Grading Poultry
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All Poultry in the U.S. is mandatorily inspected by the U.S.D.A. for “Wholesomeness,” basically to confirm that is it disease-free and healthy to consume.

Chickens are graded by the composition of their skin, skin color (white or yellow), breast size, leg size (short & full), their backs (smooth) and their wings (primarily if they are intact). 

Graded birds typically weigh within ¼ pound (113 kg) of each other, which makes them useful for portion controlled applications such as restaurant use. Ungraded Chicken can be commercially purchased but vary a lot in size, which can cause uneven portion sizes and cooking times.


The factors that determine what the finished grade of poultry will be are:

  • Shape of the Carcass (the proportions)
  • Ratio of Meat to Bone: The more meat to bone, the better the grade
  • Broken Bones or Splits in the Skin: Broken bones or splits in the skin reduce the grade of the carcass.
  • Residual Feathers: The number of feathers left on the carcass reduces the grade of the bird.

All wholesome poultry can be further inspected and graded on a voluntary basis. Poultry, across species, can be awarded the following grades: Grade A PoultryGrade B Poultry, and Grade C Poultry. Eighty percent of commercial Chickens are voluntarily graded. 


Grade A is the grade that is found most often in grocery stores. Grade B and Grade C Poultry will be found in processed meat products or where the meat product is not “grade identified,” such as in frozen or prepared foods.