Don’t just cosplay as a cowboy or cowgirl at this year’s National Western Stock Show (January 6 through 21). Kyndal Reitzenstein, a longtime livestock judge and rancher from Kersey, teaches us how to spot a prize-winning steer.

1. Look at the steer, a neutered male raised for its beef, from behind. A broad top—just like a muscular back or torso on a human—indicates it’s got the muscle, also known as meatiness, for plenty of steaks.

2. If the lower chest—aka the brisket—is overly large and sagging, that could mean the animal has too much fat for good eating.

3. Feel the steer’s ribs and shoulder blades. There should be about a centimeter of fat on both. If you only notice hide and bone, the animal is too thin.

4. Take in the whole steer from the side, then imagine it divided into thirds: front, middle, and rear. Is one section chunkier than the others? Is one particularly lean? Each third should flow smoothly into the next, a characteristic called balance.

5. Finally, watch it walk. Cattle with good structure shouldn’t have any defects that restrict movement, such as feet that point in or out. Their legs should be straight, not bowed, and their backs should be long and flat. A graceful steer is a tasty steer.

This article was originally published in 5280 January 2024.
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.