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Beef Grading White Paper Draft

Over the years writing things like TicTacs I get a lot of correspondence some favourable and others not so favourable. I have always believed that you can write what you like as long as you are right, and I have always been concerned that I will get it wrong.

A recent article on the beef language White Paper drew a sharp response from an industry player whom I’ve come to like and respect.

To me the letter highlights the problems we have in the beef industry with apathy and people being ignorant of the facts.  The letter went on to say “PR is a dentition-based cipher, and as you know dentition has no correlation with either eating quality or actual age”.  However, this is not my understanding. The author of the letter went on to talk about an 8 tooth steer with an ossification of 130 and being in boning group 2. Perhaps dentition is not that reliable??

He says that my statements in regard to PR as not being prime beef are concerning.  PR is a cipher developed by AusMeat and commonly used around Australia.  The letter says “PR has no correlation with either eating quality or actual age”. I agree that dentition is not a precise gauge of age however it is a good indicator and there is obviously a vast difference in between an animal with milk teeth and a beast with eight permanent teeth.

In Australia PR or prime beef in my opinion is not prime as under our present grading system PR can have seven teeth and be up to 42 months of age. Even worse a butcher can buy PR product at a discount and then sell it as a prime beef. AusMeat beef categories allow for this, it is quite legal. The letter writer also mentions USDA where ossification is used; however they use dentition as well.

Furthermore, if I was given the choice of eating steak from a full mouth beast or a beast with milk teeth I would take my chances on the milk teeth animal. Saying this I am quite convinced that some older cattle with good ossification scores could also eat very well. As I have already said I think the chances of getting good quality steak weighs heavily with young animals.

It should be remembered that ossification scoring is all about development in the vertebrae. As cattle mature the cartilage present around the bones of the spinal canal gradually change into bone. The rate at which this occurs is reasonably predictable but is affected by many factors such as sex, nutrition, prolonged stress, etc.

The simple fact is that young animals are more tender because the protein breaking down enzyme system decreases as an animal gets older. The simple fact is I disagree with the theory that there is no correlation with either eating quality or actual age of animal.

If one tried to eat a chop of a full mouth sheep one could struggle; a lamb chop is always a lamb chop.

I still feel that dentition is a guide to the age of any animal. However I agree that it has cost producers huge amounts of money over the years for discounted cattle and the meat of these cattle is sold as prime product.

USDA ensures that any carcasses coming from cattle 30 months and over are segregated and then boned, packaged and sold separately. US prime beef is the top class unlike Australia where it is well down the list.

In Australia we have company graders in the US they have government graders measuring ossification and to me ossification is a very subjective judgement and you can’t get a ruler and measure ossification.

After again reading the draft White Paper it doesn’t do a lot for producers who suffer so badly under the present structure, and I am at a loss to understand why our so called peak body seems so happy with the draft that does not seem to help the people they claim to represent.

USDA grading system YouTube video: https://youtu.be/tEHwm1gIj-w

Well worth watching!


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