Project Summary

Cataloging Beef Muscles—A Review of Muscle Specific Research from Fed and Non-fed Cattle

Principle Investigator(s):
John Scanga, Ph.D.
Colorado State University
Completion Date:
May 2004

To help fulfill goals outlined in the Beef Industry Long Range Plan (2001) to increase consumer demand for beef, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, coordinated a research project that profiled the physical, chemical and organoleptic properties of individual beef muscles. That research is the most comprehensive of its kind to date and was designed to explore new ways of fabricating beef carcasses that might lead to increased value, especially for the round and the chuck.   

The study identified several muscles that possessed sufficient tenderness and flavor attributes to be marketed as individual cuts, but there are still several individual muscles that remain underutilized in retail and foodservice markets. To continue to build on the initial success of the checkoff-funded muscle profiling study in introducing new cuts such as the Flat Iron to the marketplace, it is important to review other research that evaluated the attributes of individual muscles. To accomplish this task Colorado State University researchers compiled a literature review that represents a comprehensive summary of all muscle-specific research, including NCBA’s muscle profiling work, for both fed and non-fed cattle. 


Fed Cattle More than one hundred peer-reviewed research studies were included in this compilation. Characterizations of individual muscles, based on the research available, included the following:

Table 1. Loin (IMPS/NAMP 172)

Wholesale Cut (IMPS/NAMP Number)


Strip Loin (180)

Longissimus lumborum


Gluteus medius

Top Sirloin Butt (184)

Gluteus medius


Biceps femoris

Bottom Sirloin Butt (185)

Tensor fasciae latae


Ball tip


Rectus femoris


Vastus medius


Vastus intermedius


Obliqus abdominis internus

Tenderloin (189A)

Psoas major

Psoas minor

Table 2. Rib (IMPS/NAMP 103) 

Wholesale Cut (IMPS/NAMP Number)


Ribeye, Lip-on (112A)

Longissimus thoracis


Spinalis dorsi


Multifidus dorsi




Serratus ventralis


Latissimus dorsi

Blade Meat (109B)





Latissimus dorsi





Table 3 Brisket (IMPS/NAMP 120), Plate (IMPS/NAMP 121) and Flank (IMPS/NAMP 193)

Wholesale Cut (IMPS/NAMP Number)


Brisket (120)

Pectoralis profundus


Superficial pectoral

Plate, Short Plate (121)



Transversus abdominis

Beef Flank, Flank Steak (193)

Rectus abdominis

Table 4. Round (IMPS/NAMP 158)

Wholesale Cut (IMPS/NAMP Number)


Knuckle (167)

Quadriceps Complex


Rectus femoris


Vastus lateralis


Vastus intermedius


Vastus medius


Tensor fasciae latae

Top, Inside (169)










Bottom, Gooseneck (170)

Biceps femoris



Table 5. Chuck, Square Cut (IMPS/NAMP 113)

Wholesale Cut (IMPS/NAMP Number)


Shoulder Clod (114)

Triceps brachii




Brachiocephalicus omotransversarius


Latissimus dorsi


Teres major






Tensor fasciae antibrachii

Chuck Roll (116A)

Serratus ventralis






Multifidus/spinalis dorsi




Longissimus capitus et atlantis


Longissimus dorsi


Levatores costarum

Chuck Tender (116B)


The longissimus dorsi was used as a reference point to compare across the various studies. From those comparisons, tenderness and juiciness indexes were developed to aid in identifying muscles that have been found to perform similarly to the longissimus dorsi.   

Non-fed Cattle 
A similar compilation of research associated with older animals, or non-fed cattle was also done. However, the literature is much more limited, so only the following muscles were described:   

  • Longissimus dorsi 
  • Biceps femoris 
  • Gluteus medius 
  • Psoas major 
  • Rectus femoris 
  • Semimembranosus 
  • Semitendinosus

Fed Cattle In all of the literature reviewed, researchers conducted all, or some of the following evaluations, to accurately assess individual muscles: 

  • Warner-Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF) 
  • Sensory panel evaluations, which typically assess palatability attributes such as tenderness, juiciness and flavor. Connective tissue amount was sometimes part of a panel evaluation. 
  • Chemical and physical attributes 
  • Consumer evaluation 
  • Optimum aging for individual muscles, however most of this work has only focused on the longissimus dorsi 
The individual muscle characterizations also compiled information regarding the origin and recommended cooking methods for each of the muscles, as well as physical and chemical properties and information regarding optimum aging periods for the individual muscles. Trying to compare results from the various studies that have evaluated individual muscles is somewhat challenging because even though many examined WBSF values, as well as sensory and chemical properties of the muscles, the materials and methods were seldom identical. The only common aspect among most of the published work is that the longissimus dorsi was included. As a result, that muscle was used as a reference point for this compilation.   

To facilitate comparisons across studies, tenderness and juiciness indexes were developed. These indexes identify muscles that have been found to perform similarly to the longissimus dorsi for tenderness (both WBSF and sensory panel) and sensory panel juiciness. The indexes may also help identify muscles that could be expected to outperform the longissimus dorsi.  The following table summarizes the indexes that were developed for tenderness and juiciness, using the longissimus dorsi as the base value. 

Table 6

Muscle (Primal)

WBSF Index

Sensory Panel Tenderness Index

Sensory Panel Juiciness Index

Psoas major (loin)

145.01 ± 29.49


127.05 ± 13.86


101.65 ± 10.23


Infraspinatus (chuck)

127.71 ± 19.42


109.11 ± 7.39


114.88 ± 10.83


Serratus ventralis (rib)

124.00 ± 25.29


94.20 ± -


130.77 ± -


Rectus femoris (round)

101.33 ± 19.21


109.79 ± 15.63


94.67 ± 3.34


Complexus (chuck)

100.58 ± 21.66




Gluteus medius (round)

99.39 ± 6.04



86.69 ± 3.85


Biceps brachii (chuck)

92.86 ± 20.13




Triceps brachii (chuck)

91.66 ± 16.19


94.62 ± 8.13


97.84 ± 3.88


Biceps femoris (round)

91.32 ± 19.73


79.93 ± 19.78


96.23 ± 5.72


Adductor (round)

90.01 17.23

95.88 ± 11.37


88.96 ± -




87.88 ± 13.54


77.18 ± 13.07


84.72 ± 5.65


Semitendinosus (round)

86.99 ± 18.85


93.50 ± 16.49


81.87 ± 3.63


Supraspinatus (chuck)

85.49 ± 7.85


81.32 ± 6.48


98.69 ± 1.90


Pectoralis profundus


73.99 ± 14.93


64.57 ± 13.43


92.45 ± 7.96


Rhomboideus (chuck)

73.15 ± 12.42




Longissimus dorsi (loin)




Non-fed Cattle 

Almost 20 percent of the cattle slaughtered under federal inspection are cows and bulls. As a result, beef from non-fed market animals represents a substantial portion of U.S. beef production. The Cow Muscle Profiling study conducted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a Contrator to the Beef Checkoff, in 2002 represents the most complete collection of muscle profiling research for older animals. The project profiled 21 individual muscles from beef and dairy cows, so that processors had more information to better utilize product from these animals. Beyond that study, there is limited information available about muscles from mature carcasses.   

Most of the present knowledge pertaining to the age-related effects on beef and the palatability improvement processes applied to beef from mature cattle is based on studies that focused on the longissimus dorsi. Sensory panel scores for the juiciness and flavor of the longissimus dorsi vary widely, depending on the study and the range in carcass maturity being studied. 

There are several limitations that do not allow for broad-based interpretations of the available research on individual muscles from non-fed cattle:   

  1. Available literature focuses on the longissimus dorsi (from the loin or rib) and minimal data is available for muscles from the chuck and round   
  2. The majority of the research has specified the use of muscles based on USDA quality grade (i.e. U.S. Commercial or Utility), which encompasses three maturity scores (C, D, or E). USDA quality grades, which are based on marbling and maturity, are almost never used by packers who process mature non-fed cattle. Most packers of market cows segregate carcasses into marketing groups based on evaluations of marbling, maturity, color of fat and lean, degree of fatness, and/or muscle thickness. 
Fed Cattle 
Individual muscle characterization has been shown to have significant potential to increase the value of certain underutilized cuts, especially from the chuck and round. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, Muscle Profiling study represents the most comprehensive work to date, but there are still additional opportunities to more accurately describe the chemical and physical properties of individual beef muscles; characterize consumer evaluations; and determine aging recommendations for individual muscles.   

Non-fed Cattle 
Past research has suggested that 25 percent of the hot carcass weight of cull-cow carcasses is being fabricated into whole-muscle cuts. While the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, Cow Muscle Profiling study marked significant progress in summarizing the physical and chemical traits of muscles from non-fed, mature beef and dairy cattle, there is still a significant lack of scientific information on the subject. Such a gap in knowledge makes it difficult to make any recommendations for the appropriate uses of individual muscles.   

Future research should reflect carcass type (beef or dairy), skeletal maturity (C,D, or E) and end use. This would allow for comparisons to existing information available about the longissimus thoracis/lumbar, reflect common industry practices for processing and marketing cull cow carcasses, and would complement checkoff-funded muscle profiling research.