Certified Angus Beef institutes new carcass uniformity specifications

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WOOSTER, Ohio – Packing plants across North America that are licensed to produce the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) brand
recently began using new, 10-part carcass specifications.
The Certified Angus Beef board voted last fall to replace the brand’s original Yield Grade (YG) 3.9 limit with more specific consistency requirements.
Response. That was in response to a trend toward heavier cattle, closely trimmed fabrication of cuts and other technical advances since the brand was founded in 1978, said president John Stika.
It also recognized the top concerns of end users surveyed in the 2005 National Beef Quality Audit.
“The future belongs to those who see it first,” Stika said of the brand’s proactive move.
“We have taken a leadership position to solve some industry problems that weren’t going to go away. Our changes are by design, a natural evolution in exceeding expectations of our customers, cattle producers and consumers.”
Numbers. The three new uniformity specifications approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are a ribeye area of 10 square inches to 16 square inches, hot carcass weight less than 1,000 pounds and external fat thickness less than 1 inch.
Those are the three main variables loosely governed by yield grade, Stika explained.
“Our original limit of YG 3.9 allowed too many outliers,” he said.
The brand’s 2005 consist study of 26,700 carcasses at plants in four states found calculated YG 3 carcasses with 1.2 inches of external fat, a ribeye range of 6.9 square inches to 19.0 square inches and carcass weights of up to 1,169 pounds
“A better way to fill the box for our customers is to use a narrower ribeye range with a limit on external fat and carcass weight,” Stika said.
The new specifications will turn aside an estimated 6.9 percent of cattle that would have been accepted for the brand in the past.
Eligible. On the other hand, more cattle better suited to consumer demand should become eligible, for a net increase, Stika said. He acknowledged those will include some YG 4 cattle, but that is virtually irrelevant to end-users.
“Packers will pay less to producers of YG 4 cattle, so that cost and market signal will be transferred to where it belongs,” he added.
“Our new limits are set up for zero tolerance, and will work well in the transition to more precise beef grading that includes the use of video camera data,” Stika said.
Licensees and Angus producers welcomed the changes and noted the implications.
“The new specifications will help remove some extreme sizing variables,” said Mike Drury, senior vice-president at Newport Meat Co., Irvine, Calif.
Consistency. “It is a step CAB had to take to continue delivering the most consistently superior product.”
“We’re looking forward to this change,” said Hubie Graham, sales manager and CAB specialist for U.S. Foodservice Inc.- Tampa Division, Tampa, Fla.
“It shows that CAB is being proactive in addressing customers needs.”
Graham noted that subprimal size has been a challenge for many foodservice operators for years, especially when it came to the larger ribeyes.
Large subprimals resulted in thin steaks when cutting to the operator’s specifications and inconsistent plate presentations.
The specification change will allow for a more consistent product that will be more satisfying for restaurant owners and consumers.
Perceptions. North Platte, Neb., Angus seedstock producer Bill Rishel believes that successful integration of CAB’s 10 carcass specifications on farms and ranches depends partly on perceptions.
“CAB is eliminating the third standard deviation of outliers, working on both ends of the ribeye range, and that’s just what the foodservice and restaurant operators have been asking for,” said Rishel, a former CAB board president and current National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Product Enhancement Committee chairman.
The market will help keep producers on target, Stika said.
“Discounts for YG 4s and overweight carcasses, the inefficiency of putting excess fat on cattle and the higher cost of feed should put a lid on over-finishing.”
Same page. CAB Packing Director Clint Walenciak said the company has worked with USDA and licensed packers “to make sure everyone is on the same page, aware of the changes and prepared” for the adoption of the 10 carcass specifications.
Available tools include a one-page, two-sided fact sheet for all licensees, and a ribeye overlay for packers and USDA graders showing the fat limit and the minimum and maximum ribeye area at a glance.
“The new specifications are familiar to the graders, who are evaluating these same elements to calculate their yield grade calls, but like any change, it will take some getting used to,” Walenciak said.
Only 8 percent of beef can achieve the brand’s benchmark standards.
For more information, visit www.certifiedangusbeef.com.

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