Marbling, or intramuscular fat, is defined as flecks of fat found within the muscle that relate positively to consumer evaluations of juiciness, tenderness, and flavor. Marbling significantly improves overall consumer satisfaction ratings. Marbling is visually determined by evaluating the amount of flecks within the surface of the ribeye muscle where the carcass is split between the 12th and 13th ribs. There are ten degrees of marbling that can be assigned to the carcass, including Very Abundant, Abundant, Moderately Abundant, Slightly Abundant, Moderate, Modest, Small, Slight, Traces, and Practically Devoid, with Very Abundant being the highest degree of marbling and Practically Devoid being the lowest degree. Photographs of these marbling degrees, published by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, serve as the standard used by the USDA for visual appraisal of marbling scores (Fig. 1).
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