Q. What do the various Food Grades Mean?
A. Grading is based on standards, and standards are based on measurable attributes that describe the value and utility of the product. Beef quality standards, for instance are based on attributes such as marbling (the amount of fat interspersed with lean meat) color, firmness, texture, and age of the animal, for each grade. In turn, these factors are a good indication of tenderness, juiciness, flavor of the meat, and all characteristics important to consumers. Prime, choice and select are all grades familiar to consumers of beef. Standards for each product describe the entire range of quality for a product, and the number of grades varies by commodity. There are eight grades for beef, three each for chickens, eggs and turkeys. On the other hand, there are 45 grades for cotton, 32 grade standards and specifications for dairy products, and more than 312 fruit, vegetable, and speciality product standards.
Q. How can I get up to the minute commodity prices and market news?
A. Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) market news reports collect data from actual transactions at local, regional, national and international markets. The reports include information on price volume, quality and condition.
Q. How can I find a farmers market in my area?
A. USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service maintains a state-by-state directory of farmers markets.
Q. How does USDA define the term organic?
A. Organic food is produced using sustainable agricultural production practices. Not permitted are most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. The USDA National Organic Program website has more information including inspection and certification information.