Director Column

Dan Loy, Iowa Beef Center director's monthly column featured in Cattleman Magazine. Archives

Dan Loy in The Cattleman Magazine


May 2023

May is Beef Month in Iowa

May is beef month in Iowa. Did you know that March is beef month in Colorado? Also, July is beef month in Tennessee. I think we all know that every month is beef month. May kicks off the summer grilling season but beef is enjoyed year-round. Beef month in Iowa allows us to celebrate beef and all the positive benefits for our diet. Iowa’s Best Burger Contest has become among the most popular attractions to celebrate local burger experiences.

As beef producers you are in the food business. Every decision can have an impact on the eating experience of a consumer down the value chain. Although it was interrupted by the COVID pandemic, every 5 years the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association conducts a National Beef Quality Audit. The first audit was in 1991. At that time, consumers were looking to reduce saturated fat in the diet and lean meat was in demand. It was then the beef industry declared a "war on fat" and producers responded by selecting and feeding larger and leaner cattle. Another concern was injection site lesions and the beef quality assurance projects focused on education to reduce this problem. Education on proper injection sites has been very effective and this issue has been virtually eliminated. However, the war on fat may have been too successful. By the year 2000, the National Beef Quality Audit identified the lack of marbling and tenderness as issues that resulted in some less than positive eating experiences. Again, the beef industry responded by improving genetics for marbling and feeding methods that enhanced beef quality.

At the Plains Nutrition Conference last month, I asked some current and former ISU beef nutrition graduate students to identify some current nutrition and management practices that can favorably impact beef quality and the eating experience for consumers. I asked them to base their responses on research that they have conducted or reviewed as part of their studies.

One area is the appropriate use of growth technologies. We know that implants and beta agonists improve growth rate and feed efficiency, and when properly used they also improve carcass leaness and retail product. With proper timing of implanting and cattle marketing the effects on carcass quality can be minimal.

Another area is reducing stress through proper cattle handling and transportation. Stress during marketing can lead to an increase in dark cutters and bruising. Reducing heat stress through management is also a factor.

At the conference there was much discussion about tradeoffs related to market timing. Many of the questions relate to cost of gain and feed costs. There also is a balancing act related to the beef product. Feeding to heavier weights enhances marbling but also increases the "waste fat" that was a concern in the 1991 audit. Several recent serial slaughter studies that look at market timing have been reported. Stay tuned for the results of one such project currently underway at the ISU Armstrong Research Farm in southwest Iowa. Cattle with the genetic potential for high marbling will be marketed at three different endpoints, and two implant programs that differ in aggressiveness will be compared.

Our popular Fencing and Grazing Clinic will be held May 16 at the Armstrong Research Farm. Topics will include developing a grazing calendar, building your paddocks, water quality testing and new tools for fencing. Look for other forage and grazing educational opportunities from the Iowa Beef Center team throughout the summer.

The IBC at Iowa State University serves as the university’s extension program to cattle producers. Our center comprises a team of faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. We work together to develop and deliver the latest in research-based information to improve the profitability and vitality of Iowa’s beef industry. If you’d like to be notified of updates on progress of research projects or programs that might be coming to your area, please subscribe to our “Growing Beef" newsletter by following the link on our website, If you have a question, use our "Ask our Experts" link. Also, feel free to call us at 515-294-BEEF or email us at You can also follow @iowabeefcenter on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram and now AgFuse.