To assess the then-current population of fed beef cattle for quality defects, the federally inspected beef steer and heifer slaughter in 28 packing plants was surveyed during a 3-mo period (October to December 1991). Data were collected over the course of 1 d of production at chain speed. Carcasses were selected randomly to include 50 and 10% of each lot on the slaughter floor and in the cooler, respectively. Slaughter floor defects evaluated were brand location and size, degree of bruising, grubs and injection sites, condemnation of offal, and the presence of mud and horns. USDA grade factors and other data were collected in the cooler. The distribution of hot-iron brand scars on the hide for the sample was as follows: cattle with no brand, 55.0%; cattle with butt brands, 29.9%; cattle with side brands, 13.8%; and cattle with shoulder brands, .8%. In addition, 83.3, 85.6, 76.6, 97.3, 99.9, and 99.8% of the carcasses had no superficial bruising in the chuck, rib, loin, round, brisket, and other areas of the carcass, respectively. The incidence of viscera condemnations for livers, lungs, tripe, and total viscera were 19.2, 5.1, 3.5, and .1%, respectively. Means for the carcass traits were as follows: USDA yield grade, 3.1; hot carcass weight, 344.7 kg; adjusted fat thickness, 1.5 cm; longissimus muscle area, 83.4 cm2; kidney, pelvic, and heart fat, 2.2%; USDA quality grade, high Select; marbling score, Small-minus; and overall maturity, A69.