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Ketchup, at least in the USA, is about as boring as a condiment can possibly get. It's hard to imagine anything "fancy" coming out of a tube like this:

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Why, then, is it frequently called "fancy"? Is there some other type of tomato ketchup that is less fancy, and has fallen out of popular usage, such that the "fancy" designation actually carries some meaning lost to history?

  • 4
    Well, what is it about fancy ketchup that makes it boring and normal? – yuritsuki Nov 7 '14 at 18:19
  • 4
    @thinlyveiledquestionmark Quibble much? – Carey Gregory Nov 7 '14 at 20:03
  • Interesting that McDonalds actually uses a higher quality product. I mean, it's just ketchup, but it looks like they are using a higher grade here. – Jeff Davis Nov 10 '14 at 17:34
61

Found in this wiki article , is the following information:

"Fancy" ketchup

Some ketchup in the U.S. is labeled "Fancy". This is a USDA grade, relating to specific gravity. Fancy ketchup has a higher tomato solid concentration than other USDA grades.

USDA Ketchup Grades

Grade           Specific Gravity  Total Solids
Fancy           1.15              33%
Extra Standard  1.13              29%
Standard        1.11              25%

Hope this helps! :)

  • 15
    "Extra standard"? Talk about contrived, abused language... – tubedogg Nov 7 '14 at 22:38
  • 1
    @tubedogg Perhaps their "extra standard" is analogous to the word "extraordinary". – pacoverflow Nov 8 '14 at 4:05
  • @tubedogg according to MW (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extra), "Extra (adv.): beyond the usual size or amount" -- so "Extra Standard" is beyond the usual amount for "Standard" -- which, when you look at the numbers for Specific Gravity and Total Solids, it indeed is. No contrivance or abuse required. – Doktor J Nov 8 '14 at 21:54
  • @DoktorJ My point was more, why even use the word standard at all in the middle tier? Two of the three grades use the word standard, despite the fact they are all equidistant in both Specific Gravity and Total Solids. The use of the word standard in the lower two grades implies they are much more closely related than they actually are. – tubedogg Nov 8 '14 at 22:01
  • @tubedogg I'll agree with that. "Standard", "Fine", and "Fancy" might've been better nomenclature (or, looking at the list Stephen Eure provided, maybe "Standard", "Choice", and "Fancy"). – Doktor J Nov 9 '14 at 1:08
28

"Fancy," when used in the labeling of foods, is almost invariably tied to USDA standards for the classification and grading of the foods. Foods traded on the wholesale market are not required to grade their foods - the use of the system is voluntary. The USDA grading names tied to different food types aren't always consistent or intuitive.

Examples: Vegetable grades, in descending order of quality, are: US Extra Fancy, US Fancy, US Extra #1, and US #1. Fruit grades, in descending order of quality are: US Fancy, US #1, US #2, and US #3. Frozen fruit grades, in descending order of quality are: US Grade A (or Fancy), US Grade B (or Choice or Extra Standard), and US Grade C (or Standard).

Ketchup has its own USDA grading system based partially on the specific gravity of the product - ketchup grades, in descending order of quality are: Fancy, Extra Standard, and Standard. A "Fancy" ketchup isn't all dolled-up in some way, but is likely to have a better and more uniform consistency with fewer undesirable characteristics or flaws than lower grade ketchups.

But, again, just because a ketchup doesn't state that it's "Fancy" doesn't necessarily mean that the contents don't meet the specifications for a fancy ketchup. "Fancy Ketchup" is always "Fancy." "Ketchup" might be fancy quality and not labeled as such.

Yes, there are tomato ketchups that are less fancy than "Fancy Ketchup," but I imagine that the "Fancy" designation for fancy quality ketchups has fallen out of popular usage - except perhaps in the realm of fast food packets where people have become accustomed to seeing it written that way.

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