Higher quality grades here to stay, grading chief says

News
Apr 9, 2010
by WLJ

—Better genetics and increased use of marbling EPDs have helped contribute to higher quality grades, experts say.

The nation’s beef quality has continued its rise in recent weeks, with nearly 65 percent of federally graded cattle grading Choice—an increase compared to 60.1 percent reported July 2009, according to Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB).

The numbers add to a trend ending a 30-year decline — a trend that’s likely to continue, said Larry Meadows, chief of USDA’s meat grading and certification branch.

In a March 8 Cattle Buyers Weekly, Meadows said although cycles will always be present, basic increases in quality grades are here to stay.

Increases in higher quality grades during the past two years can be attributed to several factors, Meadows said, including: feeder and slaughter cattle weights and ages due to market conditions (higher grain prices); better genetics (the increased use of marbling expected progeny differences (EPDs) over the past 15 years); excellent feeding conditions; and efficient use of distillers grains.

A research review by CAB’s Larry Corah and Mark McCully released last fall also pointed to improvements in genetics, ration changes and better feeding conditions as factors behind the rise in quality.

In researching the quality grade shift, scientists estimated 1 to 1.5 points of last summer’s 7.5-percentagepoint leap were directly traced to the increased use of Angus genetics, an improvement in the breed’s natural marbling ability, and a boost in the number of cattle showing Angus influence.

Dr. Sally Northcutt, American Angus Association (AAA) genetic research director, said the Angus breed has inherently good quality and produces desirable marbling genetics.

“There has been a huge progression of selection tools to allow breeders to make improvement on carcass traits impacting both quality and yield grade potential,” she said.

Selection tools offered by AAA now include high-accuracy genomic-enhanced EPDs incorporating association pedigree, carcass and ultrasound performance data with genomic profile results to produce EPDs for carcass merit.

Through Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) and its partnership with IGENITY, Bill Bowman, AGI director, said “This advancement gives Angus producers the power to make even more accurate, more rapid genetic improvements, and provides a significant advantage in the marketplace for commercial producers selecting Angus bulls.” — WLJ

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