Which Grades Of Poultry Are The Most Tender?

Craig A. Morris, the AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program’s deputy administrator, published this in

Learning more about the quality grade requirements for poultry products and the “Grade A” shield you might see on the label of your family’s main dish is a great idea as Thanksgiving approaches. The USDA beef grades, Prime, Choice, and Select, are known to the majority of customers. However, did you realize that the USDA has identical grade requirements for poultry products?

Reputable emblems of high-quality American poultry products are the USDA grade shields. The quality grades serve as a common “language” within the chicken sector for large-volume purchasers like supermarkets, military facilities, restaurants, and even foreign governments, simplifying business transactions.

Consumers can be assured by the USDA grade shield that the items they are purchasing have undergone a stringent inspection procedure by highly qualified USDA graders who adhere to the official grade standards created, upheld, and interpreted by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. But what do these poultry quality grades actually signify for consumers?

Although there are other classes, Grade A is the one that supermarkets sell the most of. The absence of “defects,” such as the presence of feathers or bruising and discolouration, is what qualifies chicken goods for Grade A. Depending on the quantity of flaws, poultry is either degraded to lower grades (B &C) or passes Grade A criteria for quality.

The most popular poultry species on the market right now are chickens and turkeys. Turkey consumption has nearly doubled over the past 30 years, and Americans consume more chicken than any other country in the world. The flavor and tenderness of the meat can vary depending on the age of the bird, just like with other types of meat. So what choices should shoppers think about while buying poultry?

  • The meat of young birds, which is soft and plump, is most frequently available in supermarkets. All young birds can be prepared using any way of cooking, including broiling, grilling, roasting, frying, or barbecue.
  • Young chicken, Cornish game hen, broiler, fryer, roaster, or capon birds can all be found in the chicken category.
  • Young turkeys, fryer-roasters, hens, and toms are all terms used to describe young poultry in the context of turkey.
  • Although mature birds may not be as soft, they make excellent stewing or baking candidates and are frequently favored for soups, casseroles, salads, or sandwiches.

Therefore, seek for the USDA grade shield when you are shopping for your holiday meals this season and feel secure in the caliber of the food you are serving.


* Grade A is the only grade that is likely to be available at retail. It is the highest quality. With this grade, the poultry products are almost completely devoid of flaws including bruises, discolorations, and feathers. There are no fractured bones in bone-in goods. There should be a thick layer of fat under the skin on whole birds and sections with the skin on, with no tears in the skin or exposed meat that could dry out during cooking. Additionally, both whole and broken birds will have ample flesh and meat.

Whole birds and parts, roasts, tenderloins, and other commercially available boneless and/or skinless chicken items can all be identified by the U.S. grade shield for poultry. There are no grade requirements for ground poultry, wing tips, tails, giblets, or necks.

* Poultry of Grades B and C is typically utilized in goods that have undergone additional processing, where the meat is minced, chopped, or ground. They are typically not graded when sold at retail.

Grades of Chicken Meat

There are three chicken grades. AB and CC. The highest grade, grade A, is most frequently located in grocery stores and butcher shops. This bird is clean, with no bruises, broken bones, or torn skin, and it has a decent meat-to-bone ratio. B and C are not frequently available in supermarkets. They are primarily utilized in items that undergo further processing or cutting.

USDA Classification of Poultry

This is how:

  • A chicken under five weeks old, of either sex, with a carcass weight of two pounds or less is referred to as a rock Cornish game hen or Cornish game hen.
  • A chicken under ten weeks old, of either sex, that is tender-meated with flexible breastbone cartilage and soft, malleable skin is considered to be either a broiler or a fryer.
  • A young chicken, eight to twelve weeks old, of either sex, with a carcass weight of five pounds or more, is referred to as a roaster or roasting chicken. It has tender-meated skin that is soft, malleable, and smooth, and breastbone cartilage that is somewhat less flexible than that of a broiler or fryer.
  • A capon is a neutered male chicken that is under four months old, has smooth, supple skin, and a tender-meated breast.
  • An immature turkey with tender-meated skin that is soft, pliable, smooth-textured, and has a flexible breastbone cartilage, less than twelve weeks old and of any sex.

A chef seeking a bird to roast, for instance, would select a roaster, but a chef seeking chicken breasts would favor a broiler or fryer.

“I don’t want food that was produced using antibiotic-fed, caged animals. I have a lot of misgivings about how meat and poultry are produced.”

It is significant to note that the USDA’s grading system and poultry classification system are independent of one another.

The age and gender of the bird are determined using the categorization method. The grading method is used to determine the meat’s quality, though.

Different grades of pork exist.

USDA quality grades are not used to grade pork. It is often made from younger animals that have been raised and fed to create more evenly soft meat.

A key consideration when choosing the best fresh pork is look. Look for cuts that have a thin layer of fat on the outside. The meat ought to be pinkish gray and firm. The optimum flavor and tenderness will come from a tiny bit of marbling.

Which breed of poultry is most sensitive and young?

Food Safety and Inspection Service public affairs specialist Catherine Cochran published a message in

Chefs are aware that the correct bird they choose to cook with will have an impact on the end product. Due to the fact that these categories are dependent on the age and sex of the bird and are listed on poultry labels, the majority of recipes specify a fryer, roaster, or other class. Although breeding and raising techniques have advanced over time, these terms’ definitions have mostly remained the same since the 1970s.

Given these advancements in the sector, some broilers may now provide qualities that consumers seek in roasters. Agricultural Marketing Service, Food and Drug Administration, and National Advisory Committee for Meat and Poultry Inspection were consulted by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to update the definitions for five poultry classes, lowering the ages at which poultry fits into these categories and adding weight requirements where necessary.

The following are the five updated classes for poultry:

  • A young chicken of either sex, older than five weeks (formerly five to six weeks), with a ready-to-cook carcass weight of two pounds or less is referred to as a rock Cornish game hen or Cornish game hen.
  • A young chicken, of either sex, that is younger than 10 weeks old (formerly less than 13 weeks) that is tender-meated with soft, pliable, smooth-textured skin and flexible breastbone cartilage is referred to as a broiler or fryer.
  • A young chicken, referred to as a roaster or roasting chicken, is one that is between eight and twelve weeks old (previously between three and five months old), of either sex, and has a ready-to-cook carcass weight of five pounds or more. It has tender-meated skin that is soft, malleable, and smooth-textured, as well as breastbone cartilage that is somewhat less flexible than that of a broiler or fryer.
  • A capon is a male chicken that has been surgically neutered and is under four months old (it was formerly under eight months). It has tender-meat and smooth, malleable skin.
  • An immature turkey that is younger than 12 weeks old (formerly younger than 16 weeks), of either sex, and that is tender-meated with soft, malleable, smooth-textured skin and flexible breastbone cartilage is referred to as a “fryer-roaster turkey.”

On January 1, 2014, the FSIS will start enforcing the new labeling regulations, giving businesses time to comply with them. By enforcing the new law, firms will be required to label their chicken in accordance with the amended class definitions, giving customers more uniform information about the features of the poultry they buy.

What chicken age is the most tender?

“Broiler-fryers” refers to young, tender chicken that is around 7 weeks old; “Roasters” refers to older chicken that is 3 to 5 months old; “Capons” refers to male chickens that are between 16 and 8 weeks old; and “Stewing/Baking Hens” refers to mature laying hens that are between 10 months and 1 and a half years old.

What is the most crucial element that impacts a class of poultry’s tenderness?

The most crucial aspect of poultry’s quality in terms of consumer satisfaction with its eating quality is likely its texture. The amount of water retained intramuscularly determines the meat’s texture and degree of firmness. Muscle proteins that are strongly coupled to water swell, filling the crevices between myofibrils and giving the meat a more solid structure (Anadon 2002). The speed and scope of the muscle’s chemical and physical transformation into flesh influences the muscle’s softness. When a bird is killed, the blood flow is stopped, which prevents the muscles from receiving oxygen or nutrition. As a result, muscles exhaust their energy, contract, and stiffen. Once again softening occurs after this stiffening, known as rigor mortis, making the meat tender when cooked (Northcutt 2009). Any deviation from this typical process of turning muscle into meat will impact the softness.

Are hens that are younger softer?

Choosing the type of poultry to cook might be challenging given the variety available.

The label’s typical implication of the bird’s age is the most crucial element to comprehend. The meat will be more soft and tougher depending on how old the bird is; the younger the bird, the more tender the meat will be. Remember that the flavor and fat in a bird’s meat will increase as it ages. As the bird ages, its breastbone will also harden and lose flexibility.

These little, 1 to 2 pound birds are suitable for roasting and grilling.

These birds are fairly slender, weigh between 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 pounds, and have a flexible breastbone. They are incredibly adaptable and can be prepared using almost any technique.

These birds weigh between five and eight pounds. They have more fat and flavor since they are older than fryers or broilers. They are also incredibly adaptable and can be prepared using almost any technique, although they make especially delectable roast chickens.

These medically castrated male birds weigh between six and ten pounds. They cook really well and have more white meat than dark meat.

The meat from these adult, female laying chickens, which may weigh up to 8 pounds, is tasty yet rough. They have a rigid breastbone. The meat from stewing hens is older and harder, as the name suggests, making it ideal for stewing or braising.