Processor to earn USDA tenderness program certification

Aug 2, 2013

—Designation validates company’s tenderness research, testing, since 2000.

In the ongoing battle for beef tenderness, consumers continue to hunt for some sort of guarantee that the meat they are purchasing is truly “tender.”

“Years of research reveals U.S. consumers value beef tenderness,” Glynn Tonsor, Kansas State University, writes in an overview he did on USDA’s tenderness certifications. “However, full realization of improved and/or guaranteed tender beef has been limited for several reasons, including uncertain incentives and reward mechanisms encouraging industry stakeholders to adjust practices and invest in processes which improve beef tenderness.”

But USDA continues to look for a standard for the industry that works for consumers.

In 2012, a proposal was offered that would allow eligible beef products to carry “USDA Certified Tender” or “USDA Certified Very Tender” labels, and Cargill’s tenderness laboratory at the company’s Wichita Cargill Innovation Center is the first to earn certification for their beef tenderness program.

As part of its ongoing commitment to beef quality, Cargill has aggressively conducted tenderness testing since 2000, focused on providing consumers with a consistently tender eating experience, the company shared in a press release.

Additionally, Cargill’s beef processing plants at Dodge City, KS, Schuyler, NE, Fort Morgan, CO, and Friona, TX, have been certified by USDA for the harvest, fabrication (production) and packaging of tender products.

Focused on providing consumers with a consistently tender eating experience that translates into increased beef demand, the company is currently working toward introduction of its certified tender beef products in early 2014. Ten cuts of beef are eligible for designation as “USDA tender” or “USDA very tender” under this certification program.

“We believe Cargill is the beef processing leader in the area of tenderness research and testing,” said John Keating, president of Wichita-based Cargill Beef. “We invest a substantial amount of resources in this area and have the best team in the industry, led by Dr. Glen Dolezal, who is well respected throughout the beef world. We are committed to meet, or exceed, the expectations of our retail and food service customers by providing them with the best beef possible for consumers to enjoy.”

Under this verification program, Cargill will identify brands and products that will meet the USDA certified tender criteria. The company continues to test beef tenderness on a daily basis, conducting thousands of tests each month at the Wichita Cargill Innovation Center, opened in July 2011 to support its customers and businesses with creative, science-based, consumer-accepted marketplace solutions associated with animal protein products.

“We know that beef attributes such as tenderness, flavor and juiciness are important to consumers and the long-term health of the American beef industry hinges on our ability to consistently deliver the best possible beef eating experience,” stated Keating. “Our devotion to achieving that goal is engrained in our corporate culture, which places a great deal of emphasis on continuous improvement and pursuit of excellence. I am confident in the Cargill Beef team’s ability to continuously deliver stellar results for our customers and I know they are proud of the results they have achieved thus far.” — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor