Washington Grades Are More Stringent
The Washington State apple industry uses the most stringent grading standards in the country. In 1915, the State established the first grade standards in the nation for apples. The U.S. Department of Agriculture adopted national grade standards for apples eight years later in 1923.
Today, Washington Apples may be packed according to Washington State standards or U.S. standards. The hierarchy of grades from Washington, starting with the highest, is:
- Washington Extra Fancy
- U.S. Extra Fancy
- Washington Fancy
- U.S. Fancy
- U.S. No. 1
- U.S. No. 1 Hail
Combination grades are rarely packed in Washington. Grading standards are minimum requirements. Apple quality may exceed the grade marked.
A Higher Standard
Washington Apple growers hold themselves to a higher standard. Read on to learn how the quality of Washington Apples exceeds even stringent US regulations.
- One major difference between Washington and U.S. grades on red varieties is the definition and interpretation of “good shade of red.” Washington grades require a more uniform, more intense, deeper shade of red than the U.S. grades.
- On green and yellow varieties, Washington grades are more restrictive than U.S. grades on the amount of surface blemishes such as limb rubs, various types of russeting and hail damage. (Russeting is a discoloration of the apple skin that is usually caused by weather conditions.)
- In addition to more demanding external qualities, Washington Red and Golden Delicious must meet the toughest internal quality standards in the industry. Packinghouses are required to test Red Delicious for minimum sugar levels before the apples can be shipped if the fruit has been harvested before October 1. Reds must have a minimum soluble solids level, or sugar level, of 11 percent before they can be marketed. Golden Delicious must have a minimum of 10.5 percent soluble solids.
- All grades and sizes of Red and Golden Delicious must also meet minimum firmness standards at the time of shipment or be diverted to processing. Red Delicious must have 12 pounds internal pressure. Goldens must have 10 pounds internal pressure. In addition, Gala and Jonagold must have a minimum 11 pounds internal pressure. A 10 percent tolerance is allowed. Washington is the only growing region in the world with this firmness requirement at the time of shipment.
- All of the above standards are enforced by the Washington State Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Random samples of apples are tested for color, weight, pressure, sugar, grade and condition, before and after harvest to enforce state and federal requirements.
Apples are packed in 40-pound fiberboard cartons (most packers put in at least 42 pounds to accommodate a little moisture loss in shipment). And they are designated by count — the number of apples in each carton. The largest packed size is 48, which means there are 48 apples in each box — a very large piece of fruit. Supplies of these large apples usually are very limited. The table below shows each size and its approximate weight and diameter.
Washington crops traditionally peak on sizes 100 and 113. The difference in dimension between sizes is approximately 1/8-inch. (3 mm)