This review identifies priorities for beef cattle welfare research in the USA. Based on our professional expertise and synthesis of existing literature, we identify two themes in intensive aspects of beef production: areas where policy-based actions are needed and those where additional research is required. For some topics, considerable research informs best practice, yet gaps remain between scientific knowledge and implementation. For example, many of the risk factors and management strategies to prevent respiratory disease are understood, but only used by a relatively small portion of the industry. This is an animal health issue that will require leadership and discussion to gain widespread adoption of practices that benefit cattle welfare. There is evidence of success when such actions are taken, as illustrated by the recent improvements in handling at US slaughter facilities. Our highest priorities for additional empirical evidence are: the effect of technologies used to either promote growth or manage cattle in feedlots, identification of management risk factors for disease in feedlots, and management decisions about transport (rest stops, feed/water deprivation, climatic conditions, stocking density). Additional research is needed to inform science-based recommendations about environmental features such as dry lying areas (mounds), shade, water and feed, as well as trailer design.