Common Terms

Antemortem Inspection: Evaluating the live animal for signs of disease or illness.  If the animal appears healthy and fit, it is approved to begin the harvest process.

Artificial Insemination: Collected semen from the male animal and using that to breed the female. Allows for varied genetics and is a relatively low cost purchase/commitment by a farmer compared to buying a new bull/ram/boar.

Beef Cattle: Different breeds of cattle are raised for different purposes. Beef cattle are known to put their energy into producing muscle, while dairy cattle put their energy into producing milk.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy: Commonly known as “Mad Cow”.  A rare, neurological disease, that progressively degenerates the nervous system. Although it is very uncommon, extra precautions are taken for beef animals over 30 months of age to ensure that all meat is safe for consumption.

Carcass: The body of a meat animal with the head, hide (except pigs), blood, viscera (internal organs), and feet/hooves removed.  This includes remaining skeletal muscle, fat and bones.

Colostrum: First milk that an offspring gets from their mothers. It is very important for the health of the animal as it often contains important antibodies and nutrients that the offspring won’t receive anywhere else.

Expected Progeny Differences (EPD): Used by farmers when making breeding decisions by estimating the genetic value of the livestock as a parent. Numbers are like batting averages. They help you estimate how the animal will perform, and get more accurate as the animal has more offspring.

Fabrication: Cutting meat into wholesale and retail cuts, removing excess fat and bone.

Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906:  Passed by President Theodore Roosevelt to ensure that all meat is safe and processed in a sanitary facility.

Marbling: Intramuscular fat found in meat products.  This means the fat between the muscle fibers.  The level of marbling determines the quality grade that meat (specifically beef) receives.

Market Weight: Weight of the animal on the day it is harvested.

Meat Inspection: The determination that a carcass is wholesome and safe for human consumption. Inspection by a USDA certified inspector is legally required for all meat products that are available for sale.

Natural Breeding: Allowing the male and female livestock to mate naturally, without the use of artificial insemination.

Packer: Business that focuses on slaughtering meat animals, and breaking down the carcasses into wholesale products. It may also refer to further processing of meat products.

Steer: Male cattle that have been castrated. They are typically used for beef production. Castration still allows for high muscle production, but can improve meat quality and decrease aggression among animals.

Quality Grade: A label that a carcass receives as a measurement of palatability.  If a steak has a higher quality grade, you can expect it to be more tender, juicy, and flavorful. Quality grading is not legally required and it is up to the packer if they choose to have carcasses quality graded.  

Viscera: Internal organs and digestive system that are removed during the harvest process.

Wholesome: Safe.  Inspection is done on all meat products to ensure that they are safe for human consumption. 

Yield: Percent of boneless, closely trimmed, retail cuts. The actual amount of meat that you can get from the carcass.


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