By Dan Loy, IBC director

Once again it is time to fire up the grills and enjoy some high quality beef. The good news is the beef quality has never been higher. Through the first three months of 2018 the percent USDA Choice in the U.S. was over 80%. Of the USDA Choice cattle, over 35% qualified for USDA certified programs that require cattle to be graded in the upper 2/3 of Choice (such as Certified Angus Beef.) Between 7% and 9% of carcasses nationally graded USDA Prime. Since over 2/3 of Iowa cattle are marketed outside the state the number of Prime carcasses from Iowa cattle cannot be determined precisely, but those States where most Iowa cattle are marketed are considerably higher than the national average during that same time frame.

Cattle from plants in Nebraska have been running over 10% USDA Prime and cattle marketed in plants east of the Mississippi River (including Illinois plants) have been supplying more than 15% USDA Prime. Traditionally USDA Prime steaks were rare and were typically saved for high end steak houses and export markets.

A consistent reliable supply of high quality beef is good news for consumers and good news for cattlemen. This is the result of progress in genetic selection for marbling and feeding management. While increased carcass weights have played a role the most recent increase in quality happened in conjunction with a moderation in carcass weights. While there is no secret recipe to produce Prime and upper Choice carcasses, good nutrition and management can help cattle achieve their genetic potential.

Read all of this column on the IBC website.

Source: Iowa State University