Beef marbling is appreciated in a high value supply chain all over the world, including Europe. In order to increase beef marbling but no other fat depots, based on some evidence and estimations, it was suggested a period called “marbling window” (Du et al., 2013). During this period, from around 150 until 250 days for early maturing animals, there would be an opportunity to promote hyperplasia (formation of adipocytes cells or adipogenesis) only in intramuscular tissue, since this process end earlier in visceral, subcutaneous and intermuscular fat depots, as shown in figure 1.

Figure 1. Suggested timelines for adipogenesis in different fat depots, highlighting the “marbling window” period (Du et al., 2013).


Therefore, strategies such as energy supplementation during the marbling window, would provide site (due to the cell number increased) for lipid accumulation through the “fattening” stage, when hypertrophy (cell size increase) takes place (Du et al., 2013). 

The theory is supported by research studies, such as five conducted in the United States of America, which were summarized by Aubert Nicolazo de Barmon (Figure 2). Animals weaned early (at 105-115 days) followed by an energy supplementation during the marbling window period, showed an increased visual marbling scores without modifying subcutaneous fat. The animals tested were pure Angus or cross-breed, fattened in feedlots and slaughtered at 10-18 months. Different conditions in Europe make it necessary to carry out further research before recommending the implementation of this innovation.

Figure 2. Experimental studies showing expected results by feeding strategies in the “marbling window” period (Nicolazo de Barmon, BovINE webinar 2022).

Authors: Jakeline Vieira Romero; Virginia C. Resconi

*Reviewed by Aubert Nicolazo de Barmon and Isabelle Legrand (IDELE).

 Impact on: 

The increase in marbling allows the access to a high value market.

No effect is expected.

It may help to improve marbling without increasing time on feeding. High marbling is associated with an improved eating quality.

Increasing marbling without affecting other fat depots can help to reduce waste. It may help to reduce the age at slaughter, and therefore emissions.

Source of information:

- Du, M. et al. (2013). Journal of Animal Science, 91(3), 1419–1427.

- Nicolazo de Barmon, A. et al. (2022). Quels facteurs d’élevage influent sur le dépôt de persillé dans la viande bovine? (What rearing factors influence marbling in beef?).

 Further information: 

- Nicolazo de Barmon, 2022. BovINE Webinar: Marbling in European Beef Cattle