NCBA Welcomes Updates to Beef Standards

US - The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the US Department of Agriculture is revising the United States Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef (beef standards) to allow dentition and documentation of actual age as additional methods of classifying maturity of carcasses presented to USDA for official quality grading.
calendar icon 12 December 2017
clock icon 2 minute read

Last week, NCBA President Craig Uden released a statement in response to the notice, saying that the  update to the beef standards will benefit US beef producers in every segment of the industry.

Mr Uden said: "By basing carcass quality grades on the most current scientific data available, we will improve grading accuracy and ensure that producers are getting maximum value out of each head.

"We are grateful to Secretary Perdue and the staff at USDA for implementing this decision, which demonstrates their continued commitment to supporting American cattlemen and women."


Following a petition led by NCBA, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service announced that dentition and documentation of actual age will now be used as additional methods for classifying maturity of carcasses. The full notice in the Federal Register can be found here.

Dentition is a method for measuring the age of cattle based on their teeth. Cattle with fewer than three incisors are classified as less than 30 months of age (MOA). Three or more incisors indicate cattle are more than 30 MOA.

Prior to the change, a significant portion of cattle under 30 MOA were incorrectly deemed ineligible for USDA quality grades because of limitations in the process used to assess their age. Dentition and/or documentation of actual age provides a more accurate assessment method.

Ultimately this will ensure that more carcasses are eligible for USDA quality grades and allow producers to maximize the value of each head. More details can be read in NCBA’s comments on the issue here.

A beef industry working group composed of representatives from the cow-calf, feeder, and packer segments conservatively estimated that incorrect classification of carcasses cost the industry nearly $60 million annually. Carcasses incorrectly classified were sold at an estimated discount of nearly $275 per head.

Dentition assessments have long been used in US federally inspected plants, with effective USDA Food Safety Inspection Service oversight, to meet the export requirements of many US trading partners.

You can view the full notice by clicking here.

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