Ashlee McEvoy ASAS/ASAP 2017 Communications Intern 24th March 2017.
The Australian red meat industry developed Meat Standards Australia (MSA), and opened up to the beef industry in 1998. This purpose of this program became ensuring that any beef product is to reach consumer expectations. The MSA index that is used to measure these consumer expectations are based on almost 700,000 consumer taste tests by more than 100,000 consumers from nine countries.
For beef to be eligible for MSA grading, the cattle must be from an MSA registered property. The grading of beef can only be assessed by an MSA-accredited grader at any of the 43 MSA-licensed beef processing plants that are currently in Australia.
The graders job is to assess traits that have been scientifically proven to affect the eating quality of a carcass. These traits include ossification, marbling, pH, subcutaneous rib fat thickness, hump height, sex and hot standard carcass weight. Factors such as hormonal growth promotant status, milk-fed vealer category, tropical breed content and saleyard status are declared by the producers and again verified by the processing plant.
Each carcass that meets the minimum requirements is then given an MSA index. This index represents the animals’ potential eating quality. The higher the index, the higher the eating quality. Producers are able to control the factors that influence the MSA index, and therefore always have the potential to improve or change their herds.
An early adopter of the MSA program from Wagga Wagga, NSW has the consumers at heart when producing his product. The beef producer Geoff Roberts and his family runs a 1600ha property, “Wingelo”, with a 500 head MSA registered Murray Grey herd. Geoff has been constantly aiming for above average MSA index scoring, believing that improved genetics will take his family’s herd into the future, while keeping consumers pleased with a better quality product at the end.
“Under MSA the result is better for everyone,” he said.
“There’s always room for improvement, when you stop improving that’s when you slip back.”
Wingelo make changes in bull selection based in improving eye muscle marble and rib fat coverage, as well as selecting heifers for breeding. All females are pregnancy-tested and are not retained if they are scanned empty or after they have produced their fifth calf.
“The profitability of our herd is based on fertility,” Geoff said.
Geoff also understands the growing interest in consumers wanting to know where their product is coming from, and if the cattle have lived a healthy, content life.
“Welfare has always been a top priority for us, obviously well-fed, placid cattle are going to score better on the MSA index and eat better for the consumer,” he said.
“A better understanding of what makes a good end product can only help the producer, processor and most importantly the consumers as well as the cattle industry as a whole.”
Meat Standards Australia is now under a new five-year plan. This plan aims to ensure that all cattle in Australia will be eligible for MSA grading, which in turn allows for all beef products in the future to have its eating quality accurately described for consumers.
Goals by 2020 according to MSA Program Manager, Sarah Strachan include increasing Australia’s national slaughter percentage from 38% of cattle slaughter being MSA graded to 50%. MSA are also aiming to increase the supply chain by increasing the number of MSA registered cattle producers from just over 42,000 to 60,000.
“The demonstrated outcomes of the MSA program and return on investment to producers are proof that the program has been successful, but we want to grow further,” Mrs Strachan said.
“This includes identifying on-farm practices and tools that help producers increase the eating quality of their cattle and improve compliance on both MSA and company specifications.”
If you are a beef producer looking to register your property as an MSA registered property you can do so online at www.mla.com.au/msa
To predict the potential impact of production changes on your scores visit the MSA Index calculator at http://www.mymsa.com.au/msamobile/
Content supplied by Meat Standards Australia https://www.mla.com.au/msa