Comments Requested on U.S. Beef Grading Modernization

The USDA Ag Marketing Service (AMS) is requesting comments from U.S. cattle producers on the potential modernizing of the current standards for grading carcass beef to include considering dentition for age verification.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) requested this comment period and estimates the change would yield beef producers approximately $59 million in added revenue.

Many cattle producers are in support of modernizing the current U.S. standards for grades of carcass beef to include the use of dentition for age verification because the move will allow for an alternate method of classifying beef carcasses into maturity groupings, thus allowing additional carcasses to qualify for the higherUSDA grades of Prime, Choice and Select without a significant reduction in the consistency of those grades in predicting palatability.

A recent Beef Checkoff-funded study evaluated the relationship between USDA carcass maturity and eating quality of strip loin steaks produced by fed steers and heifers that had been classified as less than 30 months of age using dentition, with results showing that sensory panelists were unable to detect any differences in tenderness, juiciness or flavor between steaks from carcasses classified by USDA graders using current skeletal and lean maturity observations.

Projections from NCBA show that this modernization would yield producers approximately $59 million in additional revenue by removing discounts for cattle identified as greater than 30 months of age.

NCBA supports the addition of the following paragraph to section 54.104, paragraph k, of the Standards:

Carcasses of grain-fed steers and heifers determined to be less than 30 months old either by dentition (assessed at the time of slaughter under the supervision of USDA-FSIS) or by documentation of actual age (verified through a USDA Process Verified Program or USDA Quality System Assessment) are included in the youngest maturity group for carcasses recognized as “beef” (A-maturity) regardless of skeletal evidences of maturity.

Comments can be made electronically by clicking here.

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