Expanding market access with USDA's remote beef grading

Jan 23, 2024

By Farms.com

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently taken a significant step forward in agricultural innovation with its Remote Grading Pilot for Beef. This initiative is set to change the landscape for smaller beef processors, offering them a more feasible route to participate in USDA's beef quality grading and certification. 

Traditionally, the cost and logistical challenges of having an onsite USDA grader have been prohibitive for many smaller operations. This pilot addresses these barriers by introducing a remote grading system. In this system, plant employees capture images of beef carcasses, which are then evaluated remotely by USDA graders. This remote assessment allows for the official quality grade to be assigned without the need for the grader to be physically present, significantly reducing costs. 

The implications of this program are vast. A USDA Prime grade, for instance, can increase a beef carcass's value substantially. By facilitating access to quality grading, the USDA is helping smaller processors to compete more effectively in higher-value markets. 

The pilot is based on the lessons learned from a feasibility study by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service in 2023. With a focus on expanding and refining the process, the USDA aims to gather data to formalize this innovative service. 

An industry spokesperson emphasized the benefits, stating, “This remote grading pilot opens the door for additional packers and processors to receive grading and certification services allowing them to access new, better, and more diverse marketing opportunities.” 

The initiative is part of a broader USDA strategy to support small and mid-size farmers and ranchers, promoting competition in agricultural markets and contributing to rural economic prosperity. By making grading services more accessible, the USDA is not only supporting the beef industry but also ensuring the longevity and viability of farming and ranching for future generations. 

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