Whether you are shopping online or in the grocery store, the USDA grade shield on meat, poultry and eggs is a sign that the product meets certain voluntary national quality standards and has been graded by an USDA employee based on those standards.
So, what do quality standards mean? In the case of beef, lamb, and veal, the USDA Prime and USDA Choice grade shields mean these products possess specific characteristics—including age and marbling—that are scientifically proven to consistently translate into improved flavor, texture, and eating pleasure. Use our What’s Your Beef guide to help you decide which USDA graded meats to place in your virtual shopping cart.
When it comes to poultry, the USDA Grade A shield tells you that the chicken or turkey is free from defects like bruises, broken bones, and feathers. When you’re buying poultry online and sight-unseen, this shield can be helpful in comparing products. Our handy Poultry 101 guide shares some tips about selecting quality poultry products, and explains the difference between the USDA grade shield and the USDA mark of inspection. For example, while all meat and poultry must be inspected for food safety, only the highest quality products will earn a USDA grade.
Unlike meat and poultry, almost all egg cartons will have a quality grade. But only eggs that are independently graded by USDA can be advertised as USDA Grade AA or USDA Grade A. Our team of expert USDA graders, working at packing plants nationwide, check eggs for freshness, size and weight, and that they don’t have internal and external defects. Before you click “Add to Cart,” check USDA’s Get the Scoop on Eggs guide for some helpful tips.
To learn more about USDA’s voluntary grading programs, visit the Agricultural Marketing Service’s website at www.ams.usda.gov/services/grading.
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This information was very helpful and easy to understand. Thank you and I will definitely pay more attention when I am shopping and purchasing my food.