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Beef

Casper — In 2007 the American food service industry purchased 92 million pounds of flat iron steaks, 42 million pounds of petite tender steaks and 37 million pounds of ranch cut steaks.
    Just over a decade ago, meat scientist Chris Calkens with the University of Nebraska said that would have been “169 million pounds of steak that was being ground and sold as hamburger.” Today the cuts are competing with the more traditional steaks.
    Calkins told ranchers attending the early December Range Beef Cow Symposium in Casper that the research resulting in the new cuts was launched during the late 1990s tailspin in cattle prices.
    Cattle-Fax data at the time showed that while middle meat value had increased by three to four percent, the value of the chuck and the round had dropped by 25 percent. “They weigh the most and had the greatest opportunity for increased value,” said Calkins. The researchers took what was worth around a $1.50 a pound as hamburger and turned it into quality steak items. For consumers at the meat counter Calkins said, “It’s a chance to trade down instead of out of beef.”
    Calkins explained, “We’ve got the shoulder or the chuck up here on one end, that’s about 30 percent. The round on the other end is 23 percent. Just 17 percent is found in the ribs, the loins and the sirloin area of that carcass.” The value, however, has relied too strongly on the smallest source of meat.
    “The chuck was a loss for producers in the early 90s,” he explained. In 2000 and 2001 information about the new cuts earned widespread industry attention. The price of meat from the chuck surpassed live cattle prices bringing new value to the beef industry. Cattle-Fax, said Calkins, estimates the new cuts added between $50 and $70 to the value of a carcass.
    Calkins and his teammates, whose work is funded by the Beef Checkoff, have now turned their attention to the chuck roll. It’s a 20-25 pound piece of meat from the shoulder. Cutting it as a chuck roast, said Calkins, leaves value on the table. Once again, the research team hopes to turn low value cuts into items that bring revenue growth to the beef industry.
    The chuck roll is now the source of Boneless Country Style Ribs, America’s Beef Roast, the Sierra Steak and the Denver Steak. The Denver Steak ranks fourth when the muscles within a carcass are ranked according to tenderness. Calkins said the nation’s beef leaders are just starting to get the word out about the new cuts. While they may not be available in retail stores yet, he said the word is beginning to circulate.
    “When I talk to retailers about this they see dollar signs,” said Calkins. He called the research a win-win-win where consumers get a better product, retailers see a chance to add value and increased beef demand bolsters cattle prices.
    “What we end up with is five different cuts out of that chuck roll,” said Calkins. “We used to just get the chuck eye steak and everything else went into hunk and chunk.”
    Meeting the needs of modern American consumers Calkins said, “We’re making things simpler for the consumers. They don’t have the knowledge to buy chuck steaks and cut it. Instead the industry does it for them. We provide products that are quick and easy to serve and are good eating experiences.”
    In addition to the research on new cuts, Calkins said a separate group of researchers is exploring modifications to the more traditional cuts. As carcass weights have increased so have the challenges of keeping cuts like ribeyes the right size and thickness to meet the American consumer’s desires.
    As one speaker at the Range Beef Cow Symposium put it, “Steaks were likely invented the day after fire was discovered.” Despite the historic nature of the industry, growth and opportunities appear to remain within reach.
    Information, including charts detailing how the cuts are made, can be found online at www.beefinnovationsgroup.com. Jennifer Womack is a staff writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Around the world, demand is growing for high-quality steaks, and Chef Middle East’s Regional Category Manager for Protein Jitesh Gopalakrishnan sees growth in opportunity in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. 

The company works with Certified Angus Beef (CAB) out of Dubai to supply 6,000 products – 20 percent of which are proteins – to fine-dining restaurants and upscale hotels across the region.

“We’ve grown well over the past two years, and we have a regional portfolio,” Gopalakrishnan said. “The market is looking good, so we expect to grow more in the coming years.” 

While the market is traditional a middle-meat market, efforts to expose consumers to higher value cuts have paid off. 

“We’ve been starting to get some good traction on the end cut, and that’s really because we’ve been going out and doing demos on the end cuts,” Gopalakrishnan explained. “We give free samples to the customers and say, this has more value.” 

He added, “Rather than buying a tenderloin, use a tri-tip or a top sirloin, which will add more value on a flank steak.”

The company has grown 300 percent in the last two years, and today, they import four to five container loads in the market in just a two-year span. Well over 100 tons of product have been shipped to the company during that time, which only adds more value more cattle producers that reaches all the way back to the ranch.

Gopalakrishnan commented, “Since we’ve added CAB into our portfolio, we’ve had magical growth in the amount of business we do.”

Gopalakrishnan shared the story of Chef Middle East during a recent edition of Angus VNR, provided by Certified Angus Beef, LLC and the American Angus Association. Visit cabcattle.com or angus.org for more information.

“We can no longer rely on the deficit model of education to get people on board with genetic technology,” says University of Missouri Geneticist Jared Decker. 

Decker describes the deficit model as continuously pouring information onto people about a subject. 

“This model of education has never been successful,” he explains. “There have always been road blocks with this model.” 

Theory and technology

“Instead of simply pouring information on people, we should look to the united theory of acceptance as we approach education and attitudes about genetic technology,” says Decker. 

“There are a number of factors that influence the behavior intention and use of new technology,” he continues. “Somethings that affect intention and use include gender, age, experience and voluntary nature of use.” 

“Performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence and facilitating conditions will all determine behavior intention,” Decker notes. “Facilitating conditions will ultimately determine use behavior.” 

Applied curriculum 

“Institutions should be utilizing an applied curriculum,” Decker explains. “When students are sitting in the classroom, there has to be a real-world application to what they’re learning, not just academic or research applications.” 

Decker and his colleagues have been working towards creating an undergraduate curriculum that encompasses real-life scenarios experienced by beef cattle producers. 

“We have six main course objectives to guide the course and teach students real-life beef management skills,” says Decker. 

He notes the objectives begin with evaluating beef cattle production scenarios and recommend breeding objectives based on each scenario. Students then learn to interpret EPDs, select indices and DNA tests used in the beef industry. 

According to Decker, students use all available information to select herd bulls and replacement heifers. From there they will design effective crossbreeding strategies based on producer goals and production scenarios. 

Decker also wants students to become well informed about new and emerging technologies in the beef cattle breeding industry and understand where to find information in the future. 

To round out the curriculum, students learn how to disseminate accurate and understandable beef cattle information to consumers via social media. 

“The curriculum is really aimed at real-world beef production,” says Decker. “One of the student suggestions for an assignment included evaluating a family farm and writing about how materials presented in the class could be applied to the operation. 

Beef producer survey

To better understand how beef cattle producers use genetic technology and where they retrieve information about these technologies, Decker and his team surveyed producers in person and electronically. While most of the participants were from Missouri, some online responses represented other states. 

“We wanted to get a better grasp on how everyday producers are using genetic technology to make decisions in the herd, if they are using the technology at all,” says Decker. 

The guiding questions of the study began with determining what sources of information were valuable to cattleman when choosing breeding stock, according to Decker. They went on to ask to what extent producers utilize the information make purchasing decisions. 

“If producers indicated they used genetic information to any extent, they were asked how they prioritize genetic information when making purchasing decisions,” Decker notes. 

“We also wanted to know how producers learn about new breeding technologies and what roadblocks keep producers from using current genetic producers,” says Decker. 

Results

After data was collected, the producers were divided into cow/calf and seedstock groups. 

As a whole, data indicate seedstock producers use genetic technology more often than their cow/calf counterparts. For example, 41.4 percent of seedstock producers use genomic tests in comparison to 15.4 percent. 

“There were also large discrepancies in how these different types of producers learn about new techniques and technologies,” says Decker. “However, both groups used Extension resources and local agriculture teachers the least often in comparison to other resources.”  

Decker notes this information was concerning for Extension educators, ag teachers and veterinarians as they the three were ranked surprisingly low.

“This information was a little troubling,” he says. “As Extension educators, we have to be more aggressive about having an impact.” 

Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lincoln, Neb. – Raluca Mateescu discussed the idea of potentially genetically changing the nutrient profile of beef at the 2014 Beef Improvement Federation Research Symposium and Annual Meeting. The conference took place in Lincoln, Neb. on June 18-21 and was hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

Mateescu is an associate professor of animal science at the University of Florida. 

She explained at the conference, beef has a high concentration of minerals and other bioactive nutrient components, which contribute to improving human health. 

Consumers

“When consumers are buying foods and beverages, taste is the most important factor, followed by price and then healthfulness,” described Mateescu. 

The prevalence of consumers choosing foods based on their healthfulness has increased since 2006 when the International Food Information Council (IFIC) first began conducting surveys about consumers’ preferences. 

The survey Mateescu used for her research was the IFIC food and health survey on consumer attitudes towards nutrition, food safety and health. 

“Healthfulness is catching up with price in terms of its importance on consumers’ decisions about buying food and beverages,” stated Mateescu. “This is important because we have been talking about healthfulness for a number of years, and now, we are coming to the point where healthfulness is an important factor in our buying decisions.” 

Malnourished

While the U.S. is seeing a significant increase in its citizens becoming overweight, many of those people are also not meeting the recommended daily allowance for a number of minerals and vitamins from their food. 

“We also notice that from every year since the 1940s, we have enriched some of our food products for a number of components, including iron,” stated Mateescu. “Still today, there are iron deficiencies in certain population segments, particularly in women and the elderly.” 

Mateescu noted women and the elderly are generally more receptive to recommendations made by food professionals and news stories to change their diet. 

“There are a number of recent studies showing the decrease in intake of red meat is not reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Mateescu. 

She adds, “A clear link is shown between decreasing beef consumption and the increased iron deficiency currently being seen in today’s population. Beef is a great source of a high quality protein, vitamins and minerals, particularly iron.” 

Beef profile

Mateescu referenced the Beef Healthfulness Project on the benefits of beef. Iowa State University, Cornell University, Oklahoma State University and the University of California-Davis conducted the project. 

The project encompassed three Angus herds in Iowa, Oklahoma and California to collect data and look at the cattle’s growth and carcass traits, as well as meat quality.  

When looking at one serving of beef – 3.5 ounces or 100 grams – the mineral composition of it contained eight to 18 percent of iron, 26 percent zinc, 10 percent of potassium and 28 percent phosphorus of an individual’s recommended daily intake value. 

“In our studies, we showed a very strong and positive genetic correlation between iron and zinc in beef,” explained Mateescu. “When we increase the levels of iron in beef, we are also going to increase the levels of zinc in beef.”

“Based on the data we have in terms of heritability for minerals and other nutrients in beef, I think it is possible to change the nutrient profile of beef,” she mentioned. “If we were to change the beef profile, I would stress that we change the iron concentration.”

Increased iron

The importance of changing the iron levels in beef would benefit the iron deficiency seen in humans and improve the tastefulness and shelf life of beef. 

Mateescu noted iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder worldwide. 

“Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and strength in aging adults and is related to an iron and zinc deficiency,” she explained. “The U.S. is seeing a very fast growing amount of people in this age group, and an increased amount of iron in beef would be beneficial for these people.”

Shelf life

Iron is also important for the beef industry when looking at the economic important traits. Iron concentration is related to color stability, more commonly known as shelf life. 

“The more iron there is in beef, the longer shelf life the meat has,” commented Mateescu. “Also, our research showed a strong and positive genetic correlation between iron concentration and beef flavor. An increased iron concentration leads to an increased beef flavor.” 

She added, “We have some opportunities to really take a closer look at beef to see what we have in it and where it goes in terms of a healthy diet for humans.” 

Madeline Robinson is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


SIDEBAR:
Obesity

Lincoln, Neb. – Raluca Mateescu, an associate professor from the University of Florida, gave a talk at the Beef Improvement Federation in Lincoln, Neb. about changing the nutrient profile in beef. 

She referenced that healthfulness is becoming more of an important factor in consumers’ buying decisions because the nation is facing a serious problem with increased obesity rates. 

Starting in 2010, no state in the U.S. had an obesity prevalence lower than 20 to 24 percent, with the average obesity rate being at 34 percent. 

“It’s definitely a problem we have in terms of our health, but can we blame beef for this problem?” asked Mateescu. 

Mateescu noted that in the last 30 years, beef consumption has declined due to the recommendations from health professionals over the past 25 to 30 years to reduce the intake of red meat. This recommendation was based on the perception that red meat was the main contributor to total fat and saturated fat. 

It was believed at the time that saturated fat was related to an increase in cholesterol level. High cholesterol levels were known to be a risk factor for other cardiovascular diseases and scoliosis.

“I think we can make the point that the increased obesity rates being seen in the last 30 years are probably not related to beef consumption,” she comments. “There are also more reports coming out today that show there is really no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease.”

 

When the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association released the latest Beef Quality Audit at their mid-year meeting in July, there was a lot of good news for the cattle industry. Rob Eirich, the beef quality assurance (BQA) coordinator in Nebraska, shared some of those findings from the 2016 audit during the recent open house at the University of Nebraska Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory in Whitman, Neb.

Making progress

“In the early 80s, everyone had a good idea why the BQA program was started,” he explained to producers. “Injection sites were a major issue back then.”

“One of every four carcasses going down the rail had some type of injection site lesion, residue or bruise,” he continued. “With 25 percent of the fed cattle having a lesion, we had a problem.”

Through better cattle management practices, that has all changed. Eirich says 99.5 percent of fed cattle carcasses going down the rail showed no evidence of injection site issues.

“That was a significant improvement for us, just by changing one practice,” he said.

New challenges

Despite that, Eirich said there are a few new hurdles to overcome in the coming years. The biggest could possibly come in a new design for cattle pots.

“We have found some issues with transportation,” Eirich shared.

The audit shows that 96.8 percent of the fed cattle coming off trucks at packing plants had perfect mobility scores and showed no lameness.

“However, 71 percent of those cattle did show minor bruises when they were looked at on the rail,” he adds.

A minor bruise is defined as a bruise that requires the loss of less than one pound of product or carcass weight when it is removed. 

“It had to be identified as a bruise that occurred in the last 30 days,” Eirich explained. “After 30 days, we can’t identify where that bruise occurred.”

Although one pound may not seem like much, it adds up, he emphasized.

“Cattle pots and the way they are built have not changed in 30 years,” Eirich said. “In the meantime, our cattle size and frame size have gotten bigger.”

He explained, “As cattle are going down into the belly of the cattle pot, they are hitting their loins and tail heads in the ruts on the top ramp that is folded up. As they are going down, there is not enough space there.”

“Some of the bruising may also be from cattle loading on the truck and jamming in there and in the alleyway. It might also be caused by simple things like braking during trucking. If they have a brake that is too quick and the cattle all shift, it could cause bruising,” he said.

Optimum sizes

Eirich said the industry is also going to have to address carcass weight and optimum size.

“Carcass weights are increasing in size,” he said. “We see more carcasses that are 950 pounds and above than we have seen in the past. Our yields are continually growing. It is a slight increase over time, but we have to question, how big is too big, and what is the optimum size?”

“As we make more money on the live market, that market is determining that we want to feed heavier cattle,” he continued. “We are seeing more yield grade fours and fives than we have in the past, which is a discount. The industry is focused on the 850- to 900-pound range for carcass weights, but more and more carcasses are weighing over 950 pounds.”

The problem lies within the market itself. In a live-based market, producers want to sell more pounds, which means heavier live-weight cattle, with heavier carcasses and more condition on those carcasses.

“Yield grades keep shifting in that direction,” Eirich explained. “Heavier carcasses may also produce heavier-muscled cattle. The question is, do consumers want a 15-inch ribeye on their plate?”

Consumer preference

“With a larger the ribeye area, to get the portions the food service and retailers want, the bigger the loin eye, the thinner it must be cut,” he said.

“Would we rather have a thin-cut or a thick-cut steak? The thinner the steak, the easier it is to overcook,” he continued. “We have to think about uniform size, how big a carcass is too big and how much muscle is too much muscle.”

The audit shows 71 percent of all fed carcasses are choice or above. The remaining 29 percent are high selects, Eirich said.

He noted, “I think we will continue to get some quality breaks into choice.”

Eating satisfaction was also on the list for future industry concerns.

“It is a legitimate concern,” he said. “If someone doesn’t believe eating satisfaction drives our industry and our demand, they are wrong.”

“The wholesale and retail markets are the ones putting our product on the consumers’ plates. They have to have that eating satisfaction every time,” he said.

Other concerns

Consumers are also becoming more and more interested in where and how the beef they eat is raised.

“Retailers and consumers don’t understand what BQA is,” Eirich stated. “They don’t understand the improvements we have done to make our product safe for them, so we need to continue to educate them when we have an opportunity.”

Transparency is also important. Consumers have more access to information than ever before through social media, Eirich said.

“We have to be where the consumers are and willing to have that conversation with them,” he emphasized

Food safety is critical. 

“As an industry, we must continually work on food safety and not let our guard down,” Eirich told producers. “It will help us determine how we can continue to be sustainable in our industry.”

“We have to make sure everything we do from conception to the dinner plate does not affect the safety of the product going to our consumers,” he commented. “We need to remember that only two percent of our population is actually in production agriculture, while 98 percent of U.S. consumers have not been involved in production agriculture.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..