A trial is under way to discover which cattle produce the most tender meat - in a move that could transform the beef supply chain.
The trial, which is being carried out by a collaboration between industry and genetic specialists, uses gene marking identified through DNA to produce cattle with more tender beef.
If rolled out across the beef industry, the technique would enable farmers to consistently produce cattle of higher commercial value and shoppers would never again have to eat tough beef.
"The random tendency of some animals to produce tough beef has frustrated consumers, retailers and breeders for decades but identifying which cattle carry the gene score combination that makes their beef tender could revolutionise production," said National Beef Association director Kim Haywood.
Researchers involved in the project, which is a collaboration between Dovecote Park, Border Quality Beef, the NBA, genetic profilers Igenity and the University of Bristol, are hoping to pinpoint the tenderness gene marker scores that best meet consumer taste expectations.
If the trial were successful, it would change the way breeders select cattle, said the NBA.
"The visible characteristics that make a champion will no longer be enough on their own to persuade breeders they are looking at exactly the type of animal they want," said Haywood.
"Animals carrying the tenderness gene will be more valuable to consumers, retailers and processors who are prepared to develop a supply chain focused on more tender beef and it is expected they will carry a premium as a result of this."
Retailers would also benefit from in-built traceability as the same gene marking technology that confirms inheritance of the tenderness gene also confirms the individual animal's identity.