Beef producers improve meat quality

News
Aug 16, 2013
by WLJ

The National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) recently published their findings from the 2011 audit in the Journal of Animal Science. The new NBQA shows that producers have improved beef cattle genetics and management.

Compared with previous audits, the researchers across the U.S. found more black-hided cattle, less mud and manure on their hides, and more cattle that were individually identified.

“Each audit has revealed interesting and important information to cattle producers and others in the beef industry. Most importantly, the beef industry has something to measure itself against on a nationwide basis,” said Dr. Jeff Savell, meat science professor at Texas A&M University, in an interview.

From May to September 2011, researchers evaluated eight major beef harvest facilities. According to these researchers, these facilities represent 30 percent of the national beef supply. They evaluated the hide, carcass and identification methods of the cattle.

Savell said they discovered that the number of animals with individual identification has increased. He said one out of five animals had an electronic ear tag. It is mandatory in many countries for animals to be individually identified for traceability purposes. Savell said the increase in the number of cattle that have identification is useful information to have.

More of the cattle seen in the harvest facilities have black hide. The number of black-hided cattle has increased by nearly 5 percent since the 2005 audit. The researchers said the increase is most likely because of the increase in beef programs that require Angus heritage as one of the program specifications.

The researchers said that mud and manure has been a concern for the harvesting facilities. Mud and manure on the hides can cause pathogen contamination on the carcasses. The 2011 audit showed that 50.8 percent of the cattle had no visible manure or mud.

Dr. Dan Hale, animal science professor at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, said that the beef industry has made many improvements in the quality of meat throughout the years. He said beef producers could look closely at this audit and develop new genetic and management practices to continue to improve beef quality.

Savell expects the next NBQA to be conducted in five years.

The article is titled “National Beef Quality Audit-2011: Harvest-floor assessments of targeted characteristics that affect quality and value of cattle, carcasses, and byproducts.” It can be read in full in the Journal of Animal Science. — WLJ

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