Skip to main content

Get Grilling with USDA Grade A Chicken

Posted by Robert Paschal, USDA Grader, AMS in Health and Safety
Aug 28, 2019
USDA Grade A cuts of chicken on a grill
USDA Grade A cuts of chicken provide consistent quality for various forms of cooking including grilling. Photo credit: Sara Hernandez

With so many choices in the grocery aisle, looking for the USDA Grade A shield on your poultry is an easy way to pick out the chicken with consistent and verified quality.

When it comes to chicken, often it’s what is not there that counts – you don’t want your chicken to have feathers, and you don’t want cuts or tears in the skin. You don’t want bruises and you certainly don’t want broken bones. And that’s just what the USDA Grade A shield ensures: the absence of any defects that get in the way of easy preparation and successful grilling.

These defects, or “quality factors,” are outlined in the U.S. Standards for Grades of Poultry, which the poultry industry uses to group products based on their usability and relative value. The fewer the defects, the higher the USDA Grade!

Let’s look at how different cuts of chicken “make the Grade”:

  • Drums and wings: no pesky little feathers get in the way of these favorite finger foods. And no broken bones are allowed, making USDA Grade A chicken perfectly pick-up-able.
  • Split Breasts and Quarters: when it comes to grilling white meat, locking in moisture is the key to success. That’s why USDA Grade A chicken is free of cuts or tears in the skin which could let the natural juices escape.
  • Thighs and Legs: Nothing gets mouths watering like thighs and legs grilling on an open flame. USDA Grade A chicken is free of bruises or discolorations that would detract from the sizzling beauty of these cookout favorites.

You can also look for the USDA Grade A Shield on whole chicken, boneless chicken breasts, and a variety of other ready-to-cook chicken parts, so you always know you’re buying the best quality products at the market.

To learn more about USDA’s Poultry Grading Service, visit the Agricultural Marketing Service’s website,

Category/Topic: Health and Safety