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 »
An infographic highlighting facts and figures about Fall harvests and Halloween trends. Click to see a larger version.
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. 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 »
A young boy smiles over a bowl of freshly washed apricots. Select apricots that are plump with golden orange color, but avoid ones that are pale yellow, greenish-yellow, shriveled or bruised.
As the cold, drab winter gives way to warmer temperatures and the crisp colors of spring, our longing for stews and other comfort foods ebbs, making way for some warm-weather favorites. Picnics, hiking and other outdoor activities heighten the appeal of lighter, fresh salad greens, fruits, and vegetables. From strawberries to broccoli, apricots to artichokes—we offer a few tips to help you pick the best of the season’s offerings. Read more »
Consumers and industry look for the USDA grade shields as trusted symbols of wholesome, high-quality American beef. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the agency responsible for grading, continues to explore ways to more efficiently conduct business. Most recently, we used beef instrumentation grading technology to initiate an audit-based Beef Grading Pilot Program at a facility in Toppenish, Washington in August 2012.
Although beef instrumentation grading technology has been in use for several years, it has not reduced the number of graders required at each grading facility until now. By working with the Meat Graders’ Union, we were able to come to an agreement to pilot a program that would have beef industry employees trained to interpret and apply the Official USDA Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef under the oversight of a USDA meat grader. Read more »