U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Published in Beef Research Program Progress Report (1993) No. 4 (Part 1): 133-134


The relationship of marbling to beef palatability has been the subject of numerous investigations and several review papers. A vast majority of the data on this subject indicate that there is a positive relationship between marbling degree (or percentage chemical fat) and tenderness, juiciness, and flavor intensity, and an inverse relationship with Warner-Bratzler shear force (a mechanical measure of tenderness). However, this relationship is weak at best. Generally, although tenderness may increase linearly as marbling increases, the increments are very small, particularly from one marbling degree to the next. A comparison of the extremes in USDA quality grade (e.g., Standard and Prime) was usually needed to find statistical differences of any practical importance. Based on available data, it appears that between 5 and 10% of the variation in tenderness can be accounted for by USDA marbling degree. Most importantly, none of the studies detected palatability differences between Slight and Small marbling degrees that could justify price differentials frequently found in the market place. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of marbling score on palatability and caloric content of meat from diverse breeds of cattle.