Do you help your parents shop for groceries? If you spend much time in a grocery store — or looking at the foods in your refrigerator and freezer — you’ll notice that some foods have grades.

For example, you might see Grade “A” eggs in your refrigerator. Did the eggs have to pass a test? Or did the chicken have to take the test? What does the Grade “A” on eggs even mean?

You might also notice that different types of meats have grades, too. They might not say Grade “A,” though. Instead, you might see different words, such as “choice” and “prime.”

What do these grades and terms mean when it comes to the food you eat? Are some foods better, safer or healthier than others?

The food we eat comes from many different sources. During processing and packaging, it’s possible for food to become contaminated in ways that would make it unsafe for us to eat. That’s why food quality standards and inspection requirements are set forth in the Food Safety Act of 1990.

Not all foods are treated in the same way, though. There are many different laws and different standards that apply to all sorts of different kinds of foods.

For example, meat (like beef) and poultry (like chicken) are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) makes sure that meat and poultry products undergo mandatory inspection for wholesomeness. This means they make sure these products are safe and labeled and packaged properly.

The FSIS, however, is not responsible for grading these food products for quality. Grading for quality is a voluntary service that must be requested and paid for by those who produce the food products.

Grading for quality is done by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. This agency uses uniform quality standards to evaluate a food’s quality based upon a number of factors, such as tenderness, juiciness and flavor.

The number of available grades depends upon the particular food being graded. For example, there are eight grades of beef and three grades for chickens, eggs and turkeys. There are over 300 standards that apply to the wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

For beef, you might find several different grades at your local grocery store. “Prime” is the highest grade, followed by “choice” and “select.” You may also see “standard” and “commercial” grades sold in stores as ungraded store-brand meat.

Poultry is graded as either “A,” “B” or “C.” You will usually only see Grade “A” poultry sold in stores. Grade “B” and “C” poultry is usually processed for use in other products.

When it comes to meats, a high quality grade usually means you’re getting a better cut of meat, based upon certain standards. But what about eggs?

Eggs can’t be inspected for quality like meat. Unlike the quality grades on beef and poultry, the Grade “A” on eggs merely means that the eggs were inspected for proper size and color and to make sure their shells aren’t cracked. So looking for Grade “A” eggs isn’t necessarily guaranteeing you any sort of ultimate quality.

Other food grades don’t necessarily speak to quality either. For example, maple syrup can receive various grades. These grades don’t indicate quality as much as they describe varying degrees of color and flavor. The grades indicate differences but not necessarily that one grade is better than the other.


42 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (14 votes, avg. 4.29 out of 5)
    • We think that really WOULD be funny to see, Rahul! Thanks for being the first Wonder Friend to leave us a comment on today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • It makes us super happy to know that you visit Wonderopolis every day, Emma! Thanks for being such a WONDERful Wonder Friend! :-)

    • We think today’s Wonder of the Day® is pretty WOW-worthy, too, Wow Girl! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today! :-)

  1. We think that the Wonder of the Day tomorrow will be…. Why do hummingbirds hum?
    We are wondering:
    Kelly-Where do humming birds live?
    Caleb D.-Is the humming bird the smallest bird?
    Gavin-Why do humming birds peck at trees?
    Kaitlyn-Do humming birds eat anything else other than nectar?
    Olivia-Are the similar to any other animal?
    Audrey C.-How fast does a humming bird’s wings go?
    Allison-Why are humming bird’s’ wing so short?
    Audrey G.-How long do humming birds live?
    Max-How big are humming birds?
    Kyle-Do humming birds really hum?
    Emily-How much food do they eat in a day?
    Larissa-How many eggs do humming birds lay?
    Mrs. Phillips-What preys on humming birds?
    Taylor-What kinds of trees do they like to call “home”?
    Alex-What flower do they like the best?
    Molly-How long can they stay in the air?
    Nicholas-How high can they fly?

    Have a terrific Tuesday!

    • WOW! You guys are AMAZING, Mrs. Phillips’ Wonders! We think your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder is GREAT! We hope the next Wonder IS about hummingbirds, because we WONDER some of the same awesome things you guys do about them! Thank you for making our day with your GREAT comment…you guys ROCK! :-)

  2. We enjoyed the egg video! Do you know how many eggs are eaten each year? Some of us like eggs and others do not. We have a guess about tomorrow’s wonder: Could it possibly be about hummingbirds? We hope you had a great Easter! Can’t wait for tomorrow! Did you eat a lot of Easter candy?

    • We had a WONDERful Easter, Mr. Draper’s Class, thanks SO MUCH for asking! We think your guess about tomorrow’s Wonder is AWESOME! We have some other Wonder Friends who think it might be about hummingbirds, too! We can’t wait to find out by visiting Wonderopolis tomorrow! :-)

  3. Coooooooooooool!!!!!! So THAT’S Why I Always See A + On My Apples! I Think Tomorrow’s Wonder Will Be Why Do Birds Sing? Until Then…


    • We give your comment an A+, Joaquin! Thanks for leaving us a special “vertical” message, too…we WILL keep WONDERing and we hope you do, too! :-)

    • We might eat eggs today, too, John! We think we might even have breakfast for dinner…YUM! Thanks for being a great Wonder Friend and leaving us this comment! :-)

  4. Hi!
    I would have to agree with Rahul on his comment, that would be pretty funny!
    This wonder made me really hungry!

    • Happy Tuesday, Nate Rocks! Thanks for letting us know that you agree with Wonder Friend, Rahul! We hope you enjoyed today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  5. This wonder was awesome. I did not know that foods had to go through tests, but now I know and I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about hummingbirds.

    • We thought it was awesome to learn how some of the foods we eat are graded, too, Alisha! Thanks for telling us what you think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about…we can’t wait to see if your guess is correct! :-)

  6. I think food helps your brain focus on anything that you think about! I think tomorrow’s WONDER will be about, The Food Chain! Keep It WONDERing!
    B Flures

    • The food chain sounds like a really cool idea for a future Wonder of the Day®, B Flures! We like what you said about food helping your brain focus, too! Thanks for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hello, Saad! Today’s Wonder is all about how the foods we eat are “graded” so that they are safe for us to eat! There are certain grades the government gives different foods that are produced in the United States. Those grades help consumers determine which foods they want to purchase and consume! :-)

    • Those are GREAT questions, Jayla and Bradley (and the rest of our AWESOME Wonder Friends in Mrs Utter’s Class)! We think it’s SUPER that you guys did some more WONDERing about eggs after you explored today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your idea for a future Wonder of the Day®, Sarah! We appreciate your comment…THANKS for being such a SUPER Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Thanks so much for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®, A.J.! We bet there were a LOT of Wonder Friends who wanted to eat some yummy egg recipes today! :-)

    • Hi there, Caelah! We sure appreciate you letting us know that you liked the video for today’s Wonder! Thanks so much! :-)

    • We’re SUPER happy you learned something new in Wonderopolis today, Rosebud! We had fun discovering what those special letters meant, too! :-)

  7. That was another great wonder. Do you remember 5A in Gibbons? They were people that use to write on here. It was a class. I was in it but then I moved. I hope you make another great wonder!!!!!!

    • Yes, Cute Girl, we sure DO remember 5A in Gibbons! Thanks for letting us know that you moved, and THANK YOU for continuing to be a GREAT Wonder Friend and visiting Wonderopolis! YOU ROCK! :-)

    • Hello, Jeannette! Thanks for sharing your comment with us…we appreciate your thoughts about food! We think it is awesome that so many people are talking about their food these days…where it comes from, how it provides energy for our bodies, and what kinds of yummy recipes can be made from different ingredients! :-)

  8. Hey, Wonderopolis, great wonder!!!!!!! I think that if you eat healthy you will get just a tad smarter. What do you think?. I have one question have you tested this out? if not I think you should. And do you think if you eat unhealthy food you will get stupid?. And why do they grade food? Do you think if you eat grade A food you will get As. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for letting us know you thought this Wonder was GREAT, Team Unger 15! We haven’t tested any theories about healthy foods making people smarter, but we WONDER about that, too! We think eating healthy food gives your body the nutrients it needs to help your brain WONDER! We also think that WONDERing helps us learn new things, so we become smarter! :-)

  9. Hi wonderopolis,
    I just learned two new vocabulary words, mandatory and contaminated! I also learned four new facts: 1)There are 8 grades of beef! 2)There are 3 grades of chicken! 3)Prime is the highest grade followed by choice then select! 4)Maple syrup has various grades, but they don’t matter as much! I wonder if fruits and vegetables also have grades and if so, what are they called?

    • We WONDER about fruits and vegetables, too, Team McNeil 11! We see words like “organic” on frozen vegetables, and stickers from different countries on some fresh fruits like bananas and mangoes! We think there are special rules about fruits and veggies that enter the U.S. from other countries where they are grown, and we KNOW there are rules about what can be called organic. Inspectors from the Agriculture Department make sure the produce in our grocery stores is safe for everyone to eat! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Does your food make the grade?
  • Do food grades necessarily mean higher quality?
  • How are different types of foods graded?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to travel? Grab a friend or family member and take a field trip to your local grocery store.

Be sure to take a pad of paper and a pencil with you, so you can take notes. Check out the fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs and fresh meats, including beef, pork and chicken. What examples of food grades can you find?

Make a list of all the different types of food grades you find on products throughout the store. If you want to share your findings with a friend or a family member, bring along a digital camera to take a few pictures of what you find.

If you can find a particular product or type of food that has multiple grades, buy a small sample of each type of grade. When you get home, cook your samples and then put them to the test — a taste test, that is! What do your taste buds say? Can they tell the difference between the different grades?


Still Wondering

In Science NetLinks’ Crops 1: Where Does Food Come From? lesson, children learn that most of the food they buy in stores originally comes from farms.


Wonder What’s Next?

Fly back to Wonderopolis tomorrow for a Wonder of the Day that will have you humming a new tune!

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