Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a pilot program to allow more cattle producers and meat processors to access better markets through USDA’s official beef quality grading and certification. The Remote Grading Pilot for Beef, developed by the AMS, matches simple technology with robust data management and program oversight to allow a USDA grader to assess beef carcass characteristics and assign the official quality grade from a remote location, reducing costs and location as barriers to participation in the voluntary grading service.

“On average, a beef carcass that grades as USDA Prime is valued at hundreds of dollars more than an ungraded one,” Vilsack says. “But the costs for this voluntary USDA service often prevent smaller scale processors and the farmers and ranchers they serve from using this valuable marketing tool.” Consumers and buyers and sellers of beef rely on USDA quality grades, including Prime, Choice, and Select, to indicate quality.