I would bet if I asked 20 random USDA inspectors if they knew the scoring guidelines and tolerances for cabbage being poorly trimmed I would receive 20 different answers. Excessive wrapper leaves on cabbage is rarely an issue, except of course when it arrives in your warehouse.
Taking a look at this savoy cabbage, the receiver removed 12 wrapper leaves.
What do you think……a defect? If you said ‘yes’ you are correct. All cabbage, red, green, savoy, etc., if bought on the basis of the U.S. No. 1 Grade, allows no more than 4 wrapper leaves. If green cabbage is bought on the basis of the U.S. No. 1 Green or if red cabbage is bought on the basis of the U.S. No. 1 New Red, then the cabbage is allowed to have no more than 7 wrapper leaves. In addition, to meet the trimming requirements all grades require the stems to be cut so they do not extend more than one-half inch beyond the point of attachment.
Is having too many wrapper leaves a big deal? Usually the reason the cabbage is shipped with excessive wrapper leaves is because the heads are on the smaller side. The grower leaves the wrapper leaves on the head to take up space in the carton, to prevent the heads from easily moving around in the carton and becoming bruised and discolored. So, if you can live with the extra wrapper leaves it may not be an issue for your company. For retailers this will involve extra handling, as the leaves must be removed before being placed on display for customers.
The U.S. Grade Standard for Cabbage does allow a separate tolerance for poorly trimmed heads, due to excessive wrapper leaves. Let me break this down for you.
For all U.S. No. 1 Grades of cabbage, the tolerance for defects, other than poorly trimmed by excessive wrapper leaves, is 10%, and including within this total defect tolerance no more than 2% soft rot is allowed. An additional tolerance of 10% is allowed for cabbage with excessive wrapper leaves (more than 4 or more than 7 wrapper leaves, depending on the grade).
Let’s take a quick quiz: If you found the following, would the cabbage be in grade?
6% insect damage; 2% tipburn, 4% poorly trimmed stems, 4% excessive wrapper leaves.
If you said the cabbage would fail to grade, you are correct. The 4% poorly trimmed stems is a regular defect scored with the insect damage and tipburn, resulting in a total of 12% defects, while the 4% excessive wrapper leaves is within its 10% additional tolerance. Got it?