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Posts tagged: grading

Does Your Smoked Brisket Make the Grade?

Cooked brisket

Official USDA quality grade labels provide assurance that your beef cuts meet specific quality thresholds that are individually assessed by a select staff of just over 140 skilled and highly trained USDA beef graders.

I live for barbeque season. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of getting that meat done just right, and nothing like the gratification that comes with sharing it with friends and family gathered on a sunny summer’s day.

When it comes to successful barbeque, I have a bit more skin in the game than most.  You see, for me a quality eating experience at a family or community function isn’t just a personal goal – it’s a professional calling.  My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is committed to helping meat and poultry producers market their high quality products to consumers across the nation (and the world), and quality is the name of our game. Read more »

A Momentous Change is Underway in the Egg Case

Hens outside

Less than 30 million of the over 300 million hens that lay our nation’s eggs are raised in cage free systems. AMS is committed to working with the U.S. egg industry to facilitate their efforts to address this challenge.

Have you been to a supermarket to buy a carton of eggs lately?  If so, you may have found an array of food marketing claims on the packages.  All natural, organic, cage-free, pasture-raised, free range, non-GMO, raised without antibiotics, Omega-3 enriched and vegetarian-fed diet are just a small sample of the many claims consumers might see in the egg case. The modern food shopper is inundated by choice.

From its inception, the role of AMS has been to facilitate an efficient, fair, and competitive marketing system to benefit producers and consumers.  One of the ways AMS accomplishes this is by establishing and applying grade standards to different agricultural products. Terms such as “Grade A” and “Large” have become a trusted part of the American egg vocabulary, helping both farmers and consumers with descriptive labels. Other marketing terms that now appear on egg cartons have evolved to reflect consumers’ demand to understand things like where the eggs come from, how chickens were raised and who raised them. Read more »

Supporting U.S. Egg Exports – All in a Day’s Work for a USDA Egg Grader

AMS grader Terri Hummel and Jeff Schwieterman, Weaver Brothers' plant manager

“The USDA and Weaver Brothers have worked together for many years. This service opens up markets to us, both domestically and internationally,” said Jeff Schwieterman, Weaver Brothers' plant manager. “Having a qualified grader, like Terri, ensures that the eggs we ship out will meet our customers’ specifications.” Pictured here is AMS grader Terri Hummel and Jeff Schwieterman.

I’ve had many jobs in my life, but none as challenging or rewarding as my career as a shell egg grader.  With a cumulative 22 years grading eggs in Ohio, I’ve witnessed first-hand the evolution of an industry.  I have also watched my agency – USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – adapt right alongside the industry, maintaining valuable, unbiased grading and certification services that support marketing opportunities for American agriculture in a global marketplace.

Last year, shell egg graders with the AMS Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program’s Quality Assessment Division (QAD) assisted the U.S. egg industry in exporting over 99.5 million dozen shell eggs to customers as far away as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and as near as Canada, Mexico, Central America, and Puerto Rico. Read more »

A Huge Undertaking with Tremendous Benefit – USDA’s Integral Role in the National Beef Quality Audit

Chad Nelson with the University of Nebraska team

Chad Nelson takes a break from an audit with the University of Nebraska team. Pictured left to right: Kolin Scheele, Dr. Ty Schmidt, Chad Nelson, Laura Gorecki and Joe Buntyn.

About once every five years since 1991, the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) brings together producers, consumers, academia, and government in a collaborative research and data collection exercise that spans the entire U.S. beef industry.  Funded by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (the beef checkoff program), the NBQA assesses the current status of the industry regarding production processes and practices that ultimately affect consumer demand for beef.

The audit uses a multi-phase approach to identify the top challenges the fed-beef (cattle raised for meat production) industry faces.  The NBQA first gathers data to measure current quality and consistency of U.S fed-beef, and then quantifies the level to which cattle producers are applying common sense husbandry techniques, specifically the Beef Quality Assurance principles, to safeguard that quality.  The results are translated into practical guidance for continued improvement in the production of fed-beef and, in turn, consumers’ acceptance of the end products found in stores. Read more »

Safeguarding Consumers from Olive Oil Fraud

USDA Quality Monitored Seal

Olive oil producers, bottlers and consumers can be assured that olive oils with labels bearing the USDA’s Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) seal are pure and authentic.

Olive oil is a staple in many American kitchens. But, this popular product has also been the focus of concerned consumers who want to understand and trust the quality of the oil they buy.

To help the entire industry—olive oil producers, bottlers and consumers—ensure that products are pure and authentic, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides the Quality Monitoring Program (QMP). Read more »

Egg-ucating the Chefs of Tomorrow

AMS’ Mark Perigen with a chef

AMS’ Mark Perigen observes as a future chef at Delta College’s Culinary School puts his egg quality knowledge to the test.

When embarking on their culinary careers, great chefs recognize that the key to creating delicious food is staying true to their ingredients.  At the heart of these truths is, “Good in; good out.”  If they put the best ingredients into cooking, they’ll get the best food out of them.  But with so many product and ingredient choices at their fingertips, how can they be sure they’re picking the best quality ingredients available?

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) takes the guesswork out of that process by developing, maintaining and interpreting specific measurements of quality through U.S. standards and grades for a wide variety of agricultural products.  AMS also offers voluntary services to producers and suppliers to certify products to those standards. Read more »