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


Date of this Version


Document Type



Applied Animal Science 38:393–401 https://doi.org/10.15232/aas.2022-02322


Open access


Objective: The objectives of this study were to survey characteristics including hot carcass weight (HCW), 12th rib fat thickness (RFT), body-wall thickness (BWT), longissimus muscle area (LMA), USDA yield grade (USDA YG), percentage closely trimmed retail cuts (RC), and calculated yield grade (Calc YG) of lamb carcasses in the Intermountain West to determine the effects of season of slaughter and interrelationships among carcass characteristics.

Materials and Methods: Lamb carcass characteristics were evaluated in 2 commercial Intermountain West processing plants over one year (n = 10,027). Carcasses were evaluated by season: spring (December–April, n = 2,322) and summer (May–August, n = 7,705).

Results and Discussion: Carcasses of lambs slaughtered in the spring had 3.4 kg heavier HCW (P = 0.04) than those slaughtered in the summer. Subcutaneous fat (RFT; P = 0.06) and Calc YG (P = 0.09) tended to be greater in the spring than summer. Correlation coefficients and models of fit with a linear covariate of HCW indicated negative relationship between HCW and RC and positive relationship with all other carcass traits (P < 0.001). Overall, graded lamb carcasses exceeded commercial processing plant preferred HCW (38.6 kg) by 5% (mean = 40.5 kg) and industry acceptable RFT (6 mm) by 25% (mean = 8.03 mm). Furthermore, 70% of lamb carcasses exceed 6 mm RFT.

Implications and Applications: Season of slaughter contributed to differences in HCW and USDA YG but no other carcass characteristics. Still, carcass data surveyed from the largest lamb-producing region of the United States suggests that the degree of fatness exceeds industry preferences. Although abattoirs mitigate adverse effects of excessive fat through trimming and diverse market outlets, industry-wide efforts that agree on acceptable standards of trimness are needed. Transparent dialog across industry segments should be prioritized in addition to consistent integration of value-based pricing to reduce the proportion of excessively finished lambs.