What is Certified Tender?

Aug 02, 2017

CertifiedTenderThe Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the USDA, oversees the Beef Carcass Quality Grading Program that deals with grading such as USDA Prime, Choice or Select. The quality grades are indicators of eating experience, but some consumers are looking for more specific traits, such as tenderness. These tenderness programs help customers identify specific cuts of beef that are consistently tender or very tender, with the claims “USDA Tender” and “USDA Very Tender.”


Beef cuts that are considered for this tenderness claim will be certified through third party audits. Companies will also be reviewed by the AMS’ Grading and Verification Division, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and other divisions to ensure quality. AMS works with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International for the tenderness standards. There are minimum tenderness thresholds for tender, and very tender to guarantee the quantitative tenderness values. This is tested by using Warner Brantzler shear force measurements, which determines the amount of force required to shear through a meat sample and national standards have deeply researched and determined.

Additionally, only inherently tender meat can qualify. Inherently tender meat is that which has not been subjected to further processes not typically used during the conversion of muscle to meat. Examples of these are enhancement through marination (injection and tumbling), mechanical tenderization (blade or needle), and chemical tenderization. Inherent processes include, but are not limited to, electrical stimulation (during harvest), carcass suspension techniques, and aging (carcass, primal, or subprimal, or a combination thereof).

Tenderness is a very important factor in the level of satisfaction when eating beef. This program helps ensure the customer is pleased with the end product. It also facilitates communication between the industry and retailers, as well as increasing the understanding of the finished product’s and the expectations of the consumers. 


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