Animals raised for meat production are usually marketed before they reach adult body composition. During growth, various body compartments (skeleton, muscle, fat, and viscera) are in a dynamic state, with each having its own trajectory toward maturity. Within a species, individual breeds have distinct mature sizes and rates of maturation for body composition, so harvesting different breeds at a fixed weight yields differences in body composition. In addition, some breeds are genetically more muscular and some are fatter. Furthermore, the environment (climate and husbandry practices) and nutrition are important contributors to the ultimate body composition exhibited by a particular breed.

Many experimental and production-oriented approaches have been used to change body composition. Effective experimental technologies sometimes are not practical or they are cost-prohibitive. Some technologies may later become practical because of changes in husbandry, scientific or technological advances, or favorable economics. For example, a half-century ago it was shown that somatotropin modified growth of mammals, but the available somatotropin extracted from pituitary glands made its use cost-prohibitive. Many years later, recombinant somatotropin became available; it is cost-effective and is used to modify mammalian growth in countries where it is approved by the regulatory bodies.

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