National beef quality audit reveals trends in beef production, industry

Nov 19, 2012 by Blair Fannin
The 2011 National Beef Quality Audit revealed cattle with black hide color increased from 45.1 percent to 61.1 percent since the 2000 audit. Credit: Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Blair Fannin

Continued expansion of branded beef programs and cattle herds with black hides are several trends identified in the 2011 National Beef Quality Audit, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research meat scientist.

Dr. Jeff Savell, one of the audit's principal investigators and holder of the Manny Rosenthal chair in the department of animal science at Texas A&M University, provided an overview of the audit's findings before faculty members recently.

Savell said the audit revealed with predominantly black hide color increased from 45.1 percent to 61.1 percent 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.

Branded beef programs continue to increase.

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

"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 programs, and have specialized days of harvest for them due to the respective requirements by these programs."

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 percent compared to 3.5 percent in the 2005 audit. Also found was 15.7 percent having metal clip tags compared to 11.8 percent in 2005.

"Cattle are also getting blacker," Savell said. That applies to herds and branded beef programs containing black cattle. Black-hided cattle were 61.1 percent in the 2011 NCBA audit versus 56.3 percent in 2005 and 45.1 percent in 2001.

Meanwhile,  Savell said animal welfare is a big concern of major restaurant chains and the 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 percent in 2011, signaling heightened awareness and attention by the industry regardling cattle handling.

Explore further: Study on meat in pet foods shows not all brands follow regulations

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study shows consumers find grass-fed beef acceptable

Aug 04, 2008

High feed-grain prices and the growing interest in "natural" foods have spurred both consumers and farmers to consider grass-fed beef, and a recent study done by Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences researchers may ...

Can naturally raised beef find its place in the industry?

Oct 18, 2010

As consumer demand for naturally raised beef continues to increase, researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered that naturally raised beef can be produced effectively for this niche market as long as a substantial ...

UQ graduate’s research provides relief for beef cattle

Jul 24, 2012

University of Queensland PhD graduate Stephanie Sinclair's research into the effects of dehorning beef cattle has led to a greater understanding of how to best relieve pain and promote faster healing for all breeds of cattle. ...

Calm cattle have a dark side

Nov 16, 2012

The findings of a recent study conducted by Murdoch University researchers has challenged the long held belief of the beef industry that flighty cattle are at a higher risk of producing dark, firm and dry ...

Recommended for you

Study shows sharks have personalities

21 minutes ago

Some sharks are 'gregarious' and have strong social connections, whilst others are more solitary and prefer to remain inconspicuous, according to a new study which is the first to show that the notorious ...

Alaska refuge proposes killing invasive caribou

3 hours ago

Federal wildlife officials are considering deadly measures to keep an Alaska big game animal introduced more than 50 years ago to a remote island in the Aleutians from expanding its range.

Genetic secrets of the monarch butterfly revealed

6 hours ago

The monarch butterfly is one of the most iconic insects in the world, best known for its distinct orange and black wings and a spectacular annual mass migration across North America. However, little has been ...

User comments : 0