Body composition of agricultural animals is described by proportions of muscle, fat, and bone in the carcass or by proportions of chemically measured amounts of water, protein, lipid, and ash in the whole body. Animals with better conformation have been assumed to produce carcasses with more meat in the high-priced cuts, but dissection studies in cattle and sheep have shown little variation in muscle distribution among breeds of widely different shapes. The principal determinant of composition at a given weight is stage of growth, which is defined as weight in relation to mature weight. Thus, mature size is the genetic trait that determines the composition, use, and economic value of domestic farm animals.
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