What meats are USDA inspected?
By Bob Oros
There are three marks on a beef that identify the quality, wholesomeness and yield.
The first mark is the inspection stamp. Many meat companies and retail stores play up big the fact that their beef is USDA inspected. Every piece of meat that is butchered in the United States for resale has to be inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture to be sure it is fit for consumption. Making a big deal out of the fact that the beef is USDA inspected is a way of taking advantage of the average persons lack of knowledge.
The second mark is is the quality grade. When the meat is graded it is stamped with a USDA Grade put on by a separate USDA person called a “Grader.”
The third mark is the yield grade which measures the amount of meat that is left after the bone and fat have been removed. A yield grade 2/3 is most common in food service, however, yield grades 4/5, which has more fat, is also available. Yield grade 2/3 has a lower cost per pound but the finished product is more expensive. The yield grade is not always on the box.
A USDA inspector is present in every meat processing plant and is funded by the US government. A USDA “grader” is a separate branch of the USDA and provides a service that is paid for by the processing plant. The service the USDA grader provides is to grade the quality level of the meat and roll it as a prime, choice, select, or standard. The plant is charged about $70 per hour by the USDA for this service. The grader is able to "roll" approximately 350 head of cattle per hour. That means the cost to grade each head is approximately twenty cents. That is not twenty cents per pound, that is twenty cents per 600 pound carcass. The cost of grading a carcass is minor.
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