Understanding price grids and carcase feedback webinar: Your questions answered

Beef Central, 18/04/2017

Helping producers interpret price grids and carcase feedback was the focus of a recent webinar with facilitated by FutureBeef and Beef Central.

Almost 500 people registered for the webinar, which featured detailed presentations from Ben Robinson from AUS-MEAT and Jarrod Lees from Meat Standards Australia (MSA).

More than 60 live questions were received during the webinar. Not all could be addressed within the one-hour time frame, so we have published the questions with answers from Ben and Jarrod below.

If you would like to watch the recording or see the presentation slides, you can view them here… (just scroll down if you don’t see it immediately).

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Questions: Understanding price grids and carcase feedback


1. It is still difficult to get carcase data from feedlots, they won’t supply it without you hounding them for it. There must be an easier way?

It is a mandatory requirement that feedback is made available to the owner of the livestock. Any feedback provided to a third party will be supplied under a commercial arrangement between both parties.

2. As a carcase producer and beef cattle society director I would like more industry relevant information on carcass and MSA grading?

The ‘MSA: Producing Excellence in eating quality’ online training program is a great way to refresh or increase your knowledge about MSA, how carcases are graded and what impacts their eating quality performance as well as how to interpret the carcase feedback. You can do this online and at your own pace at

3. As an independent meat retailer, I’d like to know more about the industry, stay on top of things and be more aware of the market.

The ‘MSA: Excellence in eating quality’ online training program is a great way to refresh or increase your knowledge about how MSA can fit into a independent retail business and add value for your customers. You can do this online and at your own pace at

Additionally, you may be interested in subscribing to the Australian Butchers Guild, a group established just for independent retailers to provide them with latest insights and food trends and promotions for in-store to support red meat sales.

4. People often seem to get confused between grading under MSA criteria, and grading/penalties under the processor’s own criteria – bruising, dentition, fat cover, carcase/side weight etc. I’d like to see some discussion during the webinar in this area.

This was discussed during webinar – information on Bruising, Dentition, Fat depth (AUS-MEAT Language) is provided in the Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

MSA Grading information is provided on the MLA website.

The easiest way to think of MSA criteria is to consider the attributes that impact on eating quality. MSA considers measures, and applies requirements on carcase traits that will impact on a consumer’s eating experience. Bruising is considered during MSA grading and is noted when bruising is impacting on major primals. Fat coverage is an MSA minimum requirement with 3mm required at the rib site and adequate coverage over all primals.

Follow this link for more about the MSA grading system:

5. What are the most common ways in which producers are penalised for not meeting specifications?

There is no common way producers are penalised. Producers are provided with a price grid, which outlines all the requirements they must meet in order to get “top dollar” for their livestock. Carcases are assessed against the following attributes that can form the pricing structure for producers:

  • Hot Standard Carcase Weight
    Category (as determined by sex and dentition)
    P8 fat depth
    Butt Shape
    Bruise Score
    Meat Colour
    Fat Colour
    MSA eating quality score

6. Why do some processors downgrade the whole carcase of cattle, born within a limited time period (e.g. 9 weeks), if a certain number of teeth have broken through (4 into 6 teeth seems to be the most common area of price downgrade)? Is ossification not the best guide of animal age if there can be teeth variances between the limited time period?

Ossification is the best guide in terms of physiological maturity of an animal which is used as an eating quality indicator for the MSA program. With dentition the more accurate indicator of chronological age as date of birth is not generally recorded for individual animals.

Dentition is a market access requirement for a number of overseas markets.

As an example, the two EU Quotas still require Dentition assessment to meet the 30 months of age criteria.

Below summary table of these along with other markets dentition requirements:


Country Regulation Discussion References
Canada Livestock and Poultry Carcass Grading Regulations section 13(4) Canada recognises the AUS-MEAT Categories as being a ‘Grade Equivalent’ to meet the CFIA Beef Grading regulations CFIA – Annex E-1
Chile Beef Grading MOU

(Side letter to FTA)

Under the MOU SAG recognises the AUS-MEAT language as an equivalent Beef Grading Scheme Beef Grading MOU – SAG and AQIS
EU HQB EC 593 / 2013

(Hilton Quota)

AUS-MEAT Category required to comply with 30 months age.

Categories are detailed in the regulation (Y, YG, YP)

EC Regulation Article 2 (b)

AUS-MEAT Advice 02/15

EU GF-HQB EC 481 / 2012

(GF-HQB Quota)

AUS-MEAT Category required to comply with 30 months age.

Categories are detailed in AUS-MEAT Advice 1/10 (Y, YG, )

EC Regulation Annex II

AUS-MEAT Advice 01/10

Japan Japan LT30 requirements 30 Months age restrictions for T Bone steaks

(Y and YG Cattle only)

MAA1429 and MICOR
Iran Unknown AUS-MEAT Category required to comply with 30 months age.

Categories are detailed in a commercial contract ( YG, YP)

Private contract obtained.
Australia NSW Food Amendment Beef Grading Bill AUS-MEAT categories use to determine beef retail classification. NSWFA – Beef Labelling


7. Why is there no easily accessible mean carcase performance averages to better enable producers to compare/benchmark their own MSA index?

MSA released the National eating quality benchmark report in 2016. You can download that here:

You can also watch the presentation on this at:

This was the first step in working towards releasing more meaningful benchmarking tools for producers. During April 2017, a benchmarking system within myMSA will be made available to all MSA producers where benchmarking can occur for MSA Index, carcase compliance and individual traits by national, state and regional benchmarks.

8. I read somewhere that meat colour is no longer part of the MSA grading system. Is this the case and are processors following suit or are they still using meat colour as part of their individual grading systems?

Meat Colour has been removed as an MSA minimum requirement as recent research has confirmed that meat colour does not impact on eating quality. Meat colour will still be assessed on all MSA graded carcases and some companies may choose to retain meat colour as a specification to meet their customer requirements.

MSA News Item

AUS-MEAT Advice 01/17

9. How can we get carcass data from feedlots without having to hound them for it?

Refer Question 1.

10. Why do different processor grids vary in carcase weight tolerances, fat cover tolerances, etc? They supply the same market?

Processor grids are developed in order to meet their customer’s specifications for cut weight, size and fat cover.

11. What information determines and goes into making up grid prices?

Carcase measurements and assessments are used. There is mandatory information required for Over The Hooks trading. In addition processors grading carcases using the Chiller Assessment Language and MSA grading will provide additional information. Depending on the carcase compliance / Non-compliance criteria will determine grid price payment.

What is extremely important is to have an understanding of the Livestock grid that has been provided by the processor and understand that whilst compliance may provide bonuses, penalties will generally always exist for non-compliance.

Further information is provided in Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

12. How can I best use my MSA grading data to improve my results?

There are two main areas when considering MSA performance; (i) Compliance to MSA minimum requirements (rib fat, fat coverage and ultimate pH), and (ii) eating quality as measured by the MSA Index.

To understand how to improve compliance, see the ‘Solutions to Feedback’ help resources: See the following for rib fat and fat coverage compliance;

See the following for compliance to ultimate pH;

To understand what carcase attributes you can influence to improve eating quality performance, we suggest using the MSA Index calculator at:

The MSA index tip and Tool also provides a table that quantifies the impact of various traits on EQ.

13. What carcass traits provide increased revenue for the producer?

All carcase traits have an influence depending on market and customer specifications. Compliance to company specifications which may include MSA performance is likely to offer the greatest opportunity for increased revenue. During 2015/16, young non-feedlot cattle that met MSA and company specifications, received on average an additional $0.24/kg (over the hooks) resulting in approximately an additional $66/head.

14. Does ‘organic’ status have any effect on the price grid?

Yes – some companies may pay a premium for Certified Organic Beef.

This can be discussed with processors when considering livestock transactions.

15. Will there be some standardisation to carcase feedback sheets?

Processors have developed their Feedback sheets to provide measurements and assessments taken and used within grid payments. All processors will have their own feedback sheet design and layout however there are mandatory AUSMEAT and MSA (where applicable) measurements that must be reported back to producers.

myMSA uses a standardised format for MSA grading feedback information which is available to all producers who supply MSA cattle to the 42 MSA licensed processors.

Industry Adoption of MLA Livestock data link may provide a possible solution.

16. How can I better understand cattle carcass results from missed gradings?

Directly relates to webinar content.

Within myMSA, details about carcases that fail to meet MSA minimum requirements can be viewed in the MSA non-compliance report. Within this report, there are links to understanding what causes the non-compliance and also offers solutions to overcome the reason for non-compliance.

See below links

Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

Refer MSA On Line information

17. How are abattoir price grids and associated buyers best accessed?

Most processors have their own website and provide relevant contact details of their livestock buyers.

AUS-MEAT also publishes a list of Accredited Establishments.

All MSA processors can be viewed at:

18. Is it be possible to receive an average MSA index figure at the end of the carcase MSA feedback report?

An average MSA index for a consignment of MSA cattle can be found in the MSA graphs report, beside the MSA Index graph.

At the end of each sub-section of the MSA carcase feedback report, an average is given for each attribute.

19. Is there one single area in MSA grading that impacts most on a producer’s/processor’s bottom line (eg meat colour, fat colour)?

The MSA Index Tip and Tool quantifies the impact of various carcases traits on the MSA index performance. The MSA Index may form part of a company specification and so may impact on prices received.

Non-compliance to MSA requirements is primarily related to high pH and fat coverage. In 2015/16 7.3% of MSA graded cattle did not meet the MSA minimum requirements. Based on OTH young cattle prices, cattle that could meet MSA requirements received an additional $0.24/kg than non-MSA compliant cattle.


21. What factors contribute to discounts, downgrades, and which contribute to bonuses?

Refer to Question 5

There are a number of carcase measurements / assessments that contribute to both bonuses and discounts. What is extremely important is to have an understanding of the Livestock grid that has been provided by the processor and understand that whilst compliance may provide bonuses, penalties will generally always exist for non-compliance.

22. Can you provide an explanation of bruising codes, carcase trim and carcase grading?

Handbook of Australian Beef Processing fully explains the various components of the AUS-MEAT Language;

Standard Carcase Trim – pg 14 and 15

Bruise Scoring system is explained on pg 24 and 25

Beef Carcase Evaluation (Chiller Assessment) pg 28-31

Further information: AUS-MEAT Beef Language brochure

23. How are wagyu carcasses graded differently from the rest?

Wagyu carcases are not graded any differently than others breeds. Higher Marbling scores may be assessed but all other measurements / assessments taken are the same.

Refer Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

Beef Carcase Evaluation – Chiller Assessment Language

24. Why are show steer grids so different to everyday grids?

This would be a question directly for processors involved in processing cattle show carcase competitions.

MSA has a pathway for led-cattle carcase competitions. This information can be found in the MSA Standard for livestock supply This offers an opportunity for processors to purchase MSA eligible cattle from led cattle carcase competitions and grade and pack them as MSA beef. There is a 5 point eating quality deduction applied to these cattle which may impact on the suitability for a company MSA brands.

25. When do abattoirs or whole salers require a MSA Vendor Declaration? Do they have to put those cattle through the MSA process?

An MSA vendor declaration in conjunction with an LPA National Vendor Declaration is required when cattle are being supplied to an MSA market/processor. Without an MSA vendor declaration cattle are not eligible for MSA grading. While cattle may be supplied with an MSA vendor declaration, the processor is not obligated to grade those cattle.

26. What are the different types of markets (e.g. Weaner, Cow, Bullocks), and what are the specifications for each market?

Australia supplies over 100 different markets. It is mandatory that all beef products traded from this country be described using either a basic or alternative category.

Refer: Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

27. Will technology like DEXA be implemented to make it a fairer grading for all producers?

Objective Carcase Measurement has featured in many recent news articles. Further information is provided:

MLA News

ACCC Cattle and Beef market study

AMPC Independent Study into Dexa Technology

28. Can grassfed be differentiated?

Due to increased market demand, Cattle Council of Australia has developed the voluntary Pasture-fed Cattle Assurance System (PCAS). This program allows producers to capture value where Pasture-fed claims are made by processors. There are other grass-fed verification programs present in the Australia market place which may include differing criteria.

The MSA program does not use feed type as a direct input to the MSA model. Feed type by itself does not have an impact on eating quality. It can however influence carcase traits that do impact on eating quality. The MSA performance differences between feed types can be seen in the MSA Eating Quality Audit

29. Is there an explanation of abbreviations used in a carcase feedback sheet available either/or online or hard copy?

Most abbreviations are detailed in the Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

MSA carcase feedback reports explained:

30. Is there any advice in respect to trends to be aware of as a producer in the future that may influence the price grid or grading system?

Due to the ever-changing nature of our customers, Price grids will need to be dynamic in capturing the future needs of our customers. This is generally best discussed with your customer (Processor).

31. Have you got any comments about whether different feed affects the meat production/quality on different breeds?

The MSA program does not use feed type as a direct input to the MSA model. Feed type (defined as grass or grain) by itself does not have an impact on eating quality. It can however influence carcase traits that do impact on eating quality. The MSA performance differences between feed types can be seen in the MSA Eating Quality Audit.

32. How is the value of offal & hides built into grids for producers advantage?

Processors have different payment systems that include offal and by product revenue. This may vary between processors so to understand this better it is best discussed with each Processor when considering livestock transactions.

33. How can I get carcass feedback data sent seamlessly into a farm livestock management software system?

Refer MyMSA and MLA Livestock Data Link

Currently there is no function that will allow for data to be automatically downloaded into on-farm management software. Your MSA grading data however is able to be downloaded as a CSV file which should be compatible with on-farm management software. Consultation with your software supplier is the best way to determine how this information can be imported.

34. Is it possible to find a way to measure boning room yields or receive this information?

There are many variables in Meat yield. A useful Meat Technology Update brochure provides some yield explanations.

Understanding Meat Yield

Alternatively talk to your customer (processor)

35. How to get better access to better grid prices?

Refer Question 17.

36. Where is the grid/feedback system going to be in two year’s time?

Looking into the crystal ball – Objective Carcase Measurement (OCM) and further development of MSA and other systems such as Livestock Data Link and MyMSA are likely to have some effect on Livestock grids/feedback systems.

However OCM may still be some time away from commercial realisation.

37. What future changes/improvements to grading technologies are coming and when?

Refer Question 27.

This presentation delivered at the MSA Producer Awards event in 2016 outlined research and investment in grading and on-farm technologies to improve efficiencies and help producers improve compliance to MSA and company specifications.

38. How can I look at carcass feedback in relation to buying in genetics and what to target?

This fact sheet provides some information about how carcase performance can be linked to genetic information –

39. What percentage of the pH is managed in plant with slaughter practice vs pre slaughter management?


The final pH of the meat is directly related to the glycogen reserves of the live animal and not the processes that occur on the slaughter floor. The glycogen reserves are influenced by the nutrition the animal has received as well as pre-slaughter stress. Some pre-slaughter stress is unavoidable through mustering, transport loading, transport process, unloading at the abattoir and a new environment in the abattoir lairage. By ensuring the glycogen reserves of the animal are optimised when leaving the property, the animal has the best chance to handle these stressors and still produce an acceptable meat pH. Review the pH management checklist to ensure you are giving your cattle the best opportunity to produce a good meat pH

MSA licensed processors have a responsibility to have livestock operatives trained in MSA eating quality training as well as monitor the rate pf pH and temperature decline in the carcases once they have been slaughtered. Management of pH decline within the abattoir is important to ensure meat toughening does not occur through heat or cold shortening. See the tip and tool on this for further information

40. Why are both sides of the carcase individually assessed as opposed to as a whole carcase?

Discussed during Webinar.

Only some assessments are completed for both sides e.g. Bruise Score, fat distribution.

41. Where is the discussion around the possibility of creating a “grain assisted” definition at right now?

The AMILSC is close to finalising a program that recognises the feeding practices of Grain Assisting. A couple of new programs are currently being developed which will allow a Grain Assisted Marketing Claim to be used and ALFA are also currently developing an additional Grain Fed standard after a recommendation from an NFAS review. NFAS Technical specifications are being developed for this 3rd standard.

42. How can a Producer get the Slaughter info even if their cattle have gone to another producer or Feedlotter so they can improve the beef line as its only available to the end supplier to the Abattoir?

Refer Question 1.

This is generally a commercial arrangement between the livestock seller and Feedlot.

43. Given that some cuts (eg. striploin) have been widely assessed at a consumer sensory level, and some cuts have not been widely tested in consumer sensory, does this affect the MSA index?


The MSA Model predicts 169 eating quality scores (cut x cook combinations) for every carcase.

The MSA Index is calculated from the weighted eating quality scores for 39 primals by their most common cooking method. This methodology was heavily reviewed and tested and shown to provide a useful indication of the potential eating quality of a carcase.

While the MSA Model will continue to be enhanced through further research on cuts and cooking methods, this is unlikely to have a large effect on the MSA Index.

44. Where is the EMA measured?

Eye Muscle Area (EMA) is the area of the surface of the M.longissimus dorsi at the ribbing site and is calculated in square centimetres. EMA may be measured at the 10th, 11th, 12th or 13th rib.

Further information:

Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

Beef Carcase Evaluation – Chiller Assessment Language

45. How do you become an MSA Registered producer?

Follow this link to become MSA registered:

46. Looking at our feedback sheet and wondering what does BG stands for (in the section with all carcass feedback)?

Prior to 2014, MSA feedback showed a BG value, which stands for boning group. Boning groups were a way of grouping carcase of similar eating quality together for the ease of production through boning rooms. The boning group system has since been replaced with an MSA optimisation program, which has allowed processors to customise the grouping of carcases to suit the cuts and eating quality specifications they are harvesting to suit their customer requirements. This group system uses a term called PBR’s, or Plant Boning Runs. These PBRs are plant specific and as such are not able to be compared between processors. For this reason, PBRs are not provided on producer feedback reports.

Coincidentally, at the same time that MSA initiated the optimisation program, it also released the MSA index as a producer feedback value to represent potential eating quality of a carcase.

Some processors may still refer to their own proprietary boning groups and this may relate to the grouping system used within the abattoir for the purpose of cut harvesting.

47. Is there a measurement for taste?

There is no objective measurement tool used for taste during carcase grading. During MSA consumer sensory testing consumers are asked to rate their samples of beef for juiciness, flavour, tenderness and overall liking. It is this process that measures the impact of carcase attributes on taste, which may be a combination of juiciness and flavour. Refer

48. The Fat measure is always on the rump? Is that the p8 site?

Discussed during the webinar.

P8 (Position 8) – the definition and location is detailed in:

Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

AUS-MEAT Beef Language brochure

49. What are the main causes of high pH?

Insufficient glycogen (muscle energy) is the main cause of high pH. The cause of this may be due to insufficient or low quality feed, prior to slaughter and/or pre-slaughter stress.

50. Why is it, if you have had cattle MSA graded and they have been given an Index #, and this is on the feedback provided but it has not been uploaded onto the MyMSA feedback for you to be able to see further feedback?

Once cattle are MSA graded, the data is uploaded to myMSA by the grader. MSA then calculates the MSA index. If you have received an MSA index for your cattle, the information will be available in myMSA. If there is a discrepancy, please contact MSA at

51. Where do you think the MSA system is going in the future, in terms of eating quality? As in, are we still targeting tenderness or should we be moving more towards flavour?

The MSA program has a clear plan in place to 2020 and a set of R & D priorities that will guide investment in eating quality research.   You can learn more about this plan at:

and the research that MSA is conducting at:

Since MSA was implemented, there has been a small shift in the consumer responses during MSA sensory testing to the emphasis they place on tenderness, juiciness, flavour and overall liking. While tenderness has the greatest weighting on the eating quality score, this has slightly adjusted over time so flavour has become equally important. This change in consumer response is captured in the way eating quality scores are calculated in the MSA model to ensure MSA continues to meet consumer expectations.

52. Will HGP treated cattle receive price deductions compared to HGP free cattle?

All cattle regardless of HGP treatment are eligible for MSA. However research has shown the impact HGP’s have on eating quality and so the MSA eating quality scores are adjusted accordingly. This may influence compliance to a processor eating quality specification. In addition some brands may have requirements associated with HGP treatments in line with their customer requirements. Both the MSA and company specifications should be noted on the processor price grid to ensure both parties’ expectations are well understood.

You an read more here about the impact of HGP’s on EQ:

53. How is ossification measured? Can you please elaborate on your experiences from the abattoir?

Ossification (Maturity scoring) provides a scale for the assessment of physiological age of a bovine animal. As an animal matures, cartilage present around bones gradually fills with blood and develops into bone. Although this development occurs in association with the animal’s chronological age, it is affected by nutrition and development. Ossification is measured visually in the chiller by the MSA accredited grader. The three areas of the backbone examined to determine ossification are the sacral (tail), lumbar (loin region) and thoracic (ribs) vertebrae. Ossification begins in the sacral region and continues through the lumbar and then thoracic regions.

It is scored on a scale of 100 – 590 where 100 is the youngest and is scored by looking at the extent of bone development in the cartilage. A set of standards are carried by the MSA grader to assess this against.

See tip and tool:

Further information:

Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

Beef Carcase Evaluation – Chiller Assessment Language

54. Can the MSA index differentiate between grass fed and grain fed?

The MSA model does not use feed type per se as an input in the MSA model. As a measure by itself it does not affect the consumer eating quality score. However it is acknowledged that feed type can influence carcase traits such as marbling, weight, ossification that do impact on the eating quality and the MSA Index.

The MSA Eating Quality Audit and the soon-to-be released benchmarking system in myMSA will allow grain and grass producers to compare themselves with other similar production types to compare performance.

Differences in the MSA index between grain and grassfed cattle can be viewed in the EQ Audit at:

55. Can I order the Handbooks and at what price?

The producer booklets can be downloaded / printed free of charge.

Handbook of Australian Beef Processing

Other AUS-MEAT Language brochures are also available on line.

56. We send a lot of cattle through carcase competitions and these don’t show up on our MyMSA grading. These are out best animals and we’d love to have that longitudinal tracking of info. Any chance the system might change any time soon so we can access the quality grading info online for our animals?

If animals have not been consigned to an MSA pathway, there is no allowance in the MSA model for this information to be collected. As such, we are unable to report any information online for cattle that have not followed an MSA pathway.

If the cattle have been consigned using the MSA pathway for led-cattle carcase competitions they will be consigned as one lot from the MSA vendor declaration of the showground and assigned to the showground PIC and MSA producer number.

SA has noted the interest in cattle owners receiving their feedback directly through myMSA and will be looking at options to address this.

57. Have we prioritized tenderness over flavour?

MSA response:

See Q53

58. If ossification is now the standard why are producers paid by dentition?

Ossification (Maturity) assessment is only a requirement of the MSA Grading program.

This was discussed during webinar.

Refer question 6.

59. Are abattoirs somehow benchmarked to demonstrate consistency of MSA assessment across industry?

MSA invests in resources to work with all accredited MSA graders around the country to ensure consistency in the application of the MSA grading standards.

All MSA accredited graders must also complete an online assessment every eight weeks to maintain their currency to grade.

MSA has dedicated Business Development Officers that work with each of the 42 MSA licensed beef processors to assist with business development, adoption and growth opportunities as well as ensuring integrity of the MSA program is maintained.

It is these processes MSA puts in place to ensure the supply chain is getting the most value form the MSA program and is ensuring the integrity of the program is not jeopardised.

You can read about the Standards that MSA processors must comply to at:

60. Is the old boning group grid/module still available to look at?

MSA response:

The old boning group model is now obsolete.

61. How do they measure pH levels?

pH is measured using a pH and temperature meter and must be below 5.71. The pH is measured on a cold carcase at the time of grading in the rib eye muscle where all other meat attributes measurements are collected.

Additionally processors also monitor on a monthly basis the fall in pH and temperature over time across the slaughter floor and during chilling on hot carcases to ensure the processing is optimal for eating quality.

Further information on pH Temperature decline is provided:


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