“Carcass quality begins at home” was the title of the presentation by Amanda Weaver, South Dakota State University (SDSU) professor of meat science, at a recent feedlot meeting I attended. With a large group of cattle feeders at the meeting, Weaver offered some strategies for producers to consider in order to ensure a high-quality beef-eating experience for consumers. Consider applying some of her advice to your operation to help produce a more consistent, tasty product for our customers.
"What is quality? Well, it depends on who you ask," Weaver told the group. "There are two ways to look at meat quality. First, USDA quality grades measure palatability by assessing marbling and maturity through a USDA grader or camera. Second, consumers base quality on things like appearance, juiciness, flavor and tenderness. The trouble is that consumers want all of these things, and sometimes they are hard to attain. Tenderness has the greatest animal-to-animal variation, and there is no silver bullet to achieving a tender cut of beef, she explained.
Because consumers focus on things like appearance, juiciness, tenderness and flavor, it puts producers in a conundrum. Do we focus on these immeasurable factors, or do we place more emphasis on what we get paid for--marbling and maturity? The present grading system emphasizes these attributes, not quality traits like tenderness. However, in order to boost beef demand, these immeasurable factors should be on our minds as we make management decisions on our operations.
Weaver said there are many factors that producers can control to help produce a tender cut of beef. These factors include: breed, maturity, genetics, marbling, stress, nutrition, time on feed and the age and sex of the animal.
“The bottom line is that beef quality is everyone’s job. To better produce more consistently palatable beef, all segments of the industry must work together to build demand," Weaver said.
I think Weaver makes a great point and certainly brought up some interesting things to consider on a producer level. For more information on achieving beef tenderness, link here to view a large library of resources courtesy of BEEF.