MDA's Food Quality Assurance Program administers the poultry and egg grading program through a State Trust Fund Agreement with the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. MDA employees are licensed by USDA/AMS and perform grading and certification services for poultry and eggs throughout Maryland. All product identified with the USDA grade shield is produced under the continuous supervision of a licensed grader. The program is funded by fees charged to users either on a full time contract basis or an as needed fee basis.
Poultry and eggs can be traded on a uniform basis coast to coast and overseas, by buyers and sellers who use official USDA standards and grades. Consumers who purchase poultry and eggs identified with the USDA grade shield can be assured of the quality of the product they are purchasing. MDA graders ensure poultry labeled with the USDA grade shield does not have disjointed or broken bones, is plump and meaty, does not have feathers, cuts, tears or bruises and boneless products are free of bone, cartilage, tendons and bruises. All poultry bearing the USDA grade shield must also meet the wholesomeness requirements of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Eggs bearing the USDA grade shield are monitored for freshness, cleanliness and defects. MDA graders also continuously monitor plant sanitation during the processing of the eggs. The USDA standards and grades can be found at http://www.ams.usda.gov/poultry/.
Several other services related to USDA/AMS's Poultry Programs are offered by the Food Quality Assurance Program. Official test weighing of poultry can be conducted to resolve disputes between buyers and sellers. MDA's experienced staff can provide assistance to volume buyers of poultry and eggs to develop specifications with requirements that are more stringent or in addition to the USDA requirements. ISO 9000 trained auditors are available to conduct plant systems, food security and animal husbandry audits for egg producers and processors.
Food Quality Assurance Program