When beef is voluntarily graded, the official grade may consist of a quality grade, a yield grade or both. The quality grades principally refer to the characteristics of marbling and maturity and are intended to identify differences in the flavor and satisfaction of eating cooked beef. The principal official USDA quality grades for young cattle and carcasses are prime, choice, select and standard.

Significant changes (such as grass fed versus grain fed feeding regimens, instrument grading, management and export requirements) have taken place in the beef industry since the current grade standards were adopted in 1997. AMS is seeking input from cattle producers, food processors, the public and other sources before revising the grades to better reflect the characteristics of meat that is available for Americans to purchase.

The yield grade is used to predict the percentage of a carcass that should yield boneless, closely trimmed retail cuts and is an important tool for determining value of both live cattle and beef carcasses. The beef yield grade standard and equation was developed 50 years ago. Changes that have affected the quality of beef have similarly affected carcass yield, and AMS is seeking input for improving the yield grade equation.

AMS is also requesting comments on a review of the USDA program for beef instrument grading that was conducted by the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) in response to a report issued by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The beef-grading instrument uses elements of the U.S. Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef.

AMS works with its stakeholders to establish and revise U.S. standards for nearly 240 agricultural products. Industry uses the standards to specify the quality of commodities in the marketplace. Standards provide a common language for trade and a means of measuring the value of agricultural products.


You can view the Beef Carcass Grade Standard online. AMSA’s report on instrument grading and OIG’s report are available on the AMS website.

Comments on revising the Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef and on the beef instrument grading review are due no later than Nov. 13, 2014.

Comments should be sent to: Beef Carcass Revisions, Standardization Branch, LPS Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, STOP 0258, Washington, D.C. 20250.

Comments may also be sent by fax to: (202) 690-2746 or by email. For additional information, please contact Lawrence Yates at (402) 621-0836.  end mark

—From USDA news release