Maximising Eating Quality With Tropical Breed Cattle

By Meat & Livestock Standards Australia, from the tips & tools publication.
calendar icon 25 April 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

The effect of tropical breed content on beef eating quality

MSA research has shown that as a single attribute, breed has around 12% effect on eating quality. The major effect is on the striploin, cube roll, tenderloin and oyster blade primals.

Key points

  • All breeds of cattle are eligible for the MSA program
  • Breed content has up to a 12% effect on beef eating quality
  • On-farm management of genetics, nutrition and weight gain will maximize eating quality of beef from tropical breed cattle
  • Processors can further improve product by ageing primal cuts for extended periods or using tender stretch hanging techniques

As tropical breed content increases, eating quality scores decrease, see Table 1 below for examples of MSA scores, ranging from 0 to 100.

The effect of tropical breed content on eating quality scores differs according to specific primal cuts. For example, in Table 1, as the tropical breed percentage increases, the eating quality scores for the rump primals barely change. However, the striploin primal score reduces significantly, decreasing to 46 in the 100% TBC animal.

Table 1 The effect of tropical breed content on eating quality scores

On-farm management to maximise eating quality

To achieve higher returns on-farm, producers should focus on meeting the specifications of the processor, to produce the best possible meat eating quality for consumers. Each processor may have specific breed requirements.

On-farm management of genetics, nutrition and weight gain can maximise the eating quality of tropical breed cattle.


Cattle should be kept on a rising plane of nutrition for at least 30 days prior to processing. This is a vital stage of cattle production, where set-backs can have a significant impact on meat eating quality.


Since northern cattle are generally subjected to more environmental stresses than southern cattle, maturity and ossification occur at a more rapid rate, adversely affecting meat eating quality. Therefore, while the 30 days prior to processing are important, good nutrition right through the life of the animal can slow the rate of ossification, therefore maximising eating quality.


In order to enhance eating quality, on-farm management practices should focus on reaching the optimal weight and the youngest possible age of the animal.

Tropical breed content is beneficial for cattle in harsh climates as they are genetically adapted to heat, can produce on low quality pastures, and are resistant to parasites. However, the introduction of European or British genetics to form composite breeds can significantly improve eating quality while maintaining an environmentally adapted herd.

Post slaughter management

Ageing primals to improve eating quality

Example of a vacuum packed primal

Beef from tropical breed cattle can be further improved with ageing. Extended ageing of vacuum-packed primals improves eating quality in many cuts, as during storage in the bag under refrigeration, naturally occurring enzymes continue to break down muscle fibres in the meat. As the ageing period extends, the beef becomes more tender, with the most improvement occurring in the first 21 days.

See Table 2 which shows the effect of the ageing process on primals from a 50% tropical breed content animal. The striploin and rump primals improve to achieve MSA quality after 21 days ageing, while the ageing has minimal effect on the tenderloin.

Table 2 The effect of ageing on eating quality scores


Table 3: The effect of achilles and tenderstretch hanging method on eating quality scores after 5 days of ageing

Tenderstretch can be used as an alternative means of hanging the carcase during chilling to improve meat tenderness. The process can reduce meat ageing period required to achieve the same eating quality result.

Tenderstretching a carcase involves suspension from either the pelvic bone or through the illiosacral ligament, so the leg drops at a 90º angle. This differs from the mainstream method of hanging a carcase by the Achilles tendon.

When a carcase is tenderstretched, a number of muscles are held in a stretched position so they cannot contract, especially muscles in the hind quarter.

Table 4 Example of tropical breed content in various cattle breeds

Table 5 Example of tropical breed content in composite breeds

April 2008

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