Project Summary

Development of Current Pictorial Color Guide for Fresh Beef

Principle Investigator(s):
Ashley N. Arnold, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University
Completion Date:
May 2016

In December 2012, the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) released the AMSA Meat Color Measurement Guidelines (American Meat Science Association, 2012) as an update to the original color guidelines document published by AMSA in 1991 (American Meat Science Association, 1991). These guides have come to be widely used by national and international researchers. The 2012 AMSA Meat Color Measurement Guidelines discusses a number of meat color measurements and methods at great length, including the training of panelists for the purpose of visual color score determinations. However, these guides do not include reference images to assist with training panelists in accurately identifying visual beef color scores. Additionally, any pictorial guides that are currently available for use as reference materials for training are antiquated. Therefore, this study was designed to produce visual reference material that can be used in conjunction with the current color guidelines published by AMSA (American Meat Science Association, 2012). This study was designed to obtain current, high‐quality images to develop an updated pictorial scale of fresh beef ribeye (Longissimus dorsi) color.

Ribbed beef carcass sides were selected from the grading chain at a commercial beef harvest establishment. Following the completion of official grading for a given production day, selected beef sides were relocated under the lighting provided for the official United States Department of Agriculture grading personnel. Each ribeye (Longissimus dorsi) was photographed and CIE L* a* b* color space values were captured in triplicate. Mean CIE L* a* b* color space values for each photographed ribeye were converted to RGB and HEX values to establish an electronic color equivalent. Delta E values to determine the distance between the original CIE L* a* b* color space values and associated RGB/HEX values were calculated. All Delta E values indicated that the CIE L* a* b* color space values and associated RGB/HEX values were perceptually indistinguishable. Resulting photographs were categorized according to the Meat Color Measurement Guidelines released by the American Meat Science Association in 2012 (Table 1).


Researchers in both industry and academia have an existing need for a pictorial reference of fresh beef color. This project sought to satisfy that need with the development of such a reference. At present, researchers feel that the photographs obtained adequately represent all visual color scores, with the exception of “1” or “Pale Red.” Additional photographs will need to be obtained to complete the reference.


A need was identified for an updated pictorial reference for fresh beef color. By creating and sharing updated images for this purpose, we are providing a tool that can make visual beef color research more uniform on both a national and international platform.

Table 1. Comparison of descriptive scales for visual scoring of fresh beef color.

1977 NMSU

2012 AMSA (page 37)

1 = Bleached Red

2 = Very Light Cherry Red

3 = Moderately Light Cherry Red 4 = Cherry Red

5 = Slightly Dark Red

6 = Moderately Dark Red 7 = Dark Red

8 = Very Dark Red

1 = Pale Red

2 = Slightly Pale Red

3 = Moderately Light Red 4 = Bright Red

5 = Slightly Dark Red

6 = Moderately Dark Red 7 = Dark Red

8 = Very Dark Red