This study evaluates the effects of pre-rigor temperature control on quality traits of Chinese yellow cattle M. longissimus lumborum (LL). One stepwise chilling (SC) treatment was used on one half-carcass, involved a fast chilling (-11 ± 1 °C;0.5 m/s) for 2h, then the refrigeration was stopped to hold a core temperature of 12-18 °C until 10h postmortem, followed by a 1 ± 1 °C chilling (0.5 m/s) to 48h postmortem. The other half-carcass was conventional chilled at 1 ± 1 °C (0.5 m/s) until 48h as control chilling (CC). Quality attributes were evaluated at 1, 7 and 14 days. The SC treatment resulted in decreased WBSF and increased myofibril fragmentation index compared with control. SC-treated LL at 7d postmortem had a lower WBSF than those of CC-treated at 14d. This pre-rigor temperature controlled chilling is a realistic alternative for the beef industry in China to ensure adequate tenderness and shorten aging time.