Pork FAQs

How is pork graded?

By Bob Oros

There is a grading system for pork, however, it is only at the processing level.  The whole hogs are graded as a Number One, Number Two, Number Three, etc., each representing a different quality level. 

Quality of fresh pork varies greatly. Quality can be evaluated by visual appraisal, or it can be determined more accurately by scientific tests. Normally the lighter the color the better the quality.

There are also preimum pork program available with many packers. Color and Marbling Standards cards are also available from the packer.

Although inspection is mandatory, its grading for quality is voluntary, and a plant pays to have its pork graded. USDA grades for pork reflect only two levels: "Acceptable" grade and "Utility" grade. Pork sold as Acceptable quality pork is the only fresh pork sold in supermarkets. It should have a high proportion of lean meat to fat and bone. Pork graded as Utility is mainly used in processed products and is not available in supermarkets for consumers to purchase.

After the hogs are cut up and processed there is no grading system. 

All pork processed for resale is either USDA inspected for wholesomeness or inspected by state systems which have standards equal to the USDA. Each animal and its internal organs are inspected for signs of disease. The "Passed and Inspected by USDA" seal insures the pork is wholesome and free from disease.