Meat Grades

The United States Department of Agriculture has developed a grading system for poultry carcasses. Ready-to-cook poultry cannot be off-condition (slippery or slimy, putrid or sour odor). The carcass must be clean inside and outside.

Quality Standards

There are three grades of birds which can be sold as retail. They are A, B, and C. Most of the poultry you will find in the stores are Grade A. Grades B and C are usually processed into cut-up, chopped or ground poultry products. For example, a Grade B bird may be cut up for parts. Some of the parts will be Grade A parts.

There are three main factors used in grading poultry. These factors are exposed flesh, disjointed or broken bones, and missing parts. The table summarizes the factors for each grade.

FACTOR GRADE A GRADE B GRADE C
Exposed Flesh total length of cuts on breast or legs must be less than 1/4" and total length of cuts everywhere else must be less than 1 1/2" 1/3 of the flesh on a part may be exposed More than 1/3 of the flesh on a part may be exposed
Disjointed or broken bones None or one disjointed Two disjointed OR One disjointed and one non-protruding broken OR One non-protruding broken No limit
Missing parts Wing tips and/or tail removed at base Wing(s) to 2nd joint AND/OR back area removed up to one-half way to the hip joint, not wider than base of tail Back area not wider than base of tail extending to area beyond halfway to hip joints