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Posts tagged: Standards

Excellence in Taste and Flavor: American Kobe-Style Beef

Highly prized for its rich flavor, Wagyu beef is among the finest beef in the world. USDA’s certification programs have successfully helped the industry market its brands with USDA integrity for over twenty years. Photo courtesy Premshree Pillai. Used with permission.

Highly prized for its rich flavor, Wagyu beef is among the finest beef in the world. USDA’s certification programs have successfully helped the industry market its brands with USDA integrity for over twenty years. Photo courtesy Premshree Pillai. Used with permission.

When consumers hear the term Kobe, the first thought that comes to mind is typically not a city in Japan, but rather a juicy steak right off the grill.  Kobe beef is globally renowned for its rich flavor, juiciness, and tenderness or high marbling content.  Kobe beef is cuts of beef from the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle (which mean Japanese cattle), raised in Kobe, Japan.  But did you know you can find Kobe-style beef produced right here in the United States?

Since 1994, U.S. producers have worked to offer American Kobe-style beef that features the same characteristics, marbling and flavor that defines Japan’s Kobe beef by bringing herds of Kryoshi and Akaushi breeds of Wagyu cattle to the United States.  The same closed herd and multi-trait selection process used for Kobe beef was adopted and is now used by various U.S. trade associations (American Akaushi Association, the American Wagyu Association, and the Texas Wagyu Association) that promote and uphold the industry standards. Highly prized for their rich flavor, these cattle produce what some would argue is among the finest beef in the world. Read more »

USDA Working with Serbian Meat Industry to Facilitate Trade

Through USDA, the United States works with countries across the globe to ensure our Nation’s interests are represented in the international meat industry.

Through USDA, the United States works with countries across the globe to ensure our Nation’s interests are represented in the international meat industry.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has the vital mission helping market American agricultural products competitively in the marketplace.  One way AMS meets this mission is through our globally recognized meat standards.  AMS has participated in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for many years to help develop global agricultural quality standards that facilitate trade – essentially ensuring everyone speaks the same trade language.

Recently, AMS traveled to Serbia to provide technical assistance to the Serbian Government and meat industry.  In cooperation with the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS), AMS has worked with Serbia to help modernize their meat standards and specifications. Read more »

Picking a Winner Part II – More Tips and Insights for Selecting Seasonal Produce

Cantaloupes are a refreshing treat that is always a hit during the summer. When purchasing a cantaloupe, make sure that its rind is light green or turning yellow. Most cantaloupes will need to be kept in the refrigerator before eating. USDA Photo courtesy of Scott Bauer.

Cantaloupes are a refreshing treat that is always a hit during the summer. When purchasing a cantaloupe, make sure that its rind is light green or turning yellow. Most cantaloupes will need to be kept in the refrigerator before eating. USDA Photo courtesy of Scott Bauer.

We all have our own methods and traditions for selecting fresh produce, especially as the weather gets warmer and our stores and markets are full of fresh seasonal offerings. Whether it’s smelling the rind or checking the firmness of the skin, these age-old practices are all designed to help pick the winning ingredients for snacks and meals.  Last spring, we provided tips for buying artichokes, apricots, broccoli, cherries, and strawberries. This time around, we will focus on some other seasonal favorites.

Whether it is part of a fruit salad or eaten by itself, cantaloupe is always a hit during the summer months. When purchasing a cantaloupe, make sure that its rind is light green or turning yellow. Ripe cantaloupes should yield to light pressure and have a sweet aroma. Most cantaloupes need to be kept in the refrigerator for 2-4 days before eating. Some may prefer to eat their cantaloupes at room temperature, while others like theirs after leaving it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Read more »

Beef Up Your Knowledge: Meat Marbling 101

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.

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 »

“USDA Tender” – A Cooperative Effort with the U.S. Beef Industry

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.

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 »

What’s Your Beef – Prime, Choice or Select?

Infographic (click to see larger version) outlining the differences between USDA’s beef grades.

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 »