What do the various Food Grades Mean? | USDA
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  Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
  Q. What do the various Food Grades Mean?


Grading is based on standards, and standards are based on measurable attributes that describe the value and utility of the product. Beef quality standards, for instance are based on attributes such as marbling (the amount of fat interspersed with lean meat) color, firmness, texture, and age of the animal, for each grade. In turn, these factors are a good indication of tenderness, juiciness, flavor of the meat, and all characteristics important to consumers. Prime, choice and select are all grades familiar to consumers of beef. Standards for each product describe the entire range of quality for a product,and the number of grades varies by commodity. There are eight grades for beef, three each for chickens, eggs and turkeys. On the other hand, there are 45 grades for cotton, 32 grade standards and specifications for dairy products, and more than 312 fruit, vegetable, and speciality product standards.