USDA Announces Changes To The U.S. Beef Grade Standards
USDA quality grades are used by companies to provide information to consumers about meat’s tenderness, juiciness, and flavor and are a key factor in determining the value of beef and live cattle. Last summer, USDA requested stakeholder feedback on a petition asking to amend standards for beef carcass grades. That petition requested that the standards be revised to include dentition and documentation of actual age as an additional determination of maturity grouping for official quality grading.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced yesterday that it is updating the voluntary S. Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef. With this update, companies using the USDA grading program can now rely on dentition or age documentation to establish the maturity of animals. Under the revised standards, producers and processors can ensure that cattle 30 months old or younger are included in the youngest maturity group recognized as “beef”. Skeletal and muscular evidence will still be used to determine maturity for those animals over 30 months of age.
The revised standards will be implemented on Monday, December 18, 2017. Prior to that date, companies using the USDA voluntary grading program must:
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. Plants with a Quality Systems Assessment (QSA) program (e.g., for Export Verification) will provide the applicable section from their quality manual which details this process. Plants without a QSA program will document their process through a Standard Operating Procedure or similar document; and
Ensure the AMS Supervisor and Graders are aware of how carcasses over 30 months of age are identified and marked. The carcasses must be identified in a manner that allows the AMS Grader to easily see the identification when presented for grading.
On December 18, companies may only offer carcasses for initial quality and/or yield grading. No carcasses shall be presented for grading that were held as regrades from the previous week.