* When buying butter, read the label and look for the U.S. grade mark (seen in the photo above, at the right end of the top stick), the product's net weight and the name of the manufacturer, packer or distributor. U.S. Grade AA butter is the highest rating given to American-made butter by the United States Department of Agriculture.

* These butter grades are all acceptable to consumers:

Grade AA is the quality we're used to seeing most often on butter manufactured and packaged in the United States. It is made from high-quality fresh, sweet cream, and, if it contains salt, the salt must be completely dissolved and thoroughly distributed. It is judged to have the most delicate flavor and most pleasing aroma of the grades.

Grade A butter is made from fresh cream, with a fairly smooth texture.

Grade B butter may have a slightly acid flavor.

* Store butter in its original protective wrapping or container.

* Freeze butter not intended for use within two or three days. Frozen butter will maintain its quality for two months.

For other tips, see www.ams.usda.gov/howto

buy/butter.htm.

Source: Agricultural Marketing Service, Home and Garden Bulletin Number 257