AUSTMEAT came into focus at the annual Royal Brisbane Show where 489 cattle competed in a lot fed carcass competition.
Of the 489 entries, 36 were penalised because they were assessed with a D shape backside. All 489 entries had been grain fed for 100 days in an RNA selected feed lot.
Initially discounts of .43c/kg for a D butt were imposed by the processor buying the cattle after the competition. A 300kg carcass would mean a discount of $129 per beast. This means that 36 carcasses at $129 totalled a discount of $4664.
The mind boggles when you think of how many carcasses this processor, JBS SWIFT, could discount over a period of time. Remember, the grader is an employee of the processor and is licensed by AUSMEAT.
In the latest press, JBS stated they discounted .15c/kg; however producers I have spoken to talk of a .45c/kg discount which was the first offer at the Brisbane Show.
Butt shape is not a thing that you can measure by ruler or a measuring tape, and is subjective.
The most stunning thing was that the champion pen of six cattle, the best out of 489 entries, was discounted because of their butt shape!
A former director of CRC meat science, Prof John Thompson, said butt shape as little or nothing to contribute as an indicator of carcass yield. AUSMEAT has never had evidence to support the adoption of ‘butt shape’ in the first place, Prof Thompson said.
One producer said he sold many hundreds of cattle to one processor, but when he switched he was discounted .45c/kg for 30% of his draft, due to butt shape.
Some processors have little regard for butt shape, while others are very keen on this form of discounting, which is perfectly legal under AUSTMEAT rules.
One of the nonsensical rules of AUSMEAT, which greatly affects producers, is the carcass that has to come within the weight specs. When the ccarcass is split down the middle and one side weighs more than the other, then for whatever reason, discounts are applied on one side!
Some interesting questions: Does a D shape affect the yield of carcass? Answer: No
Is that discounted carcass of less value to the processor? Answer No.
Could a skilled fully trained grader tell whether a rump, silverside, topside or a round came off a carcass with an A profile or one with a D profile? Answer No.
It is confusing to read AUSTMEAT’s language. They describe the cuts of an old cow as an ‘A’, yet they also call what they regard as a top butt profile on prime cattle as an ‘A’ also!
While this has been carried out for years, where have MLA and Cattle Council
been? The silence is deafening. MLA annually contributes at least $500,000 of producers’ levies to the upkeep of AUSMEAT. Surely somebody has a duty of care.
Perhaps we should get a couple of ‘D butt shape’ and ‘A butt shape’ bodies, and after boning invite the grader back to identify which primals came off which carcasses.
If such a trial, conducted under scientific rigour, were to prove that different profiles give very different meat yields, then processors (or producers) may have a case, and we would all be enlightened. It would prove whether penalties are justified, or just a discounting tool.
Terry Nolan, widely regarded for his expertise in meat science, quoted in a meat industry article, talks about butt shape, saying it should not be looked at in isolation and even though it is a crude measure, it does have a legitimate place in beef language. He goes on to say that banning ‘butt shape’ from AUSMEAT would be like removing a word from the English dictionary.
To me this speaks volumes about his understanding, or lack thereof, of meat science. Furthermore, this is a man who stated a carcass would only give a 56% meat yield after a larder trim. ABA trials, and other trials, show how ridiculous this statement was. Those trials have proven that the average meat yield is more likely to be 70%.
On the Brisbane competition issue, one agent suggested that for the processor to pull such a stunt at the biggest public showcase in Queensland is simply ridiculous. To me, this is just a sign of arrogance and it seems the company has been discounting D shape butts for a long time.
ABA feels it is rather fortunate for producers that the whole thing has been bought into the spotlight during the biggest carcass competition in the country.
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