Jun 22, 2015

Did You Know? Explaining the "Fancy" in Ketchup

McDonald's Fancy Ketchup packets.
It turns out there actually is an explanation as to why some ketchup is labeled "fancy," and it has to do with USDA classification.

If you were anything like me as a kid, you often wondered why McDonald's ketchup packets were labeled "fancy." Was it a special formula that only McDonald's had access to, which contained special, fancy ingredients? Was it made by people wearing top hats and ball gowns? And most importantly, if you ate fancy ketchup, did that make you fancy too? (Ah, the thoughts of a nine-year-old.)

As it were, McDonald's was not throwing the adjective "fancy" around in order to elevate public opinion regarding their food quality, but was simply stating the USDA grade of their ketchup.

"Fancy" or US Grade A is a USDA grade for tomato ketchup, which deals with the specific weight of the ketchup. That is, in order to qualify as fancy, ketchup must have a minimum of 33% tomato solids in the sauce, as well as meeting other criteria regarding color, consistency, and absence of defects. As you may guess, US Grade A/Fancy is the highest grade of tomato ketchup, followed by US Grade B/Extra Standard (29%) and US Grade C/Standard (25%).

So does that mean only McDonald's ketchup is fancy quality since others are not labeled as such? Probably not. The use of "Fancy" in marketing ketchup has fallen out of favor over the years. So chances are, you've probably eaten plenty of US Grade A ketchup without being explicitly told so.

If you're interested in reading more about USDA ketchup grades, you can check out the USDA website for ketchup grading and standards.

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