Meat researchers have developed a new grade of beef with half the fat of the usual cuts that may be quite appealing to consumers watching their calories and cholesterol.

Supermarkets are starting to carry meat labeled USDA Select that has 40 percent to 55 percent less fat than completely trimmed, well-marbled meat graded USDA Choice, said Larry Cundiff, a genetics expert at the Agriculture Department's Meat and Animal Research Center."USDA Select beef contains about 40 calories per ounce compared with 43 to 50 calories for USDA Choice beef," said Cundiff. "This resembles the difference between regular and 2 percent low-fat milk."

He said scientists have been working for 20 years to characterize breeds of cattle for leanness, tenderness, juiciness and flavor of the meat.

The search for leaner beef led to crossbreeding Hereford and Angus breeds with 24 European breeds known for their leanness.

Butchers at two large supermarket chains in the Washington, D.C., area said that Select cuts are not as tasty or tender as Choice, but are less expensive.