Meat and Poultry Grading

Although inspection of meat and poultry is mandatory, grading is voluntary. Every box or package of meat must bear the processing plant's inspection number and the USDA mark of inspection. The USDA inspection protects consumers by assuring that meat and poultry products are wholesome, unadulterated, properly marked, labeled and packaged.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service grades meat and poultry products for quality. The grade will be included on the label with the cut of meat. If there is no grade designated, then the meat has not been graded for quality.

The highest beef grades in order are:

  1. Prime
  2. Choice
  3. Select

The highest lamb and veal grades in order are:

  1. Prime
  2. Choice
  3. Good

Pork is not graded.

Grade A is the top poultry grade.