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USDA approves additional methods of determining carcass maturity for quality grading

published: March 16th 2018
source: TAMU Extension

Evaluation of maturity is part of USDA grading of beef for quality. Maturity in this application has been estimation of physiological age rather than actual chronological age. Indicators of physiological age are bone characteristics, ossification of cartilage, and color and texture of ribeye muscle. USDA grades divide maturity into five categories. Carcasses from cattle estimated to be from 9 to 30 months of age are A maturity; B maturity is from 30 to 42 months. Recently, two other methods have been approved for establishing A-category carcass maturity.

One method is based on dentition. USDA-Food Inspection Service “deems cattle to be 30 months of age and older if at least one of the second set of permanent incisors has erupted (the first set of permanent incisors of cattle erupt from 24 through 30 months of age)”. Another method will be by “documentation of age as verified through USDA-approved programs and by USDA-Food Inspection Service at the slaughter facility”.

Whether determined by dentition or documented age, A maturity will be established without estimating physiological age, except that “any carcasses exhibiting advanced skeletal maturity (D and E maturity, older than 96 months of age) will not be eligible for Prime, Choice, Select, or Standard grade”.

Note: Carcasses of either A or B maturity can be graded Choice if amount of marbling is Modest or Moderate (upper 2/3 Choice amount, minimum for many branded beef programs). But carcasses with Small amount of marbling can be graded Choice only if A maturity. Also, carcasses with Slight marbling can be graded Select only if A maturity.


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