The Meat Inspection Division of the USDA was created in 1906.
Inspectors are civil service veterinarians or non-professional lay inspectors. All are government employees, meaning the program is financed by the public.
The federal government requires supervision of establishments which slaughter, pack, render, and prepare meats and meat products for interstate shipment and foreign export. Individual states have responsibility for intrastate shipments, however state standards cannot be lower than federal levels.
The purpose of inspection is: a. Safeguard the public by eliminating disease or otherwise unwholesome meat from the food supply. b. To enforce the sanitary preparation of meat and meat products.
The purpose of inspection is: c. To guard against the use of harmful ingredients or residue in meats from drugs, growth promotants, pesticides, etc. d. To prevent the use of false or misleading names or statement labels.
The Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 updated and strengthened the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.
A. States were given the option of conducting their own inspection service or turning the responsibility over to the federal government. B. Most states simply apply the federal regulations to their own programs.
Antermortem: inspection is made in pens or as animals are moved from the scales after weighing; obviously diseased or otherwise unhealthy animals not fit for human consumption may be marked “Suspect” or “Condemned”.
Postmortem: inspection is made at the time of slaughter and includes careful examination of the carcass and viscera (internal organs); all good carcasses are stamped “U.S. Inspected and Passed”. Those failing inspection are stamped “U.S. Inspected and Condemned”.
Quality grades reflect the flavor and tenderness of meat and are primarily determined from carcass maturity and the amount of fat within the meat (i.e. marbling or intramuscular fat). Quality Grades
USDA Prime USDA Choice USDA Select USDA Standard USDA Commercial USDA Utility USDA Cutter USDA Canner USDA Quality Grades for Beef
Other Preferred Quality Grades LAMB USDA Prime- highest in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor USDA Choice- very high in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor PORK USDA Acceptable Quality- very lean, firm, with grayish pink color
Official USDA Marbling Photos USDA Prime: Prime grade beef is the ultimate in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. It has abundant marbling -- flecks of fat within the lean -- which enhances both flavor and juiciness. Prime roasts and steaks are unexcelled for dry- heat cooking (roasting and broiling)
USDA Choice: Choice grade beef has less marbling than Prime, but is of very high quality. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are, like Prime, suited to dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts, such as those from the rump, round, and blade chuck, can also be cooked with dry heat.
USDA Select: Select grade beef is very uniform in quality and somewhat leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. Only the tender cuts should be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should be marinated before cooking or cooked with moisture to obtain maximum tenderness and flavor.
Official USDA Marbling Photos Standard and Commercial: This grade of beef frequently is sold as ungraded or as "brand name" meat. The three lower grades -- USDA Utility, Cutter, and Canner -- are seldom, if ever, sold at retail but are used instead to make ground beef and manufactured meat items such as frankfurters
Maturity The age of a beef animal has a direct effect on tenderness of the meat it produces. As cattle mature, their meat becomes progressively tougher. To account for the effects of the maturing process on beef tenderness, evaluations of carcass maturity are used in determining USDA Quality Grades. There are five maturity groupings, Designated as A through E below. Approximate ages corresponding to each maturity classification are: A - 9 to 30 Months (up to 2.5 yrs) B - 30 to 42 Months (2.5 to 3.5 yrs) C - 42 to 72 Months (3.5 to 6 yrs) D - 72 to 96 Months (6 to 8 yrs) E - More Than 96 Months (8+ yrs)
Yield Grades USDA yield grades identify the "quantity" or "cutability" differences among carcasses. Yield grades are 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, and are a numerical representation of the expected percentage of closely trimmed, boneless retail cuts from the round, loin, rib and chuck. This percentage of retail cuts is the carcass cutability % Boneless, Closely Trimmed Retail Cut Yield Grade From the Round, Loin, Rib and Chuck 152.6 - 54.6 250.3 - 52.3 348.0 - 50.0 445.7 - 47.7 543.3 - 45.4
Yield Grades Carcass factors used to calculate yield grade Adjusted fat thickness Percentage of Kidney, Pelvic and Heart Fat (KPH) Rib Eye Area Hot Carcass Weight