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Beef Up Your Knowledge: Meat Marbling 101

Grilling season is upon us.  It’s time to enjoy that wonderful smell of meat cooking across neighborhood backyards. With so many choices available at your store and meat counter, choosing the best cut of meat for your dish can be overwhelming. With a bit of beef knowledge, you can avoid that problem, and be the king or queen of the barbeque.

We’ve covered the basics of USDA beef grades, explaining the difference between USDA Prime, Choice or Select. This time around, we’re going to look at the marbling – or fine threads of fat – within different grades of meat.  Marbling is what gives beef its flavor, juiciness and tenderness.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) employs 200 highly-skilled beef graders who, sometimes with the help of electronic monitoring, evaluate several factors that determine the grade, including the amount and distribution of marbling.

A Carton of Eggs - A True Baker's Dozen

 

The holiday season is a busy time of year for bakers and chefs.  From egg nog and cookie exchanges to fruit cakes and meringue pies, increased baking and gift-giving means you’ll need to know just what to look for when you buy one of your key ingredients…eggs. When shopping for eggs, consumers should look for the USDA Grade shield, for the ultimate assurance of quality.  For best results for pastries and baked goods, pay attention to the freshness of your eggs.

USDA grading of shell eggs is a voluntary service paid for by shell egg producers.  Eggs sold to consumers must be labeled with a grade.  Eggs that are not labeled with a USDA Grade Shield have not been officially graded by USDA standards.  Only eggs meeting strict USDA standards are allowed to be marketed with the USDA Grade Shield on the package.  Egg packers who do not use the USDA grading service may put terms such as “Grade AA” or “Grade A” on their cartons, but they may not use the USDA Grade Shield.

Thanksgiving - Brought to You by the American Farmer

Thanksgiving is a time when Americans come together to celebrate a holiday that connects each and every one of us. During this truly American holiday, we all give thanks for the previous year’s blessings and look ahead to the future. While we may bring our own traditions and flavors to the table, Thanksgiving is a time for all of us to celebrate our country’s rich history.

It has always been a special holiday to me, but this past year I developed an even greater appreciation for all that goes in to producing the Thanksgiving meal. As Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I spent the last six months visiting with American farmers and learning about their businesses. In my conversations with American farmers and ranchers, I am always impressed by their work ethic, ingenuity, and dedication to making sure their customers get the best products. It’s no wonder that our nation's farmers were responsible for producing nearly 7.5 trillion pounds of turkey in 2012—nearly half the world’s supply!—and are leaders when it comes to many other foods regularly featured in Thanksgiving meals.  In 2012, American farmers also produced 3.1 billion pounds of sweet corn and nearly 2.7 billion pounds of sweet potatoes.

Makeover Your Holiday Meals with MyPlate! - Week 2

The MyPlate Team continues to share “Makeover Monday” recipes each week on the USDA blog and the MyPlate Facebook page through January 6th.

This recipe was originally created for another festive day.  But everyone loved “green-mash” potatoes so much that this family favorite became part of our Thanksgiving Feast.

Since my family has an Irish ancestry, we first started making this Green-Mash Potatoes Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day.  Green peas add a slightly sweet flavor, and the garlic and pepper gives it some zip.  The white pepper is optional, especially if serving to little kids.  A sprinkle of Kosher salt on top brings out the flavors, yet the sodium is much lower than traditional mashed potatoes.  And also, kids think the chartreuse-green color is fun!

Make Small Changes for a Healthy Holiday - Makeover Your Holiday Plate with MyPlate

We all cherish time-honored holiday traditions; yet want to make healthier choices when celebrating the holiday season. Simple swaps or ingredient substitutions are a great way to revamp classic favorites - making them healthier without sacrificing the memories.

The MyPlate Holiday Makeover infographic provides ideas to help you make great choices. From baking to seasoning, this new resource can show you an easier way to make your meals healthier. Choose recipes that include unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter. Boost the flavor of foods with spices and herbs such as cinnamon, cumin, or thyme and cut back the sugar and salt. Brighten up your meals with fruits and vegetables and go easy on the sauces, gravies, and cream.

Makeover Your Holiday Meals with MyPlate! - Week 1

The holiday season has finally arrived! It’s time to find your favorite family recipes and start cooking! While many of our favorite dishes help us to remember and celebrate special times, choosing healthier options can be a challenge. Let MyPlate help you find solutions with “MyPlate Holiday Makeovers.” During our eight-week series, you’ll find ways to celebrate the season with great new resources such as recipes, a new infographic, and tips for preparing your holiday feast.

Let's Get Visual - a Peek Behind the Scenes of Our Infographics

 

Buying and selling, supply and demand, wholesale and retail—the market and all of the economic factors surrounding it are complex things to track and understand.  From the smallest farmer to the largest grocery store chain in the nation, all of American agriculture depends on the trends and prices within the marketplace.

At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), we know the value of information and data.  For almost 100 years we’ve tracked pricing and market trend information in our USDA Market News reports, and now we’ve formed the Agricultural Analytics Division (AAD) to help further meet the informational and statistical needs of farmers and businesses across the country.

The AAD provides a wide range of econometric, statistical, and analytical expertise and services. From production numbers to prices and market trends, to international trade activities and environmental impact—they track it all.

Reapers and Creepers Give Rave Reviews for Fall Harvest and Halloween Stats!

Whether its an abundance of fresh farm crops at the local grocery store, farmers market or fall festival, the fruits (and vegetables) of the growing season are all around us. About 158 million Americans will get into the Halloween spirit this year, spending an estimated $7 billion to celebrate Halloween.

Just over 44 percent will carve pumpkins for the holiday, but that won’t be the only starring role the big orange squash will play this season. To meet the demand for all things pumpkin, U. S. farmers produced more than one billion pounds of pumpkins last year. That’s a lot of pumpkin pies, flavored coffee drinks and Jack-O-Lanterns.

While less than half of American adults will dress up in costumes, 13.8 percent plan to dress up their pets.

The International Influences of Cinco de Mayo Favorites

Cinco de Mayo is more than a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.  With its American roots planted during the Civil War, the fifth of May is also a celebration of freedom and victory over odds.  Over the years the holiday has become more mainstream, with celebrations that bring together music, art and cuisine shaped by the rich culture and international influences of Mexico and Latin America.