ACHIEVING the optimum scores from each animal under the Meat Standards Australia grading system requires a whole-of-life approach, according to Rangers Valley managing director Don Mackay.
And he should know – the strategy has earned the northern New South Wales lotfeeder the title of 2016 MSA Producer of the Year for the state. (Click here to access separate story on the awards).
“It starts right back with the genetics, then how the animals are weaned and backgrounded, and the low stress environment throughout the whole process,” Mr Mackay said.
“Then it’s all about how they are managed in the feedyard, how they are transported, and if you miss any of those components then you put at risk your capacity to achieve the best results under MSA, and therefore a really high quality product.”
With 33,500 head of Angus and Wagyu cross cattle on feed, Rangers Valley processes and markets beef around the world, selling more than $130 million worth of meat annually to around 20 countries. They also produce around 12,000 animals per year for the ‘Coles Finest’ program.
The Angus cattle are mostly sourced in NSW and Victoria but can come from as far afield as King Island and South Australia. Around 2000 Wagyu animals are bred on the 4000ha station, 30km north of Glen Innes.
Click the link below to view a short video of Don Mack explaining Rangers Valley’s approach to MSA:
LSS plays key role
Low stress handling is a critical part of the process for all cattle that come through Rangers Valley.
“All cattle that are brought in spend three weeks backgrounding on the property and that’s very important in terms of their health and their stress levels entering a grainfed environment,” Mr Mackay said.
“We have very specific training programs for all our staff so they understand the importance of low stress handling. We make sure when the cattle go into the grain feeding environment they are properly assimilated so they are very comfortable.”
MSA is a Meat & Livestock Australia supported program where the eating quality of every beef cut is determined using a grading system that measures key attributes such as carcase weight, ossification, marbling, rib fat, tropical breed content, meat pH and temperature, hanging method, hormonal growth promotants and meat colour.
Each carcase receives an MSA Index value that represents its potential eating quality based on the measurements collected.
To be eligible for the MLA MSA awards, a producer’s annual MSA-graded volume had to be in the top 50pc for the State they were produced during the 2014-15 financial year.
Each producer that met the eligibility criteria received a score out of 100 weighted on two factors: the compliance to MSA minimum requirements, and eating quality performance as determined by the MSA Index for cattle consigned to MSA in 2014-15.
The MSA data revealed little variation in the scores for the Rangers Valley cattle, reflecting the consistency of the product being turned off.
From a consumer perspective, the beef presents a great and reliable eating experience due to its tenderness and flavour and for Mr Mackay, the satisfaction of the consumer is really what it’s all about.
“To be named as the best MSA producer is recognition of the systems that we have put in place, of the dedication that our business has to high quality and to delivering an animal throughout its life that can provide that meat quality that is then assessed under the MSA system,” he said.
“It’s all about the consumer, and that when a consumer walks out of the restaurant their expectations have been matched by the experience.”