The Centralized Ultrasound Processing Lab   |  The Gold Standard


In the fall of 1997 the American Angus Association and Iowa State University embarked on a research project that would forever change the beef industry. This pilot program involved the central processing of carcass ultrasound images for genetic evaluation. In the past, real-time ultrasound had been statistically proven to accurately measure body composition traits in live cattle. This technology enabled more cattle to be measured for carcass traits while at the same time being more cost effective and timely. Even though considerable effort had been expended in developing a technician certification process, tremendous variation existed and exists today in technician proficiency with equipment and software technologies. The CUP Lab at Iowa State University was formed to remove this variation. The program was designed to organize the collection and processing of the information to allow for the highest standards of integrity and accuracy.

The Iowa State University CUP Lab began accepting images in January 1998. In the fall of both 1999 and 2000, the American Angus Association made EPDs for ribeye area, fat thickness, retail product, and percent intramuscular fat, based on ultrasound, available to Angus breeders. Demand grew so quickly that the venture could no longer be housed within ISU. The project was moved to the private sector under the name of Walter & Associates in January 2001. Today, producers from both the seedstock and commercial sectors of the beef industry rely on ultrasound data from The CUP Lab®, LLC. Predicted values for ribeye area (REA), percent intramuscular fat (IMF), and fat thickness (FT) are used to produce age adjusted data along with ratios and ultrasound or carcass EPDs.


  • To provide the seedstock industry with timely, accurate and unbiased measurements for fat thickness, ribeye area and % IMF (marbling)
  • To assist breed associations in the accurate assembly of data required to generate adjustment factors and EPDs for carcass merit from ultrasound measures
  • To provide education, training and operational assistance for ultrasound technicians working with breeders


  • Centralized processing requires standard protocols for image collection, consistency and accuracy in interpretation, cross checks on problem images and unbiased reporting necessary for body composition EPD calculations.
  • Centralized processing requires complete and accurate identification and contemporary grouping records at the time of collection and processing so that the data can go immediately into body composition EPD programs.


  • The breeder notifies the breed association of intentions to scan a contemporary group of animals.
  • The breed association sends the breeder a barnsheet including information on the contemporary group.
  • The breeder selects a technician from an approved list.
  • The technician scans the cattle and submits the images to CUP Lab for processing.
  • The processing results are forwarded to the breed association by CUP for adding adjustment factors and computing within contemporary group ratios and EPDs.
  • The breed association or CUP Lab sends the final results to the breeder.
  • The breed association also includes the data into their database for use in genetic evaluations.
  • Questions by the breeder after receiving the final results can be directed to the field technician, breed association, or back to CUP.


  • Actual measures of rump fat thickness, 12-13th rib fat thickness, ribeye area and % Intramuscular Fat (marbling).
  • Age adjusted measures (from the breed association).
  • Contemporary group ratios (from the breed association).
  • All images processed through CUP meet high standards required for calculating body composition EPDs.

The CUP Lab, LLC Brochure

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