To provide greater flexibility to contractors that supply food for Federal nutrition assistance programs, including many small businesses, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will make certification options available for meat and poultry products purchased under these programs.

AMS currently offers two methods in assessing meat and poultry commodity products – primarily grading for poultry, and auditing for meat.  For products with raw materials that require an official grade (e.g., USDA Choice, USDA Grade A) or quality meat defect requirements, AMS graders will still be required to perform that activity.  Once official grade (e.g., USDA Choice, USDA Grade A) or quality meat defect requirements for raw materials are satisfied, vendors will be afforded the flexibility of using a USDA grader or auditor for all additional processing steps.

For example, oven-roasted chicken must be prepared from USDA Grade A cut-up chicken parts. A USDA grader is required to certify grade standards of the raw cut-up chicken parts. Once the chicken parts have been certified as USDA A grade, the contractor may select AMS grading or auditing to complete processing (e.g. fully cook, package, freeze) into oven roasted chicken.

Further processing for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) National Processing Agreement will continue under AMS grader oversight, in accordance with FNS regulations.

Providing additional flexibilities allows vendors to choose the oversight option that works best for their business, while still ensuring AMS procures poultry and meat commodities that meet the rigorous quality and safety specifications required for food procured for Federal nutrition assistance programs.