Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XVIII December 9, 10, and 11, 2003, Mitchell, Nebraska.


Large premiums for Choice quality grade carcasses versus Select carcasses and substantial discounts for Yield Grade 4 carcasses provide incentive for beef cattle breeders to select for carcass traits. Marbling may only account for a small share of the variation in palatability of cooked beef products and is less important than tenderness, but it serves as an "insurance policy" for eating satisfaction and is more easily measured. Thus breeders have responded to increased consumer demand for beef quality and consistency by selecting for marbling as it is one of the few tools available to them. Without doubt, success of programs such as Certified Angus Beef have drawn attention to quality grade as a tangible component of many grid based programs. Although discounts for poor Yield Grade exist, there are only minimal premiums for superior lean yield in Y1 and Y2 carcasses. As long as single trait selection for either marbling or muscling is avoided and balanced multiple trait selection is used, small but positive gains in carcass traits should be realized.

The difficulty lies in achieving the optimum balance of traits especially considering the powerful impact of reproduction and production traits on ranch profitability. Ranchers should match their cattle (cows) to ranch resources first and adjust carcass traits only as much as ranch resources reasonably allow. There is a need to explore the antagonisms that exist between carcass traits and other reproduction and production traits. The number of bulls, within a given breed, that have genetic estimates (EPD) for carcass traits has grown rapidly in recent years. Commercial DNA tests exist for a component of marbling and tenderness. Ultrasound has contributed greatly to the carcass database and will likely increase even more because it is a direct, non-invasive measure that can be used directly on seedstock. The advent of sophisticated identification procedures and greater traceability of cattle will enhance the collection of even more carcass data. Although not all ranchers will choose to track carcass quality and quantity traits , it is clear that many of their competitors will.