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The quality of butter is based on its body, texture, flavour, and appearance. In the United States, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) assigns quality grades to butter based on its score on a standard quality point scale. Grade AA is the highest possible grade; Grade AA butter must achieve a numerical score of 93 out of 100 points based on its aroma, flavour, and texture. Salt (if present) must be completely dissolved and thoroughly distributed. Grade A butter is almost as good, with a score of 92 out of 100 points. Grade B butter is based on a score of 90 points, and it usually is used only for cooking or manufacturing. The flavour of Grade B is not as fresh and sweet, and its body may be crumbly, watery, or sticky.

The U.S. grade shield is usually found on the main panel of the butter package, but may be shown on the side or end panel. U.S. Grade AA and Grade A are the quality ratings most often seen. However, U.S. Grade B butter is also sold in some areas.

U.S. Grade AA
  • Delicate, sweet flavor, with a fine, highly pleasing aroma
  • Made from high-quality fresh, sweet cream
  • Smooth, creamy texture with good "spreadability"
  • May possess a slight feed and a definite cooked flavor.

U.S. Grade A

  • Pleasing flavor
  • Made from fresh cream
  • Fairly smooth texture
  • Rates close to top grade
  • May possess any of the following flavors to a slight degree: Acid, aged, bitter, coarse, flat, smothered, and storage.
  • May possess feed flavor to a definite degree.

U.S. Grade B

  • May have slightly acid flavor
  • Readily acceptable to many consumers
  • May possess any of the following flavors to a slight degree: Malty, musty, neutralizer, scorched, utensil, weed, and whey.
  • May possess any of the following flavors to a definite degree: Acid, aged, bitter, smothered, storage, and old cream; feed flavor to a pronounced degree.