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English Beef Carcase Quality Continues to Improve
07/04/08

For the second year in a row the quality of English beef carcases has shown clear across-the-board improvements, reveal the latest annual carcase classification figures from EBLEX Ltd, the industry body for beef and lamb levy-payers in England.

beef cattle

Overall, MLC classification reports for more than 200,000 prime cattle slaughtered in England in 2007 show 48% of prime beef carcases meeting the preferred ‘R4L or better’ specification. This compares with 46% of carcases meeting the specification in 2006 and just 41% in 2005.

More detailed analysis reveals year-on-year improvements in the leanness and conformation of both steers and heifers, with steers showing a particularly encouraging degree of conformation improvement. Only young bulls suffered a decline in conformation.

English Annual Beef Carcase Performance (MLC)

4L or Leaner

R or Better

R4L or Better *

2006

2007

2006

2007

2006

2007

All Prime Cattle

89%

90%

52%

53%

46%

48%

Steers

92%

93%

51%

53%

47%

49%

Heifers

80%

81%

52%

53%

42%

43%

Young Bulls

98%

98%

58%

54%

52%

53%

* Both leaner and better conformation

Consolidating the gains of recent years, comfortably over 50% of all classes of carcase met the ‘R or better’ target for conformation in 2007, while over 90% of steers and 80% of heifers met the ‘4L or leaner’ target for finish. This underlines the value of improved breeding and management across the national herd.

Encouragingly too, these quality improvements were achieved at the same time as a noticeable increase in average carcase weights for all classes of stock. At 343 kg in 2007, steer carcases were fully 4 kg heavier than 2006 while bulls were 3kg heavier at 330 kg and heifers 2 kg heavier at 299 kg.

Equally, the improvements were secured despite the not inconsiderable movement and marketing disruptions of foot and mouth disease.

With over half the carcases failing to meet both the preferred conformation and leanness targets there clearly remains considerable room for improvement in responding to the demands of the modern beef market within current production constraints.

Practical guidance to support continued improvements in carcase quality is available free of charge to English levy payers through the EBLEX Beef Better Returns Programme funded by Defra and the Beef Action for Profit resource, both accessible at www.eblex.org.uk.

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