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Continued British Beef Carcase Quality Gains
2009-04-20

For the first time ever last year fully 50% of the prime beef carcases classified in Great Britain met the target ‘R4L or better’ specification required by the modern meat market, reveal the latest annual carcase classification figures from EBLEX , the industry body for beef and lamb levy-payers in England.

© www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk

beef cattle

Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board classification reports from a sample of more than 300,000 prime cattle classified in Britain by MLC in 2008 show a continued improvement in carcases meeting the target specification over the past decade from 39% in 1998. This has been accompanied by a steady increase in carcase weights from an average of 310 kg in 1998 to 326 kg last year.

More detailed analysis reveals the quality gains have been achieved through improvements in both leanness and conformation over the years. Particular progress is evident in levels of finish, with over 88% of prime beef classifying ‘4L or leaner’ in 2008 compared to less than 76% in 1998.

In response to market demands, it is especially encouraging to see the proportion of carcases classifying at 4H for finish being halved over the 10 year period with the proportions of those classifying at 1, 2 and 3 increasing markedly.

While the EBLEX analyses also highlight improving conformation since 1998, the gains have been noticeably less overall and very much less consistent from year-to-year as gains in beef breeding quality are offset by the increasing influence of more extreme dairy breeding.

Over the past year across-the-board improvements have been recorded in the quality of British steer, heifer and bull carcases – 52%, 46% and 54% respectively classifying ‘R4L or Better’ compared to 51%, 44% and 54% in 2007. With the exception of young bull carcases which have shown a slight improvement in both components of classification from 2007, less good 2008 conformation in both steers and heifers has been more than compensated for by improved levels of leanness; a trend also reflected in prime cattle classifications as a whole.

British Beef Carcase Performance 2007 – 2008 (AHDB)

 

4L or Leaner

R or Better

R4L or Better *

 

2007

2008

2007

2008

2007

2008

All Prime Cattle

85%

88%

60%

58%

49%

50%

Steers

88%

91%

60%

58%

51%

52%

Heifers

74%

80%

62%

59%

44%

46%

Young Bulls

97%

98%

56%

56%

54%

54%

* Both leaner and better conformation

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 and the Beef Action for Profit resource, both accessible at www.eblex.org.uk.

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