Assuming the desirability of a standard system for grading beef, the question arises, What factors shall determine why a given carcass of beef should be placed in one class and one grade and not in some other class and grade?
It is apparent that several bases might be used for grading beef. For example, weight might be made the determining factor. As a matter of fact, certain agencies in the meat trade do lay considerable stress on the matter of weight. This, however, is but a form of classification and has. nothing to do with grading.
Again, a system of grading might be based on the geographical origin of the animals which produced the beef. In times past considerable weight was attached to where the animal came from, and even today some of the old terms such as native, western, and Texas, which grew out of that system, still linger.
Conceivably, age might be made the basis for grading, and, as a matter of fact, age has much to do with indicating the grade of meat, though it has little to do with actually determining the grade.
All the systems of grading mentioned thus far break down in one or more respects when the three fundamental requisites of grading are applied to them. They all lack workability, definiteness, or permanence. It is believed, however, that the system of grading set forth in this bulletin meets all the requirements with a minimum of the objections found in the systems that have been used heretofore.
In the final analysis, market preference, over a long period of time, must be taken into account. Although market preference has been given consideration in the actual order of arrangement of the various grades, it has been disregarded in ‘ the determination of any particular grade. In other words, a given carcass of meat is placed in a certain grade because of inherent characteristics of that carcass and without any reference to the preference of the consumer. On the other hand, in the arrangement of the grades, No. Al, or Prime, is placed first rather than last because it is most desirable from the standpoint of the consumer.
Even this statement is subject to some qualification, for it is conceivable that, in a state of free distribution where price is eliminated as a factor, a majority of consumers might select Good grade beef in preference to Prime grade beef. Trade preferences shift from time to time. As an example of this, the present strong trend toward lighter weight carcasses may be noted. Today a majority of consumers willingly pay a higher price for relatively inferior grades of meat in order to obtain the lightweight cuts which are better suited to present-day modes of living. Finally, therefore, it may be stated that, in the system described in this bulletin, the order of arrangement of the grades within the class is determined by the preference, over a long period of time, of the more discriminating consumers.
The system set forth in this bulletin is based on just three characteristicsquality, finish, and conformation. Each of these is inherent in the beef itself, and it is believed that the combination of the three provides the basis for a system of classifying and grading which is not only fundamental, but is comprehensive and adequate. Other factors might be named, but it is believed that the definitions of these three fundamental characteristics are sufficiently broad to allow the subordination of all other factors to them.