The difference in price between Choice and Select carcasses varies over time. There have been periods when Choice brought $25/cwt carcass more than Select. Two years ago in April the difference was $9/cwt. But one year ago it was not quite $1/cwt. From mid-March to mid-April this year there was basically no spread. However, that doesn’t mean quality is not rewarded as there is consistently a bonus of about $6/cwt over Low Choice for premium programs (Certified Angus Beef, etc.) that require mid-Choice or higher. Why is the spread diminishing? Some of the reasons offered include heavier weight coming off feed, better genetics, instrument grading, and less disposable income available for higher-priced products.

At any rate, it appears there is a limit to how many Choice cattle the market will take before relative value declines, or disappears. The National Beef Quality Audit of 2005-06 listed an ideal target of 69% Low Choice and higher. That may need to be rethought. Dr. Stephen Hammack, Professor & Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Emeritus.