NATIONAL BEEF QUALITY AUDIT
Five National Beef Quality Audits were conducted beginning in 1991. Results of the sixth have been released. In the latest audit, face-to-face interviews were conducted with 194 representatives of all beef market sectors. And researchers evaluated about 8,000 live cattle and 25,000 carcasses on the slaughter floor. Below is a summary of some of the interview, transportation, mobility, and slaughter findings.
- food safety ranked as the highest priority item affecting quality with eating satisfaction ranking second;
- additional priority items (in decreasing order of importance) were carcass lean/fat/bone, weight and size, how and where cattle were raised, and visual characteristics;
- respondents indicated they would pay premiums for guaranteed quality, but at lower levels than in 2011;
- tenderness and flavor were the primary drivers of eating satisfaction.
- carcass weight and portion size present challenges to the industry.
Transportation, mobility, and slaughter floor observations;
- time traveled to slaughter averaged 2.7 hours, over 136 miles, with 37 cattle per load, allotting 12.2 sq ft/hd;
- 8% of cattle arrived with normal mobility, walking easily, and no apparent lameness, and only 0.1% were extremely reluctant to move even when encouraged;
- 77% of carcasses had minimal bruising, 20% major, 2% critical, 1% extreme;
- 58% had black hides, 20% Holstein (black & white), 10% red, 12% other;
- 74% had no brands, 19% butt brand, 6% side brand;
- 83% had no horns;
- 31% of livers were condemned, 18% lung, 16% viscera.
(2016 National Beef Quality Audit; http://www.bqa.org/national-beef-quality-audit/2016-national-beef-quality-audit )
VALUE AND USE OF ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION
A survey was conducted of 425 individuals using AI from 42 states to assess use and value of AI. Most producers (87%) used AI on both heifers and cows. Estrus synchronization was always or usually used by 72%. Insemination after observed estrus was used by 42%, fixed time-AI by 34%, and AI after observed estrus with cleanup timed AI by 24%. The most commonly used synchronization procedure was 7-day CO-Synch + CIDR for both heifers and cows.
Averages for commercial cow-calf producers were 11.4 years of AI experience, semen cost of $22.20/straw, and increased value of $187/calf for AI-sired. For seedstock producers, averages were 16.9 years of experience, $29.70/straw, and $709 increased value. The most important factors contributing to profit from AI were reported to be value of replacements and reduced calving difficulty.
(Cattlemen’s Day 2015; Kansas St. Univ.)
CAN BEEF BE LABELED AS U.S. PRODUCT?
Mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) of beef and pork was fully implemented in the U. S. in 2009. It almost immediately faced legal challenges from Canada and Mexico, claiming violation of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. Lawsuits by these countries and threats of retaliatory trade restrictions progressed over several years and the WTO finally ruled in December of 2015 that $1.01 billion of retaliatory tariffs could be applied to U. S. exports, not just on beef and pork but a variety of non-food items. This prompted Congress to repeal and stop enforcing COOL for beef and pork on December 18, 2015. Does that mean a retailer is now prohibited from voluntarily labeling beef and pork as U. S. product? Some think so. The following question and answer, and others on the subject, is posted on the USDA-AMS website at
- Can packers or retailers voluntarily include a country of origin statement on beef and pork products?
- In general, packers and retailers may voluntarily provide origin information to their consumers, so long as the information is truthful and not misleading. Packers and retailers should work directly with Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) for guidance and label review (as applicable). FSIS will handle requests on a case -by-case basis.
If you like, check your local grocery store meat case to see if they’re labeling U. S. product.
NATURAL BEEF, AND OTHER MARKETING CLAIMS
Numerous beef products are marketed with various claims of how cattle from which the product is obtained were raised. A common claim is “Natural”. According to the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service, beef products that have a “natural” label cannot contain artificial flavors or flavorings, coloring ingredients, chemical preservatives, or other artificial or synthetic ingredients and be no more than minimally processed. So, this deals only with processing the product after slaughter, not how the animal was raised.
However, many products have “Natural” in their names. And they also may indicate a claim such as raised without antibiotics, raised without use of hormones, organic, grassfed, naturally raised, etc., or combinations of claims. These production claims must be approved by FSIS. But there is no restriction on simply calling a product such things as “Uncle Joe’s Natural Beef”, if it meets the USDA definition of natural. To avoid confusion with products marketed under certified programs such as organic, grassfed, naturally raised, etc, some groups would like to see regulation of “natural” to require how an animal was raised.
How much beef has some sort of production claim? Not as much as some say. Over the 2nd quarter of this year, 3.2% of the volume and 4.3% of the value of retail beef sales were associated with some production claim of any sort. You may see something in the news that the volume of such product has increased significantly. Yes, volume in 2011 was 2.5% so it has increased by about 25%. Expressed that way, it looks like a big change. But it’s an increase of only 0.7 percentage points, a tiny part of total sales. Will production claims become more important? Perhaps, but it appears that most of today’s consumers are largely unaffected by such claims, probably primarily because of higher cost of most such products.
(FSIS Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submission, 09/16; sales data from CAB® Newsletter of 8/23/17, citing NCBA source)
RESIDUAL FEED INTAKE (EFFICIENCY) VS. REPRODUCTIVE TRAITS IN YOUNG BULLS
Residual feed intake (RFI) has been advanced as a more accurate measure of efficiency than the traditional measures of feed conversion (feed:gain) or feed efficiency (gain:feed). RFI involves how much feed an animal actually consumes compared to predicted consumption based on its weight and gain. Lower RFI animals are more efficient because they consume less than predicted; higher RFI animals are less efficient.
A group of 52 11-month-old Puruna bulls were individually fed a ration of mostly corn silage and corn for 112 days. (Puruna is a Brazilian composite of Bos indicus and Bos taurus background.) Using data collected during the feeding period, bulls were divided into groups of high, intermediate, and low RFI. As has been found in other research, ADG (averaging 2.33 lb/day) was not significantly related to RFI. High RFI (low efficiency) bulls consumed 13% more feed than Low RFI. There was no significant correlation between RFI and testicular width, length, circumference, volume, and ultrasound intensity or with serum testosterone. ADG was significantly correlated with testicular circumference and volume. Based on their data, the authors concluded that high and low efficiency bulls had similar reproductive traits. NOTE: If these results extend beyond growing, young bulls could be selected for high RFI efficiency without affecting potential breeding performance.
(J. Anim. Sci. 95:930; Univ. of Parana Brazil, Univ. of Florida)
INHERITANCE OF COLOR IN CATTLE
Hair color can be a significant factor in price received for calves. Knowledge of what to expect from parents of various colors can be useful in planning breeding programs. Black is often said to be the dominant color. But that depends on how black a parent is, i. e., is it “pure” black (genetically homyzygous) or not (genetically heterozygous). All red cattle are “pure” (homyzygous for the red gene). When red parents are mated their calves will be red, so a pure-breeding population of red cattle can be achieved. But, because recessive, unexpressed red genes can exist in a population of black cattle for many generations, pure-breeding black cattle are harder to create.
This may partly explain why there are not many black breeds of cattle worldwide. Also, black cattle are not as well adapted to the tropics and subtropics, where the majority of cattle are located in the world. So, why are so many cattle in the U. S. black? Probably because our two most numerous breeds are black (Angus) or with some black (Holstein). Also, in the U. S. many of the formerly red or red and white breeds (especially Continental breeds) have incorporated black color from Angus.
Through modern genotyping, prediction of color can be simplified. General information on inheritance of all colors, not just black and red, can be accessed at
BQA TIP-OF-THE-MONTH: FENCELINE WEANING
Good weaning programs are important to minimize stress on calves and prepare them to perform well as stockers, feeders, and replacements. Fenceline weaning works well because cows and calves can see and hear each other which reduces stress on both. A key to successful fenceline weaning is to separate cows and calves with as little excitement as possible. An ideal weaning pasture would be about 5 to 30 acres in size, with good grass cover, have good shade along the fence line, and have a good water source within a few hundred yards of the fence.
(Jason Banta, Ph. D., firstname.lastname@example.org , Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator)