Industry At A Glance: The Trends In Beef Quality Grade

Since 2000, there’s been a 10% increase in the percentage of USDA Choice and Prime beef product in the sales cooler.

Nevil Speer

April 30, 2013

2 Min Read
Industry At A Glance: The Trends In Beef Quality Grade

Last week’s “Industry At A Glance” discussion focused on the dramatic growth of certified programs in the past decade. That growth likely has influenced the beef industry’s ability to produce more highly marbled product over time.

Despite lots of rhetoric about value-based marketing as a means to induce quality and consistency, market structure still hadn’t sufficiently evolved to facilitate that occurrence in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Even with the advent of grid-pricing, weight remained the primary market signal and overwhelming driver of revenue. However, in recent years, beef producers have been increasingly incentivized to utilize genetics, establish breeding systems, and implement management strategies to ensure cattle hit higher USDA Quality Grade (QG) targets.

That reality is best reflected by QG results cited by the National Beef Quality Audits: percent Prime and Choice had bottomed out around 50% of the harvest mix between 1995 and 2000. Since that time, there’s been a 10% increase in the percentage of Choice and Prime product in the sales cooler. That’s an important development, especially when considering the significance of QG to overall eating quality (more on that next week).

cattle that graded prime or choice

What influence has this growing trend in QG had on the beef industry? Where do see the industry’s QG trend headed in the future? Have we hit a plateau with the current cattle mix, or can this number go higher yet? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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About the Author(s)

Nevil Speer

Nevil Speer serves as an industry consultant and is based in Bowling Green, KY.

Nevil Speer has extensive experience and involvement with the livestock and food industry including various service and consultation projects spanning such issues as market competition, business and economic implications of agroterrorism, animal identification, assessment of price risk and market volatility on the producer segment, and usage of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
Dr. Speer writes about many aspects regarding agriculture and the food industry with regular contribution to BEEF and Feedstuffs.  He’s also written several influential industry white papers dealing with issues such as changing business dynamics in the beef complex, producer decision-making, and country-of-origin labeling.
He serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.
Dr. Speer holds both a PhD in Animal Science and a Master’s degree in Business Administration.

Contact him at [email protected].

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