Public Law 272

Enforcement of PL 272 helps to ensure the integrity of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grade names and assists consumers in making informed meat and poultry purchase decisions with respect to various agricultural grades.  Quality Assessment Division (QAD) monitors and verifies grade labeling and advertising of meat and poultry products at retail level.  QAD agents also perform these reviews at meat and poultry processing facilities where QAD graders are located.  This helps to eliminate and prevent misuse and misrepresentation of USDA meat and poultry grade names at all marketing levels between the processor and the consumer.

CHAPTER 632 – 1 st Session

S. 1757
To amend the Act known as the “Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946”, approved August 14, 1946.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That subsection (h) of section 203 of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (7 U.S.C. 1622 (h)) is hereby amended by adding at the end thereof the following new sentence: “Whoever knowingly shall falsely make, issue, alter, forge, or counterfeit any official certificate, memorandum, mark, or other identification, or device for making such mark or identification, with respect to inspection, class, grade, quality,size, quantity, or condition, issued or authorized under this section or knowingly cause or procure, or aid, assist in, or be party to, such false making, issuing, altering, forging, or counterfeiting, or whoever knowingly shall possess, without promptly notifying the Secretary of Agriculture or his representative, utter, publish, or use as true, or cause to be uttered, published, or used as true, any such falsely made, altered, forged, or counterfeited official certificate, memorandum, mark, identification, or device, or whoever knowingly represents that an agricultural product has been officially inspected or graded (by an authorized inspector or grader) under the authority of this section when such commodity has in fact not been so graded or inspected shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

SEC. 2. The farm produce inspection clause contained in various appropriation Acts (7 U.S.C. 414) and the second, third, and fourth sentences of section 1 of the Produce Agency Act of March 3, 1927 (7 U.S.C. 492), are hereby repealed. Approved August 9, 1955.

Official USDA Grade Terminology:

Beef: Quality Grades Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, Canner. Yield Grades Yield Grade 1, Yield Grade 2, Yield Grade 3, Yield Grade 4, Yield Grade 5.

Chicken: Quality Grades U.S. Grade A, U.S. Grade B, U.S. Grade C

Duck: Quality Grades U.S. Grade A, U.S. Grade B, U.S. Grade C

Goose: Quality Grades U.S. Grade A, U.S. Grade B, U.S. Grade C

Lamb: Quality Grades Prime, Choice, Good, Utility, Cull. Yield Grades Yield Grade 1, Yield Grade 2, Yield Grade 3, Yield Grade 4, Yield Grade 5.

Pork: U.S. No. 1, U.S. No. 2, U.S. No. 3, U.S. No. 4, U.S. Utility. (Currently pork is not officially graded by USDA and, therefore, may not be labeled or advertised by grade.)

Rabbit: Quality Grades U.S. Grade A, U.S. Grade B, U.S. Grade C

Turkey: Quality Grades U.S. Grade A, U.S. Grade B, U.S. Grade C

Veal/Calf: Quality Grades Only Prime, Choice, Good Standard, Utility. 

Examples of Public Law 272 Noncompliance:

  • Representing, verbally or written, meat or poultry as being USDA graded when it has not been graded.
  • Misuse of official USDA shields or facsimiles thereof, (e.g., using USDA grade shields with a USDA grade on ungraded meat or poultry).
  • Advertising “USDA” with unofficial grade terminology (e.g., “USDA” Heavy Western Beef).
  • Labeling meat or poultry by-products (oxtails, liver, gizzards, hearts, etc.) with official USDA grade terminology.
  • Advertising or labeling of ground or diced meat products with official USDA grade terminology, unless the establishment exclusively sells that specific grade or has a written quality control program in place to ensure correct grade usage.
  • Labeling any graded meat with a different grade (e.g., graded Prime, labeled as Choice).
  • Using improper grade terminology on other species (e.g., USDA Choice pork, USDA Select lamb, U.S. Grade AA chicken).
  • Advertising a particular USDA grade and not having that grade available (e.g., restaurant menu states USDA Choice T-bone steak and USDA Choice is not available and the establishment is unable to prove that the advertised grade has been recently purchased).
  • When advertising one USDA grade exclusively and having additional grades and/or ungraded available (e.g., “We sell only USDA Choice”, “We sell only U.S. Grade A”).
  • Use of “USDA Certified” when the meat or poultry has not been officially certified by an AMS grader.

Additional Resources