National beef quality audit reveals trends in beef production, industry

November 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: Purdue starts Internet 'Beef Blog'

Related Stories

Study shows consumers find grass-fed beef acceptable

August 4, 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?

October 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

July 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

November 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 meat.

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

Insect DNA extracted, sequenced from black widow spider web

November 25, 2015

Scientists extracted DNA from spider webs to identify the web's spider architect and the prey that crossed it, according to this proof-of-concept study published November 25, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Charles ...

How cells in the developing ear 'practice' hearing

November 25, 2015

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.