The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is seeking comments on its procedures related to the use of instrument technology in the official meat grading program. The proposed changes outline several key enhancements to ensure USDA grading is delivered with the highest levels of consistency and accuracy.

AMS is proposing more clarity about when new instruments (or previously approved instruments that have undergone major changes) must go through a complete review process and how the instrument must perform. For example, AMS is proposing that all cameras be reviewed in evaluating both USDA Quality and Yield grade factors. In addition to updates to existing protocol, AMS is proposing several new requirements. For example, in a new document, AMS has outlined the installation process for entities that will use the technology as an aid for USDA grading (e.g., packers). Additionally, AMS has developed new guidance for continual in-plant monitoring and for improved data sharing. These new procedures address issues related to performance in a production environment to ensure ongoing confidence in the technology and the USDA grading program as whole. AMS is also making administrative changes and is proposing to consolidate five previous guidance documents into one new document entitled “Instrument Approval Process, Instrument Grading Systems for Beef Carcasses.”

These proposed changes are, in part, based on recommendations from the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) Grading Committee. This committee was tasked with reviewing and providing recommendations to AMS for measures to ensure consistency, accuracy and integrity in the grading system. AMS is also making recommendations based on its experience in administering the USDA meat grading program with the use of instrument technology for nearly 15 years.

In addition to ensuring reliability as a tool for official grading, AMS’s Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act and regulations require that, before the purchase, packers must make the details of the transaction known to the seller. Details include, when applicable, the expected date and place of slaughter, carcass price, condemnation terms, description of the carcass trim, grading to be used, accounting and any special conditions. Any instrument used to assign what is commonly referred to as a “House Grade” falls under Section 201.99(e) of the P&S regulations.

Documents outlining the proposed changes can be found on AMS’s website at Carcass Instrument Grading | Agricultural Marketing Service ( AMS welcomes feedback from all interested stakeholders. Comments should be submitted to Dr. Willy Horne, AMS Livestock and Poultry Program, at by Feb. 17, 2023. Questions regarding P&S compliance should be referred to Will Arce, Packers and Stockyards Division, at