beef fillet photo

The science behind tastier beef

The focus on eating quality and the actions to improve it have arguably been a major contributor to reaching premium markets, particularly in Asia.

AbacusBio consultant Jason Archer says, there are many things we can do to improve eating quality, most of which are simple, inexpensive, and easy to implement. 

A mix of short-term and long-term solutions are available for farmers - and many of them will help lift productivity on-farm at the same time, Jason says. 

Put simply, the principles boil down to:

  • breed animals well 
  • feed animals well 
  • handle animals well 

Breeding for optimal eating quality needs to focus on animals that grow well (and so are killed at a young age when meat is more tender), animals with good temperament (to avoid pH issues), and animals with potential to marble (which is known to improve eating quality).

Feeding animals well means allowing them to achieve their potential weights optimally (after the breeding job is done well).

From an eating quality perspective, feeding is also associated with growth rates (both over the lifetime of the animal, the finishing period, and particularly in the weeks just prior to slaughter), and is important to address tenderness, marbling, pH, and fat colour (not strictly eating quality, but a strong consumer acceptance issue).

Feeding systems can also influence the healthfulness of meat, making use of optimum forages, and this is an area which we should be further exploring. 

Handling animals well is about minimising stress in animals and consequently avoiding pH issues. 

This is particularly important in the two weeks leading up to slaughter, but temperament is a big part of it and is influenced by handling much earlier in life. 

Longer-term changes to genetics and feeding systems can also have a positive impact, Jason says.