National Beef Quality Audit — 1995

Brief Overview

The purpose was “to conduct the sequel to the National Beef Quality Audit — 1991, a quality audit of slaughter cattle (their carcasses and dress off/offal items) for the U.S. beef industry in 1995, establishing baselines for present quality shortfalls and identifying targets for desired quality levels by the year 2005.” Since the completion of the National Beef Quality Audit — 1991, the industry has had three full years of opportunity to change. It is recognized that effects of changes in management would be detectable in the slaughter steer/heifer population but that effects of genetic change would not likely be detectable in this short time-frame. The National Beef Quality Audit–1995 assessed whether or not changes had occurred relative to correcting deficiencies and reducing quality concerns compared to the benchmark study (National Beef Quality Audit–1991), but this new Audit (NBQA–1995) also allowed the beef industry to make mid-course corrections with regard to what can be accomplished, in the light of what is now known, to improve the quality, consistency, competitiveness and market-share of beef.

The National Beef Quality Audit–1995 was comprised of three Phases. Phase I included the Face-To-Face Interviews, Phase II consisted of Slaughter-Floor and Cooler Audits (36 audits in 27 beef packing plants), and Phase III was a Strategy Workshop.

Phase I

In Face-To-Face Interviews with those who sell wholesale beef to the food-service industry (“purveyors”), the Top Ten Producer-Controllable Concerns About the “Quality” Of Beef were: (1) Excessive External Fat, (2) Too Large Ribeyes/Loineyes, (3) Low Overall Uniformity and Consistency, (4) Insufficient Flavor, (5) Inappropriate USDA Quality Grade Mix, (6) Low Overall Palatability, (7) Low Overall Cutability, (8) Inadequate Tenderness, (9) Beef’s Price Is Too High For The Value Received, and (10) Too High Incidence of Injection-Site Lesions.

In Face-To-Face Interviews with supermarket meat-management personnel (“retailers”), the Top Ten Producer-Controllable Concerns About The “Quality” Of Beef were: (1) Low Overall Uniformity and Consistency, (2) Inadequate Tenderness, (3) Excessive Weights of Cuts and Boxes of Cuts, (4) Low Overall Palatability, (5) Beef’s Price Is Too High For The Value Received, (6) Inappropriate USDA Quality Grade Mix, (7) Insufficient Flavor, (8) Excessive Seam Fat, (9) Excessive External Fat, and (10) Too High Incidence of Injection-Site Lesions.

In Face-To-Face Interviews with those who purchase, prepare and present beef to customers in hotels, restaurants, institutions, fast-food franchises, etc. (“restaurateurs”), the Top Ten Producer-Controllable Concerns About The “Quality” Of Beef were: (1) Excessive External Fat, (2) Low Overall Uniformity and Consistency of Beef, (3) Inadequate Tenderness, (4) Beef’s Price Is Too high For The Value Received, (5) Low Overall Palatability, (6) Excessive Weights of Cuts and Boxes of Cuts, (7) Low Overall Cutability, (8) Too High Incidence of Injection-Site Lesions, (9) Too High Occurrence of Dark and Unattractive Lean, and (10) Insufficient Flavor.

When results of the Face-To-Face Interviews with purveyors, restaurateurs and retailers were aggregated, the Top Ten Producer-Controllable Concerns About The “Quality” Of Beef were: (1) Low Overall Uniformity and Consistency, (2) Inadequate Tenderness, (3) Low Overall Palatability, (4) Excessive External Fat, (5) Beef’s Price Is Too High For The Value Received, (6) Insufficient Flavor, (7) Excessive Weights Of Cuts And Boxes Of Cuts, (8) Inappropriate USDA Quality Grade Mix, (9) Too High Incidence of Injection-Site Lesions, and (10) Low Overall Cutability.

In Face-To-Face Interviews with those who purchase live cattle and convert them into carcasses, edible offal and inedible offal (“packers”), the Top Ten Producer-Controllable Concerns About The “Quality” Of Beef were: (1) Lack of Uniformity and Predictability of Live Cattle, (2) Too High Rate of Liver Condemnations, (3) Too Frequent Hide Damage Due to Mud/Manure, (4 tie) Too Frequent Bruise Damage, (4 tie) Too Many Dark Cutters, (4 tie) Excessive External Fat, (7) Cattle of Too Heavy Weight, (8) Inadequate Marbling, (9 tie) Too Frequent Hide Damage Due To Hot-Iron Brands, and (9 tie) Beef’s Price Is Too High For The Value Received.

Phase II

The Federally Inspected Slaughter (FIS) of slaughter steers/heifers was surveyed (in 36 visits/Audits) during the period of April through December, 1995 in 27 packing plants chosen to approximate at least 75% of the FIS and to represent the geographic distribution of slaughtering/dressing facilities in the U.S. From each lot of cattle in a given packing plant, 50% of the animals were evaluated by members of the Packing-Plant Audit Teams for brands, mud and horns (N=56,612); for bruises, grubs, injection-sites and contamination (N=59,645); for liver condemnations (N=50,517); for lung condemnations (N=24,556); for tripe condemnations (N=49,607); for head condemnations (N=47,581); for tongue condemnations (N=47,659); for incidence of offals containing a fetus (N=47,597); and for whole-carcass condemnations (N=35,738).

Slaughter-Floor Audits revealed the following: (a) Brand Incidence–47.7%, no brand; 38.7%, butt brand; 16.8%, side brand; 3.0% shoulder brand; 6.2%, multiple brands; (b) Brand Size–average sizes were 6″ x 6″ or 36 sq. in. for butt brands, 10″ x 10″ or 100 sq. in. for side brands, and 7″ x 7″ or 49 sq. in. for shoulder brands; (c) Mud Score–those with a mud score of “0″ (no mud)=61.6%; those with a mud score of “3″ (mud on legs, belly, side and back)=5.1%; (d) Presence of Horns–67.8%, polled or dehorned; 32.2%, horned; (e) Bruises–51.6% of carcasses had no bruises, 30.9% had 1 bruise, 12.8% had 2 bruises, 3.7% had 3 bruises, 0.9% had 4 bruises, and 0.1% had more than 4 bruises; 7.2% of the bruises occurred on the round, 41.1% on the loin, 20.8% on the rib, 30.8% on the chuck and 0.1% on the brisket; 11% or less of the bruises on the chuck, loin and round were given severity scores of “Critical” while 43% or more of the bruises on the chuck, loin and round were assigned severity scores of “Minor;” (f) Grub, Injection-Site, Contamination Incidence–0.3% of carcasses had grubs, 1.7% of carcasses had visible damage due to injection-sites and 2.6% of carcasses had visible contamination; (g) Edible Offal Condemnations–Incidence of condemnations of livers was 22.2%, of lungs was 5.0%, of tripe was 11.0%, of heads was 0.9%, and of tongues was 3.8%; (h) Pregnancy Rate–of 47,597 offals inspected, 1.4% contained a fetus (using 31.6% heifers as the estimate of females in the population, 4.3% of those contained a fetus); and (i) Whole-Carcass Condemnations–0.1% of whole-carcasses were condemned.

Included in the Cooler Audits was information related to breed-type, gender (sex class), Yield Grade factors, Quality Grade factors, dark cutters and blood splash. Packing-Plant Audit Team members evaluated 10% of each lot in one day’s production in each plant, resulting in a total number of carcasses evaluated of 11,799. Because, though, some of the packing plants that were audited practiced hot-fat trimming, data from those plants do not include information for preliminary or for final Yield Grades or for kidney/pelvic/heart fat percentages.

Cooler Audits revealed the following: (a) Gender–68.0% steer, 31.6% heifer and 0.4% bullock; (b) Breed-type–88.7% native (British and Continental European Breeds), 6.5% Brahman and 4.8% Dairy breed-types; (c) Carcass Maturity–95.1% “A,” 4.3% “B” and 0.6% “C” or older; (d) Marbling Score–0.1% Practically Devoid, 3.7% Traces, 46.9% Slight, 36.6% Small, 8.3% Modest, 3.2% Moderate, 1.1% Slightly Abundant, 0.3% Moderately Abundant and 0.1% Abundant; (e) Dark Cutter Discounts–97.3% none, 1.4% one-third Grade, 0.95% two-thirds Grade and 0.36% one full Grade; (f) Occurrence of Blood Splash In Ribeye–99.0% No; 1.0% Yes; (g) USDA Quality Grade–1.3% Prime, 11.4% Upper Two-Thirds of Choice, 35.6% Low Choice, 46.4% Select, 4.6% Standard and 0.7% Commercial/Utility/Cutter/Canner (“Hard-bone,” C- maturity or older, carcasses); (h) Carcass Weight–5.2% less than 600 lb, 25.1% 600 to 700 lb, 40.6% 700 to 800 lb, 23.7% 800 to 900 lb and 5.4% more than 900 lb; (i) Fat Thickness, Three-Quarter Measure, 12th/13th Rib–3.7% less than .20 in., 31.5% .20 to .39 in., 39.6% .40 to .59 in., 18.0% .60 to .79 in., 5.3% .80 to .99 in. and 1.8% more than 1.00 in.; (j) Ribeye Area, 12th/13th Rib–2.3% less than 10.0 sq. in., 7.0% 10.0 to 10.9 sq. in., 21.2% 11.0 to 11.9 sq. in., 27.0% 12.0 to 12.9% sq. in., 20.8% 13.0 to 13.9 sq. in., 12.4% 14.0 to 14.9 sq. in., 5.9% 15.0 to 15.9 sq. in., and 3.4% more than 16.0 sq. in.; (k) USDA Yield Grade–12.6% Yield Grade 1, 45.3% Yield Grade 2, 34.2% Yield Grade 3, 7.1% Yield Grade 4 and 0.8% Yield Grade 5.

Phase III

At the start of the Strategy Workshop, 19 of the 23 members of the Response/Reaction/Consensus Panel who were present on the first day completed a questionnaire identifying the ten most important “Quality” Concerns (problems, defects, shortcomings, shortfalls) in cattle, dress-off/offal items, carcasses and/or cuts for present-day cattle and beef in the past and to other animals and meat, poultry or fish items that are competitors to beef. Aggregated responses in terms of “Quality” Concerns from that exercise were as follows: (1) Excessive External, Seam and Beef-Trim Fat, (2) Excessive Live and Carcass Weights, (3) Inadequate Tenderness, (4) Low Overall Uniformity and Consistency of Beef, (5) Low Overall Palatability, (6) Too High Incidence of Injection-Site Lesions, (7) Excessive Weights of Cuts and Boxes of Cuts, (8) Insufficient Marbling, (9) Beef’s Price Is Too High For The Value Received, and (10) Too Frequent Hide Problems (Brands, Insect/Parasite Damage, Mud/Manure).

“Quality” Concerns were then discussed at the Strategy Workshop of the National Beef Quality Audit–1995 in a series of 22 presentations made by individuals selected to have unique expertise in the subject-matter assigned to them. Following completion of all of the presentations at the Strategy Workshop, the 19 members of the Response/Reaction/Consensus Panel completed the questionnaire again; aggregated responses in terms of “Quality” Concerns from that exercise were as follows: (1) Low Overall Uniformity and Consistency of Beef, (2) Low Overall Palatability, (3) Insufficient Marbling, (4) Inadequate Tenderness, (5) Excessive External, Seam and Beef-Trim Fat, (6) Excessive Weights of Cuts and Boxes of Cuts, (7) Too High Incidence of Injection-Site Lesions, (8) Beef’s Price Is Too High For The Value Received, (9) Excessive Live and Carcass Weights, and (10) Too Frequent Hide problems (Brands, Insect/Parasite Damage, Mud/Manure).


 

 

Comparison between NBQA-95 and NBQA-91 for USDA Quality Grades
NBQA-95 NBQA-91
Lean Maturity A54 A63
Skeletal Maturity A63 A75
Overall Maturity A60 A69
Marbling Score Small06 Small24
USDA Quality Grade Select79 Select86

 


 

 

Comparison between NBQA-95 and NBQA-91 for USDA Yield Grades
NBQA-95 NBQA-91
Carcass weight, pounds 747.9 759.9
Fat thickness, inches .47 .59
Ribeye area, square inches 12.8 12.9
Kidney, pelvic, and heart fat, % 2.1 2.2
USDA Yield Grade 2.82 3.16


Comparison among USDA-74, NBQA-95 and NBQA-91 cooler audits
USDA-74 NBQA-91 NBQA-95
Carcass weight, pounds 678.7 759.9 747.9
Fat thickness, inches .62 .59 .47
Ribeye area, square inches 11.8 12.9 12.8
Kidney, pelvic, and heart fat, % 3.0 2.2 2.1
USDA Yield Grade 3.40 3.16 2.82
Maturity Score A69 A60
Marbling Score Small+ Small24 Small06
USDA Quality Grade Choice- Select86 Select79
U.S. Prime and U.S. Choice 75% 55% 48%
YG 1 and YG 2 30% 44% 58%


Improving the quality, consistency, competitiveness and marketshare of fed-beef from slaughter steers/heifers
Increase Red Meat Yield $47.76
Enhance Taste and Tenderness $38.30
Improve Management $47.10
Control Weight $4.66
Total $137.82


Improving the quality, consistency, competitiveness and marketshare of fed-beef from slaughter steers/heifers
Comparisons across years and logics
NBQA-91
(1991 logic)
NBQA-95
(1991 logic)
NBQA-95
(1995 logic)
Increase Red Meat Yield $219.25 $203.38 $47.76
Enhance Taste and Tenderness $28.81 $36.10 $38.30
Improve Management $27.26 $32.98 $47.10
Control Weight $4.50 $4.13 $4.66
Total $279.82 $276.59 $137.82

 


Members of the Response/Reaction/Consensus Panel at the Strategy Workshop decided that the eight best Strategies for Improving the Quality, Consistency, Competitiveness and Marketshare of Beef were:

  • Assist producers to use selection and management techniques to produce cattle that fit customer expectations for marbling, red meat yield and weight.
  • Establish close-trimmed beef as the industry standard.
  • Develop a cattle identification system that facilitates data collection and information feedback, and that reduces reliance on hot-iron branding.
  • Encourage development of cattle pricing systems that accurately identify and reward production of cattle with zero defects.
  • Encourage development of cattle pricing systems that identify, categorize and price product attributes that affect customer satisfaction.
  • Continue to discover, develop and apply technology to enhance the quality of beef.
  • Identify breeding systems that optimize production, palatability and profitability.
  • Identify procedures to facilitate improved customer satisfaction and loyalty to the beef eating experience.

Members of the Response/Reaction/Consensus Panel at the Strategy Workshop decided that the thirteen best Tactics for Improving the Quality, Consistency, Competitiveness and Marketshare of Beef were:

  • Identify and manage genetic lines that may be used to produce cattle with increased ability to marble and with maximum amount of red meat yield.
  • Eliminate side brands and multiple brands.
  • Remove horns.
  • Improve parasite control.
  • Improve red meat yield.
  • Adopt carcass weight targets of a minimum of 600 pounds and a maximum of 850 pounds, and encourage further product weight segmentation by the processor.
  • Change the Quality Grade mix to the following:
    • Prime: 7%
    • Upper two-thirds Choice: 21%
    • Low Choice: 34%
    • Select: 38%
  • Improve transportation and handling techniques to reduce bruises and dark cutters.
  • Eliminate all intramuscular injections.
  • Encourage producers to measure, on a repeated basis, those traits that impact on the value of cattle, beef and byproducts.
  • Eliminate genetic and management systems that erode the tenderness, juiciness and flavor of beef.
  • Encourage premiums and discounts for superior and inferior characteristics of cattle, carcasses, cuts and byproducts that will more accurately reflect “true value.”
  • Encourage development of a close-trimmed boxed beef futures contract as a means for price discovery for the packing, retailing, and purveying sectors of the beef industry.

 

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