What are the chief requisites for a standard system of classifying and grading beef, and what should be the basis of such a system?
First of all, the system should be logical and workable. It should fit the needs of the trade. Arbitrary action is sometimes necessary to uproot certain evils and inconsistencies which creep into every industry, but no system of grading could hope to succeed which ran counter to the fundamentals of trade practice. For example, there would be no point to calling a certain carcass of meat No. A 1 unless, under a fair interpretation of the term, that kind of a carcass be superior to all others handled by the trade.
Second, it should be specific. Whenever a carcass of meat is placed in a given class and grade it should be placed there for some definite reason which can be explained and demonstrated to anyone interested. Individual fancy or personal prejudice can have no place in a standard system of grading.
Third, it should have permanence. No system of grading which is unduly influenced by geography, temporary supply, demand, or other trade conditions, or by time, can ever become standard. The main weakness of most of the systems of grading used heretofore lay in their flexibility and instability. Location of the market, season of the year, temporary fluctuations, either in available supplies or trade preference, brought decided changes in the determination of grades. A carcass of beef which graded Good on one market was called Medium on another, and possibly Choice on a third. Furthermore, on the same market, at certain seasons of the year, when supplies of grass-fed beef were plentiful, the whole scale of grades was perceptibly lowered and carcasses were graded Good which would have been called Medium at another season when the bulk of the beef offered was derived from grain-fed animals.
Obviously, if the system is subject to such variations, one market has as much right as another to change it, and, carrying the logic of the situation a step further, every member of the trade is privileged to alter the scheme of grading to suit his own fancy or convenience of the moment. Such a situation, of course, defeats the whole purpose of standardization and leads to confusion and chaos in marketing.
Apparently, then, the only way to render a system of classifying and grading independent of such rapidly changing conditions is to base it on certain fundamental characteristics inherent in the comodity, defining these characteristics as clearly as possible, and setting limits for them as definite as circumstances will permit.
Virtually all systems of classifying beef are compartively simple. Classification usually is based on certain broad, general principles, which are easily defined and readily applied. The system of classifying used in this bulletin, based wholly on the sex condition of the animal which produced the beef, presents no difficulties of definition and few of application. Grading within the classes, however, is a different matter.