An infographic illustrating beef marbling. Selecting the right USDA grade of beef for your dish will help guarantee culinary success. Click to see a larger version.
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. Read more »
Get the Scoop on Eggs: a guide to USDA egg grades, labels, and common terms. Click to see a larger version.
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. Read more »
A guide to USDA poultry grades, labeling terms and cooking tips. Click to view a larger version.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it is the perfect time to learn more about the quality grade standards for poultry products and the “Grade A” shield you might find on the label of your family’s main dish. Most consumers are familiar with the USDA beef grades – Prime, Choice and Select. But did you know USDA has similar grade standards for Poultry products?
The USDA grade shields are reputable symbols of quality American poultry products. Large-volume buyers such as grocery stores, military institutions, restaurants, and even foreign governments use the quality grades as a common “language” within the poultry industry, making business transactions easier. Read more »
The curly tips of the fiddlehead fern can be found in early spring before they open to reveal a full taste akin to asparagus. U.S. Forest Service photo.
Elizabeth Nelson tasted then added more spice to a soup made with fiddlehead ferns, those curly leaves of a young fern that resemble the scrolled neck of a superbly crafted violin.
Although Nelson has made the soup hundreds of times before, her culinary prowess this day is being documented for a project called Mino Wiisinidaa!, or Let’s Eat Good! – Traditional Foods for Healthy Living.
“When we were kids, my mom would send us all out with a bucket. And she said, ‘Don’t you kids come back until that bucket is filled,’ ” said Nelson, a member of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians Reservation in Northwest Wisconsin. “And we would go and fill them with cow slips and fiddlehead ferns. And that was our supper for the night. That was how we lived.” Read more »
USDA worked with academia and industry over the past several years to develop a system to determine beef tenderness, using an objective scale to ensure that cuts with the new label consistently meet consumer expectations.
Tenderness is one of the most significant factors affecting the overall consumer acceptance of beef cuts. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Beef Quality Grading program is a useful tool in predicting overall consumer acceptance of beef, other factors besides those assessed by the USDA Quality Grading System affect beef tenderness. In other words, beef that may not grade to the highest USDA Quality Grade (USDA Select or Choice vs. USDA Prime) may in fact be rated just as tender by consumers. Similarly, certain cuts of beef, no matter how high their USDA Quality Grade, may not be as tender for some consumers.
To address these issues and provide consumers with a more useful purchasing tool, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) worked with academia and industry to develop an accurate system to determine when consumers perceive beef cuts to be either tender or very tender. Based on an objective scale, the system ensures that specific beef cuts consistently meet these established thresholds. Thanks to the collaborative efforts between AMS and these groups, approved beef processors can now market products as USDA-Certified Tender or Very Tender through product labeling, advertisements, and promotions. Read more »
Infographic (click to see larger version) outlining the differences between USDA’s beef grades.
The USDA grade shields are highly regarded as symbols of safe, high-quality American beef. Quality grades are widely used as a “language” within the beef industry, making business transactions easier and providing a vital link to support rural America. Consumers, as well as those involved in the marketing of agricultural products, benefit from the greater efficiency permitted by the availability and application of grade standards. Read more »