The Impact of Marbling on Beef - Certified Hereford Beef

The Impact of Marbling on Beef

The Impact of Marbling on Beef
April 15, 2021

With the growing number of labels, brands, and programs populating the meat case, it can be difficult for consumers to discern the best cuts to bring home to their families.

The white flecks of fat found between muscle fibers, otherwise known as “marbling”, is a reliable indicator of quality beef and can help ensure a more positive eating experience.

The characteristic flavors of meat are derived from the various types of fat different species deposit, giving beef, pork, and lamb their own unique flavor profiles. A variety of factors can affect the composition of beef fat, thus altering its flavor, one of the most impactful factors being cattle diet1. British breeds like Herefords are commonly utilized in conventional cattle production because they are known to produce highly-marbled, tender, great-tasting beef using less feed than other common cattle breeds2.

In addition to enhancing the flavor of beef products, marbling plays a functional role in meat consumption as well; the more marbling, the easier the product is to eat. There are 3 theories that support this, the first of which is commonly known as the “Swiss Cheese” theory. This theory states that because fat is easier to bite through than muscle, the more marbling a cut has the more tender the cooked product should be3. The next is the “Lubrication” theory, and much like oil in a car engine, beef fat lubricates the inside of your mouth while chewing, evenly distributing flavor from the fats and making it easier to chew4. Lastly, the “Insurance” theory states that marbling protects against drying out in the event of overcooking5.

When picking out meat in the grocery store, one of the most impactful questions you can ask your butcher is simply what quality grade the beef you are buying is, and if it is a breed-specific program like Certified Hereford Beef. Selecting conventionally raised grain-finished beef cuts with the greatest amount of marbling is the best way to ensure a positive eating experience. Quality grades such as Prime, Choice, and Select are assigned to beef carcasses at the processing plant and follow the individual cuts from packer to plate. USDA Prime grade beef contains the greatest amount of marbling, followed by Choice, and finally Select.

According to a 2019 study at Kansas State University6, in a blind taste test, CHB Premium Upper 2/3rds Choice beef was rated higher than USDA Prime beef from non-breed specific programs. This is a testament to the high standards and uncompromising genetic integrity of the Certified Hereford Beef brand and the tireless efforts of the Hereford farm and ranch families across America to provide the highest quality product possible. Because of these efforts, consumers can be confident they are getting the best quality beef for their buck while supporting their local Hereford rancher.

1Adhikari, Chambers IV, Miller, Vazquez‐Araujo, Bhumiratana, & Philip, 2011
2Retallick et al., 2017
3Smith, King, & Carpenter, 1973
4Carpenter, 1962
5Briskey and Kauffman, 1971
6Kansas State University, Consumer evaluation of Certified Hereford Beef in comparison to USDA Choice, Prime, and Upper 2/3 Choice beef from black-hided cattle, April 2019