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, WA, 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.

After the beef is graded, it is then inspected by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the agency responsible for ensuring that meat is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.

Successful candidates are required to pass both written tests and practical cooler grading exercises before being certified and licensed to apply federal beef grades. These certified industry employees perform on-line carcass evaluations using the approved instrumentation outputs for beef quality grade factors, such as marbling.  Quarterly carcass testing and evaluation is performed to assure continued accuracy of the industry employees. A USDA meat grader from AMS monitors and randomly audits the final carcass grades throughout the day to help ensure that the standards are continuously met.

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