices may be more than 40% higher than other stores. Though Whole Foods prices have become more competitive in recent years, notes Business Insider, you should consider shop at other stores before overspending at Whole Foods.

Best: Publix

Southerners, rejoice! This next grocery store offers excellent meat options. Publix focuses on incredible customer service, community involvement, and high-quality product offerings. Unlike Sprouts and Whole Foods, Publix offers more affordable options so you can save money without compromising quality when it comes to your meat purchases, per Price of Meat. Publix meat department also offers incredible variety with ground beef, cuts of pork, group-raised veal, thick steaks, chickens, racks of lamb, turkeys, and more.

One Reddit user notes Publix's steaks are never frozen, and trained individuals cut the meats in-house to ensure proper cuts. Other major grocery stores do not use this same type of quality control, they said. This user adds that the beef grade is higher at Publix than at Kroger or Walmart. Again, you get what you pay for at this store.

Price of Meat highlights Publix as an excellent option for someone looking for healthy, quality, and affordable meat. Publix's only downside is its location. The company's website says it has more than 1,300 stores, but they are concentrated in seven states in the Southeast. Next time we visit that region and need a high-quality cut of meat, we'll stop by Publix.

Worst: Walmart

Walmart's motto – "save money, live better" — tells us everything we need to know about the price, but does the quality stack up? When we think of purchasing meat, we want to spend within our budget but will pay higher costs when necessary to ensure a high-quality cut. While Walmart offers the discounts, we came to learn the deals in the meat department generally didn't meet the expectations of shoppers. 

Go Banking Rates reported on Walmart's best and worst deals, and its meat landed among the "worst deals" category. The publication suggests you can find better prices and choices at other stores or even a farmer's market. Consumer Reports adds that Walmart remains one of the most complained about grocers, primarily due to its "lack of variety and the quality of the meat and poultry." 

Admittedly, we don't race to Walmart when we need a high-quality cut of meat. It's disappointing to know you can't count on the meat and poultry from the same store where you buy packaged goods, clothes, toys, or electronics. If you like shopping at Walmart, we suggest sticking to the categories that will offer you the best deals, and head somewhere else to buy your meat for your next meal. 

Best: Costco

Costco delivers in every category: electronics, furniture, bulk food packages, and more. It's no secret why so many people pay for the superstore's yearly membership. Costco's reputation for bulk food and low prices makes it one of the best places to shop, especially if you have a large family or are planning a big event. Over the years, Costco built a name for itself, and people flock to its warehouses to get the best quality and deals on products like meat in bulk. 

YouTuber and Costco reviewer FlavCity with Bobby Parrish raves that consumers should shop at Costco because it sells USDA Prime Beef. This label means your meat will have more marble, thus more fat and more flavor. The affordable prices on these cuts make Costco a go-to for meats. They also offer a variety of organic ground beef, so if non-GMO feed is crucial to you, Costco strikes again. Several Reddit users back up the claims that Costco offers higher-quality meat cuts and that many items cost less than what they find at local supermarkets. Better quality for a lower price sounds like the perfect excuse to shop at Costco more.

One of Costco's best deals is the $4.99 rotisserie chickens that provide a quick and easy meal for a family or a few days of meals for someone single. If you don't want the whole chicken, you can also ask for a half or a quarter instead. It's hard to beat this delicious deal.

Worst: Aldi

The ranking for the next grocery store on our list may surprise you, as the German-founded chain often receives glowing reviews for its low prices on award-winning products. While fans of Aldi rave about the store's low prices, we don't recommend buying your meat and produce here if you can help it. Several shoppers on Reddit say they avoid the meat section, with one Aldi shopper saying, "I skip their meat. The quality doesn't seem very good and their prices are higher than what I can usually find." Farmer's markets and local supermarkets tend to provide the best quality meat and produce, even if the rates run slightly higher. 

Carnivore Style reported mixed results when shopping for meat at Aldi, with the reviewer saying, "Unfortunately, when it comes to meats you should avoid, there are quite a few. It's important to remember when saving money on your grocery bill, not everything will be up to expectations, especially if you're used to a butchers' cut."

Although Aldi offers somewhat good deals on meat, the big chains will often get you a better deal and likely better quality. When shopping at Aldi we'll opt instead for some of its specialties like gluten-free products, organic foods, and dairy. 

Best: Stater Bros

This grocery store's state-certified meat cutters prepare fresh cuts guaranteed to satisfy. Stater Bros. Markets also provides seasoning, custom cuts, meat tenderizing, and grinding for no additional charge. The quality meat and customer service offered by Stater Bros. make it one of our best grocery stores to buy meat. Stater Bros. finished ninth on Consumer Reports' 2017 survey on the best places to grocery shop, according to The Press-Enterprise. The report raved about Stater Bros. staff, competitive prices, and the quality of meat and poultry. 

When asked on Reddit about Stater Bros. meats, one consumer commented that they always buy ribeye there. The deals are notable, and you receive a good cut of meat, they said, adding, "some Stater's butchers actually will cut you a steak to your preferred thickness if you ask nicely." We appreciate a store that takes special requests and makes consumers truly feel special. It's the little things that make a big difference in the shopping experience. 

Stater Bros. scored highly on our rankings because of its reasonable prices and excellent quality reviews. The only drawback is that the company's more than 170 stores can be found only in southern California, per Stater Bros. If you're in a neighborhood near a Stater Bros., don't hesitate to do your grocery shopping here, especially for a delicious cut of meat. 

Worst: Safeway

Next, on the worst end of grocery stores to buy meat is the popular grocery chain Safeway. We noticed a lot of mixed reviews when researching Safeway's meat department offerings and prices. Safeway as a whole sells a variety of delicious products, packaged and whole foods. 

According to Consumers' Checkbook, which looked at grocery stores offering the best quality products and prices, Safeway was among many other chains that rated low for the quality of fresh produce and meats. If we're buying meat, quality is a huge factor. Reddit users agreed, noting they needed help knowing when deals are running at the supermarket.

If you do the rest of your shopping at Safeway and can find out when they run sales, it could be worth checking out solely for the price reduction. Often, scoring a deal doesn't mean you can assure high-quality products, especially when buying a good cut of meat. For this reason, many stores that charge more, like Sprouts, offer higher quality products at that price point.

Best: Sam's Club

Last but not least, Sam's Club ranks as one of our best grocery stores to buy meat. The member-only club makes shopping easy and reduces costs by creating a simple shopping environment. Its prices and quality of goods make it one of our favorite stores to buy groceries, especially meats. 

Many look at Sam's Club along with rival warehouse store Costco. Insider reports the two are fairly comparable, with Sam's Club having lower prices on chicken but somewhat higher prices on ground beef. And like Costco, Sam's Club also offers $5 rotisserie chickens, Insider reports. We recommend visiting whichever location is more convenient to you as both offer great deals and high-quality meat. YouTuber FlavCity with Bobby Parrish shared his suggestions on what to buy in the meat department at Sam's Club. "There's a lot of good pickers here, especially when it comes to beef," he said, highlighting its 100% grass-fed organic ground beef. It's one of his favorites and a difficult product to find at any grocery store, he said.

One Reddit user passionately posted that Sam's Club has a great meat department, including a prime brisket similar in price to choice. If you're looking for prime brisket or any other type of meat, head to Sam's Club where you won't be disappointed.