INDIANAPOLIS — Premium meat products labeled “USDA Prime” or “USDA Choice” usually garner a higher price per pound to the consumer. For producers to capture that additional income, their products have to be evaluated by a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified grader.

For the most part, Hoosier livestock and poultry producers have not had access to affordable grading services. Producers now have the opportunity-via an online survey-to voice their interest in brining USDA grading to Indiana.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health, in partnership with the Indiana Beef Cattle Association, encourages livestock and poultry producers who sell, or plan to sell, packaged beef, pork, lamb or poultry to complete a short survey regarding interest in meat grading.

Unlike inspection for food safety, which is mandatory and paid for by public funds, grading is strictly voluntary and must be paid for by the producer or processor.

Grading assesses quality by evaluation of traits related to tenderness, juiciness and flavor of the meat. Grades are based on USDA’s nationally uniform standards. Meat grading is available for beef, veal, lamb, pork and poultry.

BOAH has received inquiries about offering product grading at state-inspected slaughter facilities. To provide these services, BOAH must make a substantial investment in staff training. The survey, hosted online by IBCA, will help BOAH determine if a meat-grading program is sustainable in Indiana.

Producers will be asked about the value — if any — the meat grading presents and how much it would be used. High-end steakhouses and restaurants can charge a premium for USDA prime and choice cuts.

Ideally, the producer captures a portion of that revenue through higher prices for a premium product. However, that is a value only a livestock producer can determine based on their own customers and market access.

The survey will be available online until Feb. 1 at www.indianabeef.org/indiana-beef-cattle-association. BOAH and IBCA also will have surveys available at several meeting venues in December and January.

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