Cattle Council to explore new carcase language

James Nason, 04/09/2013

The Cattle Council of Australia has announced it will explore the potential to create a new carcase assessment language from the ground up, in response to growing calls for a re-examination of existing carcase quality and yield indicators.

As highlighted on Beef Central in recent weeks, industry stakeholders have been calling for a whole-of-language review, not confined to specific problem areas like butt shape, but covering the entire spectrum of carcase yield and quality indicators used across kill-floor, chiller assessment and MSA grading. (See earlier story here)

A key aspect of concern is the potential that exists under current language for indicators which are seen to be outdated and/or lacking in scientific justification, such as butt profile or dentition, to significantly discount producer returns.

Cattle Council of Australia chief executive officer Jed Matz said recent advances in knowledge of how biological systems influence eating quality were challenging a lot of what was contained in the existing Ausmeat language.

“We’ve had concerns around Ausmeat language not necessarily reflecting what we’re learning through the MSA program,” Mr Matz said, following last week's CCA board meetings in Melbourne.

“We’re really starting to learn a lot more about the really complex biological systems that create eating quality in a carcase.

“A lot of what we’re learning about the carcase and how it performs is challenging what we’ve used in meat language in the past.

“We’re looking at whether we can develop a new language that could be an alternate language to the current language.”

He said Cattle Council was eager to investigate whether there is now enough known about carcase performance to develop an eating-quality based language, and in turn a value-based carcase description and sale process in future.

“We will ask Meat & Livestock Australia to develop a white paper which talks about the different requirements on Australian beef and why we use different types of language and what they achieve," he said.

“For example, why do we use dentition, is it just because markets require an age verification and we don’t have a better tool?

“We will be working through the different parts of the language and trying to establish whether alternate language can be provided for the industry.”

Mr Matz said Cattle Council’s view was that the existing Ausmeat language was not necessarily as flexible as it could be given what is now known about the carcase.

“It is around 25 years old, so it might be time to have a think about whether there is another way that we can do things in light of everything we have learned in the last 25 years."

Rather than focusing on specific problem areas of existing language, Cattle Council believed it could be more effective in representing producer interests by looking to develop a new language which could also demonstrate a benefit to processors as well as producers.

“We think we would be more successful if we can show science-based approaches are better for the future, and if we can use what we now know about the carcase in terms of all the investment we made with producer levy dollars in MSA, then we can maybe achieve a longer term outcome.”



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