It criticised the current guidelines, claiming there were "no federal legal protections against inhumane treatment on the farm or at feedlots".
The group recently reviewed the guidelines in NCBA’s Beef Quality Assurance program and believes they do not comply with the international animal welfare code of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
It said the organisation had now revised its care standards since the OIE adopted a welfare code for beef cattle production in 2012.
Dena Jones, farm animal program manager at AWI, said: "Because there are no legal standards, it is essential that NCBA provides animal care guidelines that ensure good animal welfare. We urge NCBA to revise its standards to provide these animals a better quality of life."
Specific deficiencies it noted included: not acknowledging that pain and distress are associated with hot-iron branding; and allowing the routine tail-docking of cattle.
The NCBA declined to comment.