Washington Grades More Stringent
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.
Washington apples are packed primarily into Extra Fancy and Fancy grades (both Washington and U.S.). Approximately 85 percent of Red and Golden Delicious apples are Extra Fancy, 15 percent are Fancies. A small portion of Red Delicious are packed as Fancy Standard Delicious, with as little as 25 percent color. And a similar share of Golden Delicious are packed to a U.S. No. 1 grade that permits more russeting and other blemish defects. Anything else goes to processing.
For export purposes, however, Extra Fancy and Fancy are the most commonly used grades — and many export markets use a fairly high percentage of Fancies because of the price differential.