National Audit Reveals Cattle Trends

US - Continued expansion of branded beef programmes and cattle herd with black hides are several trends identified in the 2011 National Beef Quality Audit, according to Dr Jeff Savell of Texas A and M Agrilife Research.
calendar icon 20 November 2012
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Texas A&M

Dr Savell said the audit revealed cattle with predominantly black hide color increased from 45.1 per cent to 61.1 per cent since the 2000 audit. There was also a significant reduction in the amount of mud and manure on hides, he said, as the industry has maximized cattle cleanliness to reduce the threat of potential contaminants coming into plants.

Black-hided cattle were 61.1 per cent in the 2011 NCBA audit versus 56.3 per cent in 2005 and 45.1 per cent in 2001, added Dr Savell.

Branded beef programs continue to increase.

“There are 6.4 programmes per processing plant,” Savell said, as plants have also modified the way they sort cattle as a result of these branded beef programmes.

“What used to be pretty common was to bring cattle in, harvest them, and then sort them after they had been chilled and graded some 36 to 48 hours later,” he said.

“Now they are doing a lot of pre-sorting for age and source and various branded beef programmes, and have specialised days of harvest for them due to the respective requirements by these programs.”

Yields Similar-Carcass weights increase

Carcasses are getting heavier, Savell said, but yield grades are “about the same.” Average carcass weight for steers is 852.7 pounds and 776 pounds for heifers.

Of the many national meat processing plants that were studied, Savell said harvest floor data indicated that individual electronic identification reached 20 per cent compared to 3.5 per cent in the 2005 audit. Also found was 15.7 per cent having metal clip tags compared to 11.8 per cent in 2005.

Meat Quality and Welfare

Meanwhile, Savell said animal welfare is a big concern of major restaurant chains and the beef industry as a whole. Many have evaluated cattle handling operations and made changes, such as chute gates and how they may interfere with cattle movement and potential bruising.

He said bruised carcasses declined by 77 per cent in 2011, signaling heightened awareness and attention by the industry regardling cattle handling.

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