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Shopping Online? Look for the USDA Grade Shield

Posted by Jennifer Porter, Deputy Administrator, AMS Livestock and Poultry Program in Food and Nutrition
Aug 18, 2020
A person shopping
Consumers can look for USDA shields on groceries they buy online.

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.

USDA Prime logo
USDA Prime logo.

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.

USDA Choice logo
USDA Choice logo.

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.

USDA A Grade logo
USDA A Grade logo.

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.

USDA AA Grade logo
USDA AA Grade logo.

To learn more about USDA’s voluntary grading programs, visit the Agricultural Marketing Service’s website at

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition