Agricultural Marketing Service
About AMS Newsroom Opportunity Online Forms Help Contact Us
Search AMS
   Browse by Subject
Grading, Certification and Verification
You are here: Home / Grading, Certification and Verification / History and Scope
Commodity Areas
History and Scope  
Livestock and Seed Program History

In the 160 years since its creation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has touched the lives of millions of people--both in the United States and abroad. During its early years, USDA was concerned primarily with agricultural production. However, by the early 1900's the Department became increasingly involved in the marketing of farm products. About that time, what is now the Livestock and Seed Program came into existence as the Livestock, Meats, and Wool Program, a part of the Bureau of Markets. In 1922, the Bureau of Markets was combined with another bureau to form the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. In 1939, this bureau was incorporated into the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

Even though the organizational structure of the Program's parent agency has changed over the years, the Program's primary objective has remained virtually constant: to provide timely, high-quality, and unbiased service to facilitate the orderly marketing and distribution of agricultural commodities while simultaneously fostering goodwill in the global marketplace. This service is maintained through the Program's continual commitment to improve its operating procedures to meet customer needs and to incorporate new research findings and technological advancements.

Like many of its sister programs in AMS, the Livestock and Seed Program provides services that are funded primarily by user fees. Approximately 80 percent of the Program's funds are derived from payments made by users of Program services. Only the remaining 20 percent is appropriated by Congress.

Livestock and Seed Program Scope

Although the Livestock and Seed Program is headquartered in Washington, DC, it maintains offices throughout the United States to serve the agricultural community and industry. The Program seeks to establish and maintain effective working relationships with consumers, producers, trade organizations, industry groups, and other Government agencies.

Three major functions performed by the LS Program are (1) the meat grading and certification service; (2) the livestock, meat, and grain market news service; and (3) seed regulatory and testing activities. The Programís employees also oversee research and promotion programs, the Country of Origin Labeling program, and develop standards and purchase specifications for livestock and meat products, including those purchased for Federal feeding programs.

We are eager to hear what our customers have to say about our services and their suggestions for change. Our willingness to modify our programs as needed to meet requirements both today and in the future is one of our key missions.

Poultry Programs History

The Office of Markets (the precursor of the Agricultural Marketing Service) was established in 1913 and laid the foundation for today's poultry and egg market news, standardization, and grading activities. It was not until 1917, however, that these activities were authorized by legislation.

The acceptance and use of Federal grade standards evolved slowly until the advent of World War II, when food bought for the military was required to be graded or inspected because of the inconsistent quality of foods being delivered to U.S. troops. Producers, processors, and others soon learned that grading and inspection services, coupled with the ability to properly price their products through market news, provided them with needed tools to market and merchandise their products.

Many changes have occurred since then, including the consolidation of these functions into AMS' Poultry Programs. Yet, the basic grading, standardization, and market news programs initiated over 75 years ago remain intact and continue to play an important role in facilitating poultry and egg marketing, both nationally and internationally.

Poultry Programs Scope

Poultry and eggs undergo many transformations as they travel through the nation's marketing system - from the farm to your fork. For example, poultry has shed its skin and bones to satisfy the demand for easy to prepare, portion-controlled, low-fat entrees that satisfy both the at-home and away-from-home food markets.

To help make all this happen, the nation's marketing system must operate efficiently, dependably, economically, and fairly. To aid in this effort, Poultry Programs offers many services for buyers and sellers of poultry, shell eggs, and rabbits.

Quality Standards Poultry, shell eggs, and rabbits can be traded on a uniform basis, coast-to-coast and overseas, sight unseen, by buyers and sellers who use official USDA standards and grades. These standards and grades form a uniform description that describes the commercial quality of various products so their value, utility, and price can be determined. There are quality standards and grades for a variety of ready-to-cook poultry and rabbit carcasses, parts, and products, as well as for shell eggs.

Market News The timely exchange of information about supplies, demand, and prices among producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, and others aids in making purchasing and sales decisions. Federal and State market news reporters cover some 84 markets, tracking the sales of nearly 79 commodities. These reporters disseminate market reports in a variety of ways: printed reports, facsimile services, automated telephone answering services, newspapers and magazines, trade publications, radio, television, and over the Internet. USDA quality standards and grades is the common language used in these reports.

Grading and Certification Grading is the evaluation of poultry, shell eggs, and rabbits based on the official USDA quality standards. Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program grades about 80 percent of the turkeys, 60 percent of the chickens and other poultry, and 40 percent of the shell eggs that go to U.S. consumers.

Certification is verifying that poultry and shell eggs purchased through food procurement contracts meet requirements for such things as quantity, quality, condition, formulation, net weight, packaging, storage, and transportation. Certification services are tailored to meet the specific product needs of food manufacturers, the food service industry, and food retailers.

Grading and certification services are paid for by those who request and use them. Although they are voluntary services, they are sometimes required in government contracts for military rations, or purchases for USDA-operated feeding programs.

Shell Egg Surveillance Most eggs are bought and sold as shell eggs (eggs that are still in the shell). USDA has established minimum standards of quality for all eggs that move in consumer channels. There are mandatory procedures for the disposition of certain qualities of eggs that do not meet these standards, and Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program monitors how these eggs are handled under its shell egg surveillance program.

Research and Promotion A research and promotion program, requested and funded by shell egg producers, is designed to strengthen the egg industry's position in the marketplace. Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program has congressionally-mandated oversight responsibility for this program's activities.

  Last Modified Date: 02/19/2013