The USDA grading systems are highly regarded as symbols of safe, high-quality American beef. Quality grades are widely used as a "language" within the beef industry, making business transactions easier and providing a vital link to support rural America. Consumers, as well as those involved in the marketing of agricultural products, benefit from the greater efficiency permitted by the availability and application of grade standards. Beef is evaluated by highly-skilled USDA meat graders using a subjective characteristic assessment process and electronic instruments to measure meat characteristics. These characteristics follow the official grade standards developed, maintained, and interpreted by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
Beef is graded in two ways: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness, and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass. From a consumer standpoint, what do these quality beef grades mean?