Grades and Standards

Grades and Standards

USDA grades for natural almonds are voluntary minimum standards. The California Almond industry can supply almonds to customers’ unique specifications, both in terms of sizes and grades, based on the intended applications.

USDA grades establish tolerances for various quality factors. Depending on the ultimate use, different grades may be more relevant than others. Other terms like "Supreme" are also used in the industry when referring to particular grades. Be sure to speak with your supplier about your specifications.

 

UNDERSTANDING USDA GRADES

The different grades are defined by the allowable minimum standards/tolerances for each grade of almonds. The higher the percentage listed on the following chart, the higher the tolerance for that particular grade factor.

Because almonds are a natural product, there can be variations within grades and among shipments. For example, while U.S. Fancy cannot have more than 5% dissimilar almonds, depending upon the conditions of that crop year, the actual percentage in the shipment could range from 0 to 5%.

Working with your suppliers will ensure the almond grade you select will provide the final product you require and/or desire.

VARIATIONS

There are various grades that help differentiate customers’ needs. They are the following:

U.S. FANCY:

The highest grade and often best used in products in which the visual appeal of the almond is critical.

U.S. EXTRA NO. 1:

Similar to U.S. Fancy, this almond is ideal for food applications in which the appearance of the almond is very important.

U.S. NO. 1:

Sometimes referred to as "Supreme," and often used for whole-almond applications or for further processing like blanching and roasting.

U.S. SELECT SHELLER RUN:

A mid-quality grade, this is a good choice for applications that occur within a mix or are used with other ingredients. This grade is also optimal for grinding, roasting, dicing, blanching and slicing.

U.S. STANDARD SHELLER RUN:

A good grade, best used when a higher level of split and broken kernels is not a concern. Blanching, dicing, grinding and/or paste are the best use for this grade of almond.

U.S. NO. 1 WHOLE & BROKEN AND U.S. NO. 1 PIECES:

Lower grade, often used for grinding.

PARAMETERS

View the complete standards: USDA Standards Almonds Inshell and USDA Standards Shelled Almonds or the USDA grades cards for inshell and shelled. For your own copy of the USDA Grade chart, click here.

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One side of a double kernel is flat or concave.

 

DISSIMILAR:

Occurs when different varieties of almonds are found in a single load.

 

DOUBLES:

Two kernels developing in one shell. One side of a double kernel is flat or concave.

 

CHIP AND SCRATCH:

Loss of kernel skin as a result of mechanical processing. Greater than 1/8" (3.2 mm) in diameter, it is defined as injury; if affecting, in aggregate, greater than 1/4" (6.4 mm) in diameter, it is defined as defect.

FOREIGN MATERIAL:

Pieces of shell, hulls, or other foreign matter that will not pass through a round-opening screen measuring 8/64" (3.2 mm) in diameter.

 

PARTICLES AND DUST:

Fragments of almond kernels or other material that will pass through a round-opening screen measuring 8/64" (3.2 mm) in diameter.

SPLIT AND BROKEN:

When seven-eighths or less of complete, whole kernels will not pass through a round-opening screen measuring 8/64" (3.2 mm) in diameter.

 

OTHER DEFECTS:

Any defect that materially detracts from the appearance of the individual kernel or the edible or shipping quality of the almonds. This can include gum, shriveling, brown spots and discoloration.

SERIOUS DEFECTS:

 Any defect that makes the kernel unsuitable for use (includes decay, rancidity, insect injury and damage by mold).