providing feed is a major input cost in beef production, hence improvements in the efficiency of feed utilisation will reduce the cost of production. residual feed intake (rfi) is a measure of feed efficiency, and is defined as the difference between an animal's actual feed intake and its expected feed intake based on its size and growth. it is independent of the level of production, and the lower the value the more efficient the animal is. this paper examines the current state of knowledge on rfi. available information indicates that postweaning rfi is moderately heritable, and that selection for low rfi will result in progeny that consume less feed for the same level of production as progeny of high rfi cattle. under ad libitum feeding, rfi is phenotypically independent of growth traits. there is a weak genetic relationship between rfi and fatness but additional studies are needed to assess the magnitude of this relationship in different breeds, sexes, ages and feeding regimes. residual feed intake is believed to represent inherent variation in basic metabolic processes which determine efficiency. economic analyses of genetic improvement schemes that incorporate testing of individuals for rfi have yielded substantial economic benefits over and above existing schemes that do not include rfi testing. selection for low rfi has an additional benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by cattle.