British beef carcase quality continues to improve

British beef carcase quality continues to improve

The quality of British prime beef carcases improved during 2013, with 3.8% more reaching the ‘R4L or better’ target than in 2012, according to the latest annual carcase classification results released by EBLEX.

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) data, from a sample of more than 430,000 prime cattle classified, shows that 55% of carcases met the ‘R4L or better’ target market specification. This was achieved even with an increase in dairy-bred bull calf registration from 2008 to 2012.

EBLEX beef and sheep scientist, Dylan Laws said: “More detailed analysis shows there were large improvements in both steer and heifer carcases classifying R4L or better, with young bull carcases slightly improved from 56.7% to 56.9%.

“However, 20% of heifers were still finished at fat class 4H or higher, which is significantly more than any other type of prime cattle. Although this is a 3% reduction from 2012, the evidence suggests that target fat class in heifers is being sacrificed by chasing higher weights. Ensuring cattle are slaughtered at the target fat class will result in savings in feed costs, as fat deposition requires four times more energy than lean tissue.

“Average prime beef carcase weights have decreased slightly, averaging 335kg, with all stock class weights down by between 1kg and 5kg compared with 2012.”

Since 2003, the proportion of carcases achieving a conformation class of R or above has increased from 56.7% to 63.5% and those achieving a fat class of 4L or below have increased from 82.9% to 88.1%. Genetic improvement through Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for muscle and fat depth could be a contributing factor to these improvements in classification.

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