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SFF Beef Eating Quality System

Agribusiness experts strongly believe that in order to build resilience against commodity price volatility, value-adding strategies should be implemented.

Silver Fern Farms has done just that through a science-backed grading process that, for the first time, allows the co-operative to guarantee consumers “an exceptional beef experience, everytime” with a premium range of grass-fed beef.

The Silver Fern Farms Eating Quality (EQ) System grades beef on six criteria, and pays a premium for carcasses that meet specifications.

Jason Archer has been working with Silver Fern Farms to help suppliers raise the proportion of cattle that meet their Reserve Grade Beef EQ specifications.

Nationally the overall hit rate for meeting BeefEQ specifications is less than 30%, so there is a real opportunity to increase the compliance of cattle coming through.

“The new Beef EQ system means that beef farmers and suppliers have the opportunity to add value to their meat quality, and consequently earn a premium,” Jason says.

Silver Fern Farms is producing information for their suppliers, which will show how the value can be added.

AbacusBio’s role in this project is to provide advice on how the science can be turned into practical actions to take on-farm.

Jason explains that there are many things that can be done on-farm to improve the hit-rate of meeting EQ requirements, many of which require little or no investment.

For example, pH is one of the criteria that many farmers struggle to meet. On-farm practices to improve pH include:

  1. feeding animals well for two weeks prior to processing to maximise muscle energy reserves (glycogen)
  2. avoiding mixing mobs to reduce social stress
  3. ensuring animals are mustered and handled quietly to reduce stress
  4. avoiding excessive activity depleting the energy reserves in the muscles

However, some criteria such as desired marbling require different on-farm practices i.e. genetics and nutrition, which can only produce significant results in the longer term, rather than a two-week timeframe.

To put everything together into one sentence of advice, Jason says, “breed cattle well, feed cattle well, and handle cattle well”.

Many of the on-farm solutions are part of good old-fashioned stockmanship, but by understanding the real scientific basis behind them, this serves as a way for managers to help their staff see why they should use best practices.