Meeting processor, MSA specs adds $91/head, SA forums will be told

Beef Central, 25/09/2015

Producers can beef-up their business by better matching cattle to customer specifications, rather than taking a ‘shot gun’ approach, an upcoming series of Pastoral Profit workshops in South Australia will be told.

Meat Standards Australia producer engagement officer Jarrod Lees who will take South Australian producers through strategies to get the most out of their carcase feedback sheets when he speaks at two Pastoral Profit events at Craddock and Blinman on 28 and 29 September.

msa-grading-carcaseNationally, 87 percent of yearling cattle which were compliant with both MSA and processor company specifications in 2014-15, received an extra $91/head on average compared to stock which fell outside specifications.

Mr Lees said building a relationship with livestock buyers – whether through stock agents or direct with the processor – can assist producers manage their marketing and be aware of any specifications. Meeting company/processor and MSA specifications are both important to be eligible for any premiums on offer, and although they can differ, the management of them can be complementary.

Processor specifications can vary based on market requirements and producers should be aware of this. However, specifications such as P8 fat depth, hot standard carcase weight and dentition can be assessed or, at least, estimated on-property so producers have a better idea what part of a processor payment grid their cattle should fit.

For example, glycogen management – which underpins meat colour and meat pH in MSA compliance – can be managed by ensuring cattle are gaining weight right up until slaughter. Adequate nutrition also impacts the rib fat and P8 scores of MSA and processor specifications.

Regardless of any other carcase attributes, when an animal fails on MSA specifications, such as meat colour, it cannot be sold as MSA certified and markets are limited.

High pH and/or meat colour are the main reasons for non-conformance in all states with almost 6pc of MSA graded cattle in 2014-15 failing to meet these requirements. Mr Lees will be talking through approaches to managing mat colour/pH performance.

“Glycogen management strategies include ensuring cattle are in a paddock with sufficient feed to keep ‘fuel in the tank’ two weeks prior to slaughter, and in that same time period, avoiding moving, mixing or drafting stock prior to trucking,” he said.

“This is especially important in grassfed systems, such as the pastoral zones of South Australia, to ensure cattle have sufficient quality feed in the lead up to slaughter whilst minimising any pre-slaughter stress.”

MSA minimum requirements include:

  • Meat colour must be between 1B – 3
  • pH must be below 5.71
  • Rib fat must be a minimum 3mm
  • Adequate fat coverage over the whole carcase.

There are now 43 MSA licensed beef processing plants across Australia. In the last financial year, 35pc of cattle slaughtered nationally (3.22 million head) were graded for MSA. Some of the biggest rises were seen in South Australia, which increased its number of animals graded by 22pc on 2013-14, representing almost 10pc of all national MSA graded cattle.

Other presentations at the upcoming ‘Beefing Up Your Business’ events at SA’s Craddock and Blinman include export market opportunities, EU accreditation, NLIS, livestock disease surveillance, capital allocation and business planning.


Click here for workshop details.


Source: MLA


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  1. Gil Schmidt, 03/10/2015

    Jarrod Lees is obviously not a producer nor has he ever supplied cattle to a registered processor otherwise he would know EU accepts meat colour 0-4 unlike MSA 0-3. The way processors set their standards is a farce. Teys pays maximum premium up to boning group 8 and pays on boning groups unlike other processors who have index based payments. Until we have consistency in all specifications at processing works producers lose out. Mr Lees also mentioned fat cover 3-22 while Teys are 6-22.
    How can we have a credible MSA pathway while ever these inconistancies exist. Producers are not fools nor do we swallow this claptrap.

  2. Paul D. Butler, 25/09/2015

    Thanks for the great explanation of MSA Colour Specifications.

  3. Dyan Hughes, 25/09/2015

    I’m with Richard Sellars on this. Meat colour is a perception. I don’t like a dark cutter visually, because I have been indoctrinated to that line of thinking by virtue of the $ deducted because of it. Everything else being right, dark cutters can still yield an excellent eating experience. I have one of these critters in our freezer right now – and a blind man would thoroughly enjoy because he would not see the colour of the meat and it does not impinge on eating enjoyment. We have been trained to think dark is not good. We have had many carcases graded in the right PH range, with meat colour not acceptable ever since the dry set in in 2012. This ‘anomaly’ is baffling the meat scientists, and has been cause for dialogue between our guys and their USA counterparts. We have also had many knocked out on dentition when science through ossification indicates a younger animal. It gets very discouraging to read the MSA report: meets MSA specification; fails company specs. I heartily congratulate Bindaree Beef for siding with the producer and accepting the science behind MSA when they do not downgrade on dentition but trust ossification. (Assume my informant is correct about this…) Unfortunately freight to Bindaree is likely to negate the benefit of this to me as a northern producer.

    Let’s ask Bindaree the question, Dyan, and find out more. Editor

  4. Richard Sellers, 25/09/2015

    MSA requirements are that meat colour requirements are 1b – 3 to guarantee tenderness. I wish MLA could show this scientific data as the fact is that this data does not exist as was a selection pulled out of the air.
    C’mon MLA, you know this to be true -stop hiding behind the skirts of processors and retailers and start reporting the real truth, not what the processors and retailers want us to believe so it lines their pockets.

    Thanks for your comment Richard. Just as a point of clarification – there has never been a claim made by MSA or MLA about meat colour to “guarantee tenderness”. Meat colour beyond MC 3 is visually very dark, and is considered beyond the acceptable range for the quality end of the domestic market. Have a look at a grader’s colour chip, and you’ll see what I mean. Indeed, some brand managers, like Nolans at Gympie, apply even stricter meat colour threshholds than MSA. Nolan’s has a 1B to 2 standard for its Private Selection brand. The reason? They can get more for the product in the marketplace. Dark meat colour, of course, is also often (though not always) associated with high pH, which compromises shelf-life, and produces greater moisture loss (purge) in the cryovac bag. Editor

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