Butter Standards


"Butter" shall be understood to mean the food product usually known as butter, and which is made exclusively from milk or cream, or both, with or without common salt, and with or without additional coloring matter, and containing not less than 80 percent by weight of milkfat, all tolerances having been allowed for.

Act of Congress, March 4, 1923, 42 Stat. 1500.


USDA graded butter complies with stringent flavor, texture and visual standards. Grading of butter is first determined on the basis of classifying the flavor characteristics and then rating body, color and salt characteristics. Each parameter is scored accordingly.

Flavor Intensity

Flavor is the basic quality factor in grading butter and is determined organoleptically by taste and smell.

Body Characteristics

Body refers to the textural characteristics of butter as related to its spreadability and mouthfeel. Butter, with a firm, waxy body, has an attractive appearance, shows no free moisture droplets, cuts clean when sliced and has good spreadability.


Color refers to the evenness of color and shades of yellow of the butter. The natural color varies according to seasonal and regional conditions and color is considered defective when it is uneven (mottled or streaked) or lacks uniformity within the same churning or package.


Salt is discerned from the degree of salt taste and whether it is completely dissolved. A range in the salt content or salty taste is permitted without considering this to be a defect.

Once these parameters are evaluated, the scores for each sample are added and butter is graded as USDA grade AA, A or B. Grade AA butter possesses a fine and highly pleasing butter flavor. Grade A butter possesses a pleasing and desirable butter flavor. Grade B butter possesses a fairly pleasing butter flavor. Any defects are disrated in accordance with the established butter classification. The final grade is established in accordance with the flavor classification, subject to disratings for color, body and salt.

The following Tables are used to determine the Grade assigned.

Identified flavors1 Flavor classification
Feed S D P
Cooked D --- ---
Acid --- S D
Aged --- S D
Bitter --- S D
Coarse --- S ---
Flat --- S ---
Smothered --- S D
Storage --- S D
Malty --- --- S
Musty --- --- S
Neutralizer --- --- S
Scorched --- --- S
Utensil --- --- S
Weed --- --- S
Whey --- --- S
Old cream --- --- D

S-Slight; D-Definite; P-Pronounced.


Characteristics and Disratings in Body, Color and Salt
Characteristics Disratings
Short --- 1/2 1
Crumbly 1/2 1 ---
Gummy 1/2 1 ---
Leaky 1/2 1 2
Mealy or grainy 1/2 1 ---
Weak 1/2 1 ---
Sticky 1/2 1 ---
Ragged boring 1 2 ---
Wavy 1/2 1 ---
Mottled 1 2 ---
Streaked 1 2 ---
Color specks 1 2 ---
Sharp 1/2 1 ---
Gritty 1 2 ---
Gritty 1 2 ---


S-Slight; D-Definite; P-Pronounced.


Flavor Classification Total Disratings U.S. Grade
AA 1/2 AA
AA 1 A
AA 1 1/2 B
A 1 B
B 1/2 B




Microbiological Standards
Proteolytic <=100 CFU/g
Yeast and Mold <=20 CFU/g
Coliform <=10 CFU/g


Source: 7CFR 58.345