Introduction

Consumers assume a safe food supply. The safety of meat and poultry products in the marketplace is assured by inspection activities of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The inspection regulations and activities are designed to ensure that poultry are processed under sanitary conditions and that poultry products are wholesome, unadulterated, and properly labeled.

Grading, on the other hand, involves sorting inspected poultry and poultry products according to a set of quality characteristics. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the USDA develops and implements the national grading standards and activities on a voluntary and fee basis. Although poultry can be graded based on individual company standards (i.e., plant grade), the use of USDA grade marks requires fee-based USDA grading services. Federal regulations and standards pertaining to the safety and quality of poultry and poultry products continue to evolve in parallel to the changing nature of poultry products and food safety concerns in the marketplace.

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