The primary purpose of animal production is to generate skeletal muscle, a palatable and economically acceptable protein source for human consumption, milk, or hair. Regardless of the desired endpoint, products of lesser economic value, such as fat and bone, are a burden to the producer's profitability.

To measure the value of a particular genetic, husbandry, nutritional, or pharmacological practice, body composition analysis is necessary. Thus, an intervention that increases body mass might not be very profitable if it increases fat to a greater extent than muscle. Usually, the carcass is used for body composition analysis, because it contains most of the products for human consumption. However, from a biological standpoint, the empty body (entire animal but with gastrointestinal contents removed), water content or water compartments (extracellular and intracellular), specific elements in the mineral fraction, individual amino acids in proteins, and fatty acids in lipids may be important. Also, the composition of secondary products such as the head, feet, viscera, blood, skin, hair, etc. might be necessary endpoints for a complete understanding of the utilization of feed resources for animal growth.

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