What State Produces the Most Beef? A Look at Top Beef Producing States in the U.S.

The United States is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of high-quality beef. With its vast landscapes and long tradition of cattle ranching, the country offers ideal conditions for raising beef cattle. But what state produces the most beef in America?

While cattle are raised in all 50 states, production is concentrated primarily in the Great Plains and western states. The top beef producing states benefit from large expanses of grazing land, favorable climates, and proximity to cattle feed resources. Here is an overview of America’s top beef producing states:


Texas leads the nation by a wide margin in beef production. As of 2023, the Lone Star State boasts a massive beef cow herd of 4.3 million head, accounting for nearly 15% of the U.S. total. The state’s sprawling rangelands, mild winters, and cattle-friendly culture help make it number one for beef.

Beef cattle production occurs throughout Texas, with cow-calf operations dominant in the eastern and southern parts of the state. West Texas and the Panhandle region focus more on cattle feeding and finish beef in large feedyards. Texas also leads in exports of live cattle to Mexico and beef overseas.


Oklahoma comes in second, with around 2 million beef cows as of 2023. This represents almost 7% of the country’s total inventory. Oklahoma offers prime grazing lands, a long tradition of ranching, and plentiful grain for cattle finishing. The state focuses on cow-calf production as well as operating some of the largest cattle feeding facilities in the Great Plains region.


Missouri claims the third spot for beef production with nearly 1.9 million cows as of 2023. High-quality pastures across the state combined with a favorable climate support Missouri’s thriving beef industry. The state also boasts a strong network of cattle producers, processors, and marketers to bring beef from pasture to plate.


Known as the Cornhusker State, Nebraska comes in fourth for beef production at 1.7 million cows. While famous for its corn, the state’s sprawling grasslands and cattle-friendly climate make it ideal for grazing cattle as well. Nebraska boasts some of the largest cattle feeding operations in the country to finish cattle raised in the state or shipped in from further west.

South Dakota

Home to 1.5 million beef cows, South Dakota secures the number five position for beef production. With wide-open prairie lands and a legacy of ranching, the state provides ample resources for grazing cattle from birth to market. South Dakota also focuses on corn and other cattle feed production to support beef finishing.

Other Notable Beef Producing States

While the top five states dominate beef production, several others also play major roles:

  • Kansas – 1.3 million cows
  • Montana – 1.3 million cows
  • Kentucky – 895,000 cows
  • Florida – 888,000 cows
  • North Dakota – 876,000 cows
  • Iowa – 860,000 cows

These beef industry leaders round out the top ten beef producing states, each with over 800,000 cows. Combined, the top ten account for well over half the nation’s beef cows.

Factors Driving the Beef Industry in Top States

From grasslands to climate and infrastructure, several factors allow states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska to excel in commercial beef output:

Extensive Grazing Lands

States like Texas and Montana simply have massive acreages of natural grasslands and rangelands ideal for grazing cattle from birth to 12-18 months. Mild winters in the south also allow for year-round grazing.

Favorable Climate

Western and midwestern states benefit from just the right mix of mild winters, moderate rainfall, and hot summers that cows, calves, and cattle thrive in. This climate supports healthy, productive herds.

Proximity to Grain Production

Finishing cattle efficiently requires ample feed grain. States like Iowa and Nebraska border or overlap with major corn and soy producing regions, facilitating cattle fattening.

Cattle Feedlots and Processing Infrastructure

Major cattle feeding and meat processing facilities provide vital infrastructure to finish and harvest cattle efficiently. States like Kansas and Texas house some of the largest operations.

Ranching Tradition and Cattle Experience

Centuries of ranching heritage have nurtured the skills, knowledge, and dedication to excel in beef production in states like Texas and Oklahoma.

Beef-Friendly Land Policies and Incentives

State and local laws that support ranching access to public grazing lands and related policies boost beef production in western states especially.

Beef Cattle Production Methods

From birth to harvest, here is the lifecycle of beef cattle raised in America’s cattle states:

Cow-Calf Operations

  • Beef cows give birth to calves out on pasture.

  • Calves nurse on mother’s milk up to 6-10 months before weaning.

  • After weaning, calves graze on grass or are backgrounded on farm pastures until 12-18 months.


  • Weaned calves enter a “stocker” phase where they intensively graze on pasture or crop residue to add weight.

  • The stocker phase lasts 3-8 months depending on the operation.


  • Once weighing 650-850 pounds, cattle enter large feedlots for finishing on concentrated grain-based diets.

  • The finishing phase lasts 4-6 months until cattle reach a market weight of 1,200-1,450 pounds.

Meat Processing

  • Finished cattle are harvested for beef at processing plants.
  • Carcasses are broken down into meat cuts which enter the retail and food service markets.

The path from birth to beef market relies on the diverse resources and infrastructure beef producing states offer.

The Importance of Top Beef States

Collectively, the top beef producing states supply over 50% of America’s beef through their cow-calf, stocker, and feedlot operations. These states play indispensable roles in delivering high-quality, affordable beef to satisfy demand nationwide and abroad.

As the beef industry evolves, leadership states will continue driving production through:

  • Adopting innovative technologies like data analytics and genetics.
  • Investing in sustainability and environmentally sound practices.
  • Improving animal health, nutrition, and welfare.
  • Optimizing market access and exports.
  • Researching new production methods and value-added products.

Beef producers across America contribute immensely to our nation’s food system. But the states excelling year after year demonstrate how vital geography, resources, and infrastructure are to maximize beef output. Their collective efforts to improve productivity, efficiency, and sustainability will ensure beef remains a leading American agricultural sector for generations to come.

Which U.S. State Produces the Most Beef | Top 10

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