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USDA announces changes to the U.S. beef grade standards

Published on 06 December 2017

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced Dec. 5 that it is updating the voluntary U.S. Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef.

USDA quality grades are used by companies to provide information to purchasers about meat’s tenderness, juiciness and flavor, and are a major factor in determining the value of beef and live cattle.

This update to the standards will provide companies using the USDA grading program with additional options – dentition or age documentation – to establish the maturity of animals and ensure that cattle 30 months old or less are included in the youngest maturity group recognized as “beef” (A maturity). Skeletal and muscular evidence will still be used to determine maturity for those animals over 30 months of age.

This change for voluntary beef grading activities will be implemented on Dec. 18, 2017. Companies using the USDA voluntary grading program must do the following prior to Dec. 18:

  1. Provide documentation to the AMS supervisor and graders describing how carcasses over 30 months of age are identified and segregated within the plant. AMS will review these procedures either during routine QSA audits or during supervisory visits.
    1. Plants with a QSA program (e.g., for export verification) will provide the applicable section from their quality manual, which details this process.
    2. Plants without a QSA program will document their process through a standard operating procedure or similar document.
  2. Ensure the AMS supervisor and graders are aware of how carcasses over 30 months old are identified or marked. The carcasses must be identified in a manner that allows the AMS grader to easily see the identification when presented for grading.

On Dec. 18, companies may only offer carcasses for initial quality or yield grading. No carcasses shall be presented for grading that were held as re-grades from the previous week.  end mark

—Compiled from USDA press release

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