In 1990, a nationwide survey of beef tenderness was conducted. A second survey was conducted in 1999 and additional surveys were made about every five years, the latest encompassing 2015-2016. All surveys have been funded by the Beef Checkoff. Retail steaks were obtained over 12 months from supermarkets in 11 major metropolitan areas representing all regions of the U.S. In each area, samples of steaks were obtained from the largest two or three retail chains and from four stores per chain. The steaks were Top Blade, Ribeye (boneless and bone-in), Top Loin (boneless and bone-in), T-Bone, Porterhouse, Top Sirloin, Top Round, and Bottom Round. All steaks were cooked to the same temperature on grated electric grills and evaluated for tenderness by both mechanical process and taste panel, which also evaluated flavor and juiciness. Some of the findings were as follows:

  • post-fabrication aging times for retail cuts averaged 26 days, ranging from 6 to 102 days;
  • percentages of steaks determined by mechanical testing to be Very Tender were Top Blade and Porterhouse 97%, Boneless Top Loin, and T-Bone 96%, Boneless Ribeye 92%, Bone-In Top Loin 88%, Bone-in Ribeye and Top Sirloin 86%, Top Round 65%, Bottom Round 37%;
  • 10% of Top Round and 14% of Bottom Round were classed as Tough;
  • taste panel evaluation for tenderness, flavor, and juiciness generally followed the pattern of mechanical evaluation for tenderness;
  • tenderness, flavor, and juiciness were significantly lower for Top and Bottom Round;
  • steaks grading U. S. Prime were statistically more tender than lower grades but the differences were small enough such that consumer preference might not be affected. Contrary to much other research, High Choice, Low Choice, and Select did not differ in tenderness.

The report noted there were fewer steaks, compared to past surveys, labeled with packer or processor labels or with store brands or claims. Longer aging times were recommended for lower tenderness cuts, especially Bottom Round.

(2015 National Beef Tenderness Survey; Texas A&M Univ. lead investigator with co-investigators North Dakota St. Univ., Oklahoma St. Univ., Texas Tech Univ., Univ. of Florida, Univ. of Missouri, NCBA)



Annual reports by the U. S. Meat Animal Research Center show genetic trend for milk production has been increasing since 1990 in Angus, Hereford, and Red Angus. Currently, Angus and Red Angus are near or equal to the level of higher-milking Continental breeds and Herefords have also notably increased. Some question if this has had any effects on cow herd performance.

Over two years and three locations (averaging 55 inch precipitation/year and 5800 lb standing forage) data were collected from 237 Angus and Angus-sired cows, ranging in age from 3-yr-old to 9-yr-old. Cows were kept on fescue pasture and wintered on ad lib corn silage, rye haylage, and/or orchard grass hay and supplemented with corn distillers grain. Calves were born in January-February and weaned in August-September.

Cows were weighed and scored for body condition every week from calving to end of breeding. Cows were heat synchronized then timed-artificially inseminated, followed 14 days later by turning in clean up bulls. Average body weight was 1364 lb and average Body Condition Score was 5.2 (scale of 1-9, emaciated to obese). Milk production was measured approximately 58 days and 129 days after calving; milk yield was classed as High (avg. 26.3 lb/day), Medium (20.2 lb/day), or Low (14.4 lb/day). Results were:

Trait / Milk Level LOW MED HIGH
AI pregnancy,%   57a   55a   44b
Overall pregnancy,%   81a   86b   75c
Calf mid-weight, lb  255a  275b  282b
Calf weaning weight, lb  627  647  649
Lb calf/cow exposed  510a  550b  488c

a-c, means with different superscripts differ (P≤ .05)

HIGH cows had significantly lower AI and overall pregnancy, while MED was higher than LOW overall. LOW calves were significantly lighter early but there was no significant difference at weaning among groups. Overall production (lb calf/cow exposed to breeding) significantly favored MED over LOW over HIGH. The authors concluded “even in management systems that modify the environments with harvested feedstuffs, high milk production decreases reproductive efficiency without increasing calf BW at weaning”. Note: other research and field studies also indicate there might be a plateau effect such that, under most cow-calf nutritional environments, weaning weight may not increase much if any even when genetic potential for milk is high.

(Transl. Anim. Sci. 1:54; Univ. of Tennessee)



USDA projections indicate large growth in total red meat and poultry through 2018. These increases could put pressure on cattle prices, from calf to finishing.











Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) affects finishing performance and carcass characteristics more than any other non-genetic factor. A group of 516 calves, averaging 477 lb, was purchased from livestock auctions in September and transported an average of 84 miles to a research feedyard. Upon arrival, all calves were vaccinated for the BRD complex and clostridials and treated for external and internal parasites. Bulls (69% of total) were castrated and those with horns (11%) were tipped. A receiving/backgrounding ration was fed for 86 days. During this period, 66% of calves showed signs of sickness and 13% died (these levels are at the upper end of the ranges reported in other research and surveys for high-risk calves). After receiving/backgrounding, a group of 126 calves received a growth implant and were placed on a finishing ration. Calves were placed on pens according to the number of times they had been treated for BRD during receiving/backgrounding: 0 times (0X), one time (1X), two time (2X), or three or four times (3-4X). All cattle were fed to external fat thickness of ½ inch (estimated by ultrasound).

There were no statistically significant differences during finishing among treatment groups in overall feed consumption, feed efficiency, ribeye area as % of carcass weight, fat cover, marbling score, USDA Yield Grade, or liver score. Traits differing significantly (P≤.05) across treatment groups are shown below

Trait/Treatment  0X 1X 2X 3-4X
Initial weight, lb 713 695 627 572
Days on feed 174 170 193 189
ADG 3.10 3.32 3.15 3.39
Feed % of body wt. 2.12 221 2.24 2.40
Final weight, lb 1250 1258 1232 1214
Carcass weight, lb 818 811 792 777
Dressing % 65.5 64.6 64.2 64.0
% Choice-Prime 70 56 60 36
Carcass value, $ 1644 1613 1589 1540
$ cost to 0Xa 0 -8 -112 -127
$ value to 0X 0 -39 -167 -231

a = additional drug, labor, yardage, and feed cost

As indicated by the considerable differences in on-feed weight, calves gained less with increasing numbers of antimicrobial treatments during receiving/background. This loss of performance tended to be offset by higher compensatory gain during finishing, though longer feeding was needed to reach similar fatness. With more treatments, total feed consumption did not differ but consumption in relation to body weight increased and final and carcass weights and dressing percent decreased.

Marbling scores did not significantly differ (0X=Sm51, 1X=Sm28, 2X=Sm26, 3-4X=Sm06). But because average marbling for 3-4X was almost at the junction (Sm00) of Select-Choice, this resulted in more Selects, so the percent of Choice or Prime carcasses was notably reduced for 3-4X. With increasing numbers of antimicrobial treatments, total cost was higher and total value was lower.

The authors noted that “calves treated multiple times for BRD can reach the same compositional endpoint as untreated” and “additional days on feed results in increased costs but also allows for compensation of lost performance incurred early in the feeding period” so “economic losses of calves requiring multiple BRD treatments can be reduced with additional days on feed, but not eliminated”.

(Prof. Anim. Sci. 33:24; Oklahoma St. Univ.)



Liver abscesses reduce profits because of higher liver condemnation and carcass trim loss and reduced carcass weight and grade. Any possible effects on eating quality had not been studied.

From the same commercial feedyard, 119 cattle not fed tylosin were slaughtered on the same day. To avoid any possible effects from respiratory disease, only carcasses with healthy, normal lungs were used. All carcasses were Select or Low Choice. Across those grades, three classifications were assigned based on liver abscess scores of normal, mild damage, or severe damage. Strip loins were fabricated for evaluation of mechanical tenderness and by trained taste panels.

There was no statistically significant difference, among liver abscess groups, from taste panel evaluation for tenderness, connective tissue, juiciness, beef flavor identity, off flavor, or juiciness. Low Choice steaks were significantly more tender, had less connective tissue, and were juicier. Mechanical tenderness did not significantly differ among liver abscess groups.

This study found there were no effects on eating quality of beef due to amount of liver abscesses, even in cattle not fed tylosin.

(2017 Kansas St. Univ. Cattlemen’s Day Proceedings, p. 131)



All major beef breed associations now conduct national genetic evaluations, using data from across the U. S. It has been well established that the same cattle may not perform similarly in different environments, i. e., there may be genetic-environmental interaction (G x E).

A study was conducted to determine if G x E is important for birth and weaning weight in Red Angus. Records were grouped according to source from nine geographical regions: Pacific, western-southwestern Desert, Rocky Mountains, Upper Great Plains, Lower Great Plains, Great Lakes and Northeast, Corn Belt, Mid South-Mid Atlantic, or Gulf Coast. Numbers across regions were not equally distributed, being highest from Rocky Mountains and Upper Plains, intermediate from Corn Belt and Lower Plains, and lowest from Desert and Gulf Coast. Analysis was of 67,122 records from 105 sires.

Average birth weight (adjusted for age of dam) was 80.5 lb, being highest in the Rocky Mountains and Upper Plains and lowest in the Gulf Coast. Genetic correlations with other regions were highest for Corn Belt, Upper Plains, Lower Plains, and Rocky Mountains, intermediate for Northeast, Gulf Coast, and Pacific, and lowest for Mid South-Mid Atlantic and Desert.

Average weaning weight (adjusted for age of dam and age of calf) was 590 lb, being highest in the Pacific and Great Lakes-Northeast and lowest in the Gulf Coast. Correlations with other regions were generally lower for weaning weight than for birth weight, in agreement with some research on other breeds. Correlations were highest for Northeast, Corn Belt, Rocky Mountains, Upper Plains, and Pacific, intermediate for Lower Plains, Desert, and Gulf Coast, and lowest for Mid South-Mid Atlantic.

The authors concluded “sires would be expected to rank similarly for offspring performance across most regions”. Possible exceptions could be  the Desert and Mid South-Mid Atlantic regions for birth weight and the Mid South-Mid Atlantic region for weaning weight.

(J. Animal Sci. 95:538; Univ. of Missouri and Kansas St. Univ.)



The 7th Annual Grassfed Beef Conference will be held on the campus of Texas A&M University on May 2-3, 2017. The important aspects of grassfed production and marketing will be covered. Breakfast and lunch will be served both days and dinner on the first evening will include grassfed prime rib. Register for the conference at or phone at (979) 845-2604.



A core principle of BQA is to implement management practices that prevent the adulteration of beef from foreign objects like bullets, birdshot, and buckshot. Shotguns should never be used to gather cattle and never use a firearm to encourage the neighbors bull to go back across the fence. Additionally, make sure hunters are educated about this issue and that they are aware of the locations of any livestock during a hunt. For more information about BQA and the dates of upcoming BQA trainings please visit .

(Jason Banta, Ph. D., , Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator)

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