British beef carcase quality results show progress

British beef carcase quality results show progress

There was some improvement in the quality of British prime beef carcases during 2012, according to the latest annual carcase classification results released by EBLEX.

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) data, taken from a sample of over 400,000 prime cattle classified across Great Britain in 2012, shows that 51% of carcases met the ‘R4L or better’ target market specification, an increase of over 2% on 2011 figures.

This was driven by small improvements in the number of both steer and heifer carcases meeting the target specification. In the case of young bull carcases, the increase was more marked, with the number being classified ‘R4L or better’ increasing from 53% to 57%. While there has been a steady increase in the registration of dairy-bred bull calves since 2008, the number of finished dairy bulls fell in 2012 as more calves were reared as steers, which could explain the change in classification levels.

While there has been continued improvement in the number of carcases achieving target grades, the proportion of cattle slaughtered in Great Britain being selected at an appropriate level of finish (87%) has not changed from 2011.

Although the conformation quality (R or above) of heifer carcases has continued to improve, from 64% to 66%, almost one in four (23%) were finished at fat class 4H or higher. This is significantly more than any other type of prime cattle and is a slight increase of 0.4% on 2011. Average carcase weights have also increased from 305kg in 2011 to 311kg in 2012, suggesting that target fat class is being sacrificed in pursuit of higher weights in heifers.

Prime beef carcase weights have risen between 6kg and 9kg across all classes to average 337kg, which is heavier than they have ever been, due in part to breeding for increased growth rates among other traits. While increasing carcase weights are likely to increase output providing target conformation and fat class is achieved, it’s important to ensure there is a cost benefit to increasing carcase weights when taking the additional input costs into account.

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