National Beef Quality Audit - Phase 2 Validates Industry Trends

US - The 2011 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) consisted of three research phases to determine the current status of the beef industry in regard to quality conformance of the U.S. beef supply. Dr. Jeff Savell, professor of Animal Science at Texas A&M University provided oversight to the second phase of this benchmark study. Phase 2 of the study focused on gathering data from packing plants nationwide to determine the characteristics of the beef supply entering the processing chain.
calendar icon 26 September 2012
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While in the packing plants gathering data, the researchers collected data on the harvest floor that included looking at the cattle, carcasses and by-products; then gathered data in the coolers which included elements such as quality and yield grade, carcasses measurements and new in the 2011 audit was access to instrument grading information from 2.4 million carcasses.

Savell says research results identified a slight increase in the amount of USDA Prime and Choice carcasses processed from the 2005 audit of 55% to 61% in the 2011 audit results. This increase in percentage of carcasses grading USDA Choice and Prime suggests continued improvement in the eating quality of beef products. Along with these results, the audit also showed an increase in the total number of carcasses that graded USDA Prime, Choice or Select and were in the yield grades 1, 2, or 3 categories increased 4% to 85% in the 2011 audit from 81% in the 2005 audit.

The 2011 research study had the opportunity to include and compare data from instrument grading of carcasses which allowed for additional measurements to occur and be analyzed. However, it was found that instrument grading results were not notably different than the human cooler grading results when it came to most quality scores. Carcass size increased but average quality grades also improved so researchers concluded the industry is doing a good job in selection and management, particularly at the feedyard level to reach the carcass targets.

Other key findings were: an increase in the percentage of black-hided cattle from 45.1% to 61.1% in the past ten years, 10% of the cattle measured were age-and-source verified and research found that the number of cattle individually identified with visual ear tags increased from 38.7% in 2005 to 50.6% in 2011. Overall, Savell said the research team was surprised about how close the data was from the 2005 and 2011 study especially in the parameters of marbling level, ribeye area and yield grade. Furthermore, he comments this really validates each of the data sets and confirms to the researchers the quality of the data collected in the packing plants.

The NBQA has helped to identify what the marketplace, such as the retail and foodservice sectors are looking for to market to their customers, explains Savell. Cow/calf producers can utilize the audit results to understand these industry desires, which can then aid producers as they make decisions back on the ranch for genetic mating or feeding programs assisting in the ability to hit that target mark.

The NBQA was funded by the Beef Checkoff and conducted by a team of researchers representing several land grant universities and was coordinated by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

To view the results of Phase 1 click here.

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