More carcasses are lighter and are earning higher quality grades than a year ago, say analysts with the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC). They say both are due, in part, to the voluntary removal of the beta agonist Zilmax from the market.

According to LMIC, 63% of federally inspected cattle graded Choice from January 1 to the middle of September this year. That was less than 1% more than the same period a year earlier. For the weeks of October 12 and October 19—the most recent data sets—Choice grade climbed a stunning 4.2% and 3.4%, respectively compared to a year earlier.

At the same time, dressed steer weights (federally inspected) were 5 lbs. less and dressed heifer weights were 11 lbs. less than a year earlier, for the week ending Oct. 5.

LMIC analysts explain average carcass weights have trended higher year-over-year for decades. Year-over-year declines have been associated with harsh winter weather.

“Removal of Zilmax has likely been the major factor raising the quality grade of cattle,” LMIC analysts say. “Dressed weights have probably dropped modestly year-over-year due to two factors: the elimination of Zilmax and also a ratcheting-up in feedlot turnover rates (often measured by marketings compared to the on-feed inventory). When cattle supplies are tight, feedlot turnover rates typically increase because packers are bidding aggressively.”

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