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USDA Meat, Poultry and Egg Quality Grades Can Help Guide Your Summer Menu Choices

Posted by Jennifer Porter, Deputy Administrator, AMS Livestock and Poultry Program in Health and Safety
Jun 08, 2023
Grilled meats

As the warm weather approaches, so do days spent outside firing up the grill with friends and family. The month of May kicked off grilling season and whether you are shopping in the grocery store, or doing an online pickup order, there is one easy way to be assured that you’re getting what you paid for: the USDA grade shield. The USDA shield is a symbol of quality and assures consumers that the products they buy have met rigorous quality standards applied by highly skilled USDA graders.

Thinking about grilling a big juicy ribeye for the grill? Be sure to look for USDA Prime and USDA Choice grade shields! These USDA quality designations symbolize that these products possess specific characteristics, like marbling and age, that will ensure a positive eating experience. Those two things are scientifically proven to consistently translate into improved flavor, texture, tenderness, and overall eating pleasure. Can’t decide between Prime, Choice, or Select? Check out our What’s Your Beef guide to help you decide which USDA graded meats to buy.

As for poultry, the USDA Grade A shield represents that the chicken or turkey is free from defects like bruises, cartilage, tendons, broken bones, and feathers. The USDA Grade A shield also ensures that the birds have good bone structure and parts are properly cut. 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.

When buying eggs for egg salad, deviled eggs, or to make your favorite dessert, look for USDA Grade AA or Grade A eggs. 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 no internal and external defects. Before you add eggs to your cart, check USDA’s Get the Scoop on Eggs guide for some helpful tips.

Follow these easy tips for purchasing quality products and you’ll have a happy grilling season!

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

Category/Topic: Health and Safety