Department of Agriculture's Beef Grading:

Accuracy and Uniformity Need To Be Improved

CED-78-141: Published: Jul 21, 1978. Publicly Released: Jul 21, 1978.

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Beef grading provides a basis for price quotations among feeders, packers, suppliers, retailers, and others along the marketing chain and a system for consumers to show their preferences.

In 29 slaughter plants visited by GAO, 21 percent of 2,215 carcasses were misgraded, and most errors involved overgrading. Beef grading was not consistent from one section of the country to another. More accurate measurements of beef carcass characteristics are needed to correct problems resulting from the subjective nature of grading. Grading inaccuracy has also resulted from management problems. For example: a standard for grading accuracy has not been established, stations varied in methods of improving grader performance, supervisors did not always follow grader monitoring procedures, grading took place under conditions which increased the likelihood of errors, and packers used an informal complaint system rather than a formal process for resolving disputed grades--this could result in harassment of graders. The current grade standards do not fully meet the needs of the beef industry or of consumers. Value differences are not always clear and, because beef sold at retail is not always marked with an official grade, beef can be represented as being of a better quality than it actually is.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should: (1) establish a grading accuracy standard and require graders to meet this standard before being placed in a plant to grade carcasses and require periodic retesting; (2) take steps to ensure that graders do not grade carcasses when they cannot make an accurate determination because certain conditions have not been met; (3) require packers to use the formal appeal system for redetermining grades and limit the use of informal appeals; (4) establish criteria on when incorrect grade markings should be corrected and ensure that they are uniformly applied; (5) develop a public education program to increase consumer awareness concerning grades; and (6) initiate research on factors not in current standards which may influence meat quality and revise standards if warranted.

    Agency Affected:


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