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.
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.
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. Poultry Programs 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 Poultry Programs monitors how these eggs are handled under its shell egg surveillance program.
Poultry Programs buys poultry and egg products for two purposes: To help stabilize the market of commodities that are in surplus supply, and to provide domestic food assistance programs with wholesome, high-quality food.
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. Poultry Programs has congressionally-mandated oversight responsibility for this program's activities.