Carcass Beef Grades and Standards

Yield Grades of Carcass Beef

  1. Yield Grade 1.

a. A carcass in Yield Grade 1 usually has only a thin layer of external fat over the ribs, loins, rumps, and clods and slight deposits of fat in the flanks and cod or udder. There is usually a very thin layer of fat over the outside of the rounds and over the tops of the shoulders and necks. Muscles are usually visible through the fat in many areas of the carcass.

b. A 700-pound carcass of this yield grade, which is near the borderline of Yield Grades 1 and 2, might have two-tenths inch of fat over the ribeye, 12.5 square inches of ribeye, and 1.5 percent of its weight in kidney, pelvic, and heart fat.

c. A 1,100-pound carcass of this yield grade, which is near the borderline of Yield Grades 1 and 2, might have four-tenths inch of fat over the ribeye, 19.1 square inches of ribeye, and 2.0 percent of its weight in kidney, pelvic, and heart fat.

  1. Yield Grade 2

a. A carcass in Yield Grade 2 usually is nearly completely covered with fat but the lean is plainly visible through the fat over the outside of the rounds, the tops of the shoulders, and the necks. There usually is a slightly thin layer of fat over the loins, ribs, and inside rounds and the fat over the rumps, hips, and clods usually is slightly thick. There are usually small deposits of fat in the flanks and cod or udder.

b. A 700-pound carcass of this yield grade, which is near the borderline of Yield Grades 2 and 3, might have five-tenths inch of fat over the ribeye, 12.3 square inches of ribeye, and 2.5 percent of its weight in kidney, pelvic, and heart fat.

c. A 1,100-pound carcass of this yield grade, which is near the borderline of Yield Grades 2 and 3, might have six-tenths inch of fat over the ribeye, 18.1 square inches of ribeye, and 3.0 percent of its weight in kidney, pelvic, and heart fat.

  1. Yield Grade 3

a. A carcass in Yield Grade 3 usually is completely covered with fat and the lean usually is visible through the fat only on the necks and the lower part of the outside of the rounds. There usually is a slightly thick layer of fat over the loins, ribs, and inside rounds and the fat over the rumps, hips, and clods usually is moderately thick. There usually are slightly large deposits of fat in the flanks and cod or udder.

b. A 700-pound carcass of this yield grade, which is near the borderline of Yield Grades 3 and 4, might have seven-tenths inch of fat over the ribeye, 11.0 square inches of ribeye, and 3.0 percent of its weight in kidney, pelvic, and heart fat.

c. A 1,100-pound carcass of this yield grade, which is near the borderline of Yield Grades 3 and 4, might have eight-tenths inch of fat over the ribeye, 16.9 square inches of ribeye, 3.5 percent of its weight in kidney, pelvic, and heart fat.

  1. Yield Grade 4

a. A carcass in Yield Grade 4 usually is completely covered with fat. The only muscles usually visible are those on the shanks and over the outside of the plates and flanks. There usually is a moderately thick layer of fat over the loins, ribs, and inside rounds and the fat over the rumps, hips, and clods usually is thick. There usually are large deposits of fat in the flanks and cod or udder.

b. A 700-pound carcass of this yield grade, which is near the borderline of Yield Grades 4 and 5, might have nine-tenths inch of fat over the ribeye, 9.8 square inches of ribeye, and 3.5 percent of its carcass weight in kidney, pelvic, and heart fat.

c. A 1,100-pound carcass of this yield grade, which is near the borderline of Yield Grades 4 and 5, might have one inch of fat over the ribeye, 15.6 square inches of ribeye, and 4.0 percent of its weight in kidney, pelvic and heart fat.

  1. Yield Grade 5.

    A carcass in Yield Grade 5 usually has more fat on all of the various parts, a smaller area of ribeye, and more kidney, pelvic, and heart fat than a carcass in Yield Grade 4.

Quality Grades of Carcass Beef (steer, heifer, cow) 

  1. Prime

a. Depending on their degree of maturity, beef carcasses possessing the minimum requirements for the Prime grade vary in their other indications of quality as evidenced in the ribeye muscle. Minimum quality characteristics are described for two maturity groups, which cover the entire range of maturity permitted in the Prime grade.

b. Carcasses in the younger group range from the youngest that are eligible for the beef class to those at the juncture of the two maturity groups. In carcasses throughout the range of maturity included in this group, a minimum slightly abundant amount of marbling is required (see Figure 1 pdf ) and the ribeye muscle is moderately firm.

c. Carcasses in the older group range from those described above as representative of the juncture of the two groups to those at the maximum maturity permitted in the Prime grade. The minimum degree of marbling required increases with advancing maturity throughout this group from minimum slightly abundant to maximum slightly abundant (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle is firm.

d. Beef produced from cows is not eligible for the Prime grade.

  1. Choice

a. Depending on their degree of maturity, beef carcasses possessing the minimum requirements for the Choice grade vary in their other indications of quality as evidenced in the ribeye muscle. Minimum quality characteristics are described for two maturity groups, which cover the entire range of maturity permitted in the Choice grade.

b. Carcasses in the younger group. In carcasses throughout the range of maturity included in this group, a minimum small amount of marbling is required (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle may be slightly soft.

c. Carcasses in the older group. In carcasses throughout the range of maturity included in this group, a minimum modest amount of marbling is required (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle is slightly firm.

  1. Select.

a. In carcasses throughout the range of maturity permitted in the Select grade, the minimum marbling required is a minimum slight amount (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye may be moderately soft.

b. Carcasses in the maturity group permitted range from the youngest that are eligible for the beef class to those at the juncture of the two maturity groups. In carcasses throughout the range of maturity included in this group, a minimum slight amount of marbling is required (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye may be moderately soft.

  1. Standard.

a. Depending on their degree of maturity, beef carcasses possessing the minimum requirements for the standard grade vary in their other indications of quality as evidenced in the ribeye muscle. Minimum quality characteristics are described for two maturity groups which cover the entire range of maturity permitted in the Standard grade.

b. Carcasses in the younger group.  In carcasses throughout the range of maturity included in this group, a minimum practically devoid amount of marbling is required (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle may be soft.

c. Carcasses in the older group. The minimum degree of marbling required increases with advancing maturity throughout this group from minimum practically devoid to maximum practically devoid (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle may be moderately soft.

  1. Commercial

a. Commercial grade beef carcasses are restricted to those with evidences of more advanced maturity than permitted in the Standard grade. Depending on their degree of maturity, beef carcasses possessing the minimum requirements for the Commercial grade vary in their other indications of quality as evidenced in the ribeye muscle. Minimum quality characteristics are described for the youngest and the most mature of these groups. The requirements for the intermediate group are determined by interpolation between the requirements indicated for the two groups described.

b. Carcasses in the youngest group. The minimum degree of marbling required increases with advancing maturity throughout this group from a minimum small amount to a maximum small amount (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle is slightly firm.

c. The youngest carcasses in the most mature group.  The minimum degree of marbling required increases with advancing maturity throughout this group from a minimum moderate amount to a maximum moderate amount (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle is firm.

  1. Utility.

a. Depending on their degree of maturity, beef carcasses possessing the minimum requirements for the Utility grade vary in their other indications of quality as evidenced in the ribeye muscle. Carcasses within the full range of maturity classified as beef are included in the Utility grade. Thus, five maturity groups are recognized. Minimum quality requirements are described for three of these groups -- the first or youngest, the third or intermediate, and the fifth or the most mature. The requirements for the second and fourth maturity groups are determined by interpolation between the requirements described for their adjoining groups.

b. Carcasses in the first or youngest maturity group. In carcasses throughout the range of maturity included in this group, the ribeye muscle is devoid of marbling and may be soft and slightly watery.

c. Carcasses in the third or intermediate maturity group. The minimum degree of marbling required increases with advancing maturity throughout this group from minimum practically devoid to maximum practically devoid (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle may be moderately soft.

d. The youngest carcasses in the fifth or oldest maturity group.  The minimum degree of marbling required increases with advancing maturity throughout this group from a minimum slight amount to a maximum slight amount (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle is slightly firm.

  1. Cutter.

a. Depending on their degree of maturity, beef carcasses possessing the minimum requirements for the Cutter grade vary in their other indications of quality as evidenced in the ribeye muscle. Carcasses within the full range of maturity classified as beef are included in the Cutter grade. Thus, five maturity groups are recognized. Minimum quality requirements are described for three of these groups -- the first or youngest, the third or intermediate, and the fifth or the most mature. The requirements for the second and fourth maturity groups are determined by interpolation between the requirements described for their adjoining groups.

b. Carcasses in the first or youngest maturity group. In carcasses throughout the range of maturity included in this group, the ribeye muscle is devoid of marbling and may be very soft and watery.

c. Carcasses in the third or intermediate maturity group. In carcasses throughout the range of maturity included in this group, the ribeye muscle is devoid of marbling and may be soft and watery. 

d. Carcasses in the fifth or oldest maturity group. The minimum degree of marbling required increases with advancing maturity throughout this group from minimum practically devoid to maximum practically devoid (see Figure 1 pdf) and the ribeye muscle is soft and slightly watery.

  1. Canner.

    The Canner grade includes only those carcasses that are inferior to the minimum requirements specified for the Cutter grade.

Quality Grades of Carcass Beef (bullock)

  1. Prime. For the Prime grade, the minimum degree of marbling required is a minimum slightly abundant amount for carcasses throughout the range of maturity permitted in the bullock class. The ribeye muscle is moderately firm and, in carcasses having the maximum maturity for this class, the ribeye is light red in color.

  2. Choice. For the Choice grade, the minimum degree of marbling required is a minimum small amount for carcasses throughout the range of maturity permitted in the bullock class. The ribeye muscle may be slightly soft and, in carcasses having the maximum maturity for this class, the ribeye is moderately light red in color.

  3. Select. For the Select grade, the minimum degree of marbling required is a minimum slight amount for carcasses throughout the range of maturity permitted in the bullock class. The ribeye muscle may be moderately soft and, in carcasses having the maximum maturity for this class, the ribeye is slightly light red in color.

  4. Standard. For the Standard grade, the minimum degree of marbling required is a minimum practically devoid amount for carcasses throughout the range of maturity permitted in the bullock class. The ribeye muscle may be soft and, in carcasses having the maximum maturity for this class, the ribeye is slightly dark red in color.

  5. Utility. The Utility grade includes only those carcasses that do not meet the minimum requirements specified for the Standard grade.


Detailed standards, Inspection Instructions & Other Resources: