The South African classification system describes beef carcasses in regard to visual fat cover, conformation and age by dentition. Animal age provides a fairly accurate description of expected eating quality in regard to tenderness in an industry where other sources of variation in tenderness are limited. Since deregulation in the beef industry in the 90s many changes have occurred in all parts of the value chain. This paper presents a number of case studies that focussed on the sources of variation in meat quality, but in particular on sources of changes in meat tenderness over the past two decades. These sources include feeding regime, the use of beta agonists, post mortem ageing and electrical stimulation. In some studies these factors are integrated with age or interactions among two or more of these factors are investigated.