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Agricultural News

Texas Tech's Dale Woerner Talks About the Changes in Beef Grading

Tue, 19 Nov 2019 18:45:23 CST

Texas Tech's Dale Woerner Talks About the Changes in Beef Grading Dale Woerner - Cargill Endowed Professor, Sustainable Meat Sciences, Texas Tech University

Beef grading now and tomorrow

At this summer's Feeding Quality Forum in Amarillo, a "sustainable meat science" professor from Texas Tech talked beef grading-

Those little flecks of fat in the beef marbling they're the focus of USDA's quality grading system, now calculated by cameras and computers, with more technology on the horizon.

Watch a short video-clip featuring Dale Woerner, Cargill Endowed Professor, Sustainable Meat Sciences, Texas Tech University, share his thoughts on the advancemnet of beef grading, by clicking or tapping the PLAYBOX in the window below.

"Marbling is a major component obviously of the USDA grading system aimed at ensuring the eating qualities of beef," Woerner said. "I use the analogy of potatoes and asking the crowds if anyone likes potatoes, because marbling serves a lot like butter in potatoes in that it provides flavor, juiciness and tenderness to beef products. So beef by itself or lean protein isn't all that desirable in flavor until you add those levels of marbling to it."   

We've known that for years, and the first official grading system started almost a hundred years ago, but as good as they were, human graders were subject to some human error.

"So camera grading systems for quality grade have been approved since 2006," he added. "In that time we have been able to add consistency to the grade on a national basis."

The modern systems calculate yield, ribeye area, quality grade and marbling score in the blink of an eye using data from the millions of pixels in a digital image. But even that seems like yesterday compared to the latest thing.

Rapid Evaporative Ionization Mass Spectrometry takes the molecular fingerprint or the chemical fingerprint of the meat product by actually cooking it or heating it partially in a rapid sense and then measuring the smoke or vapor off that meat which gives it a chemical signature," Woerner said.

Imagine, just smell meat cooking and name the volatile fatty acids, amino acids, and protein components to differentiate each side of beef! These machines are working on some lines today. . . .A system with more past than future is that of yield grading with 1 for leanest to 5 for fattest carcass.

"Yield grade serves as an estimate of red meat yield or edible portion in carcasses," he said. "We have seen our industry evolve really away from official yield grades in beef. Part of the reason for that is the debate is to whether it is accurate. What we know is that as a whole that system does work to differentiate large differences in yield. However, we also recognize that it doesn't work perfectly well on an individual animal basis."   

They still figure into many grid payments for finished cattle, and there are ways to minimize the discounts.   

"One of the things that we can do to reduce the incidence of yield grade four and fives is to improve genetics for marbling," Woerner said. "A big part of the reason why we feed cattle to a level of yield grade four or maybe even five is to increase the likelihood of marbling in the ribeye. So if we improve genetics to allow for us to do that as an early end point, then certainly we hope to eliminate those 4s and 5s."

Woerner says the quality grade increase in the last dozen years is thanks to committed producers, backed by researchers who keep exploring how to measure and make beef more meaningful to consumers, driving demand for more of the best.

Source: Certified Angus Beef



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