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


Date of this Version


Document Type



Published in Beef Research Program Progress Report (1988) No. 3: 5-8


Historically, when steers were finished on pasture, ability to finish at a young age was desirable, particularly when market requirements for fatness were great. However, ability to fatten became a handicap as we shifted to increased use of concentrate feeds in diets of growing-finishing cattle. Consequently, yield grades were added to the USDA grading system to reflect variation in carcass value associated with differences in yield of retail product. Recently, consumer pressure to reduce caloric and fat content of beef and other red meats has intensified because coronary heart disease is believed to be associated with elevated blood-cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels are, in turn, associated with dietary intake of saturated fat. Dietary control of the type and amount of fat consumed is strongly recommended by members of the medical profession in an attempt to regulate blood-cholesterol levels. The purpose of this paper is to examine genetic variation among and within breeds in the amount and distribution of fat and lean in beef carcasses and to evaluate opportunities to genetically change fat and caloric content of retail product in cattle.