A comparison of animal performance and carcass and meat quality characteristics in Hereford, Hereford X Friesian, and Friesian steers grazed together at pasture

Muir, P.D.; Wallace, G.J.; Dobbie, P.M.; Bown, M.D.

New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 43(2): 193-205


ISSN/ISBN: 0028-8233
Accession: 010054658

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An experiment was carried out to compare the quality of beef produced from Hereford (H), Hereford X Friesian (HF), and Friesian (F) steers grazed together on pasture from weaning. Carcass characteristics, meat quality parameters, and consumer acceptability were compared when the breeds were slaughtered at the same age (H, HF1, F1) and at the same level of "fatness" (i.e., same biological maturity; H, HF2, F2). H steers reached slaughter weight and fatness at 27 months of age (approx. 610 kg, 6.75 mm fat at 12th rib, respectively) at which time all H, half the Hereford X Friesians (HF1), and half the Friesians (F1) were slaughtered. The remaining steers (HF2 and F2) continued to graze until they reached a similar level of fatness to H steers and were slaughtered at 29 and 35 months of age, respectively. Growth rates were similar between breeds throughout the trial. When slaughtered at the same age, H steers had higher carcass weights, higher dressing-out percentages, whiter fat, and were significantly fatter than HF1 or F1 steers. However, meat colour, total weight of significant meat cuts, and meat tenderness were similar in all breeds. When slaughtered at the same maturity, F2 carcasses were significantly heavier than HF2 or H steers and thus had higher overall meat yields. However, differences in meat yield, as a percentage of total carcass weight, were small. Meat from mature Friesians (F2) took slightly longer to age than H steers although by 9 days after slaughter breed differences in shear force tenderness measurements were not significant. Differences in tenderness immediately post slaughter were associated with higher calpastatin to mu-calpain ratio in the meat from F2 steers. Although HF2 steers were 2 months older and F2 steers 8 months older than H steers at slaughter, there was no effect on meat colour but fat colour was significantly yellower in F2 steers. Differences in organoleptic parameters were small and no consistent breed effects could be distinguished by taste panellists when compared at the same age or the same maturity. It was concluded that when managed similarly on pasture and slaughtered at the same age, differences in beef quality between Hereford, Hereford X Friesian, and Friesian steers are small and, where they exist, are largely due to differences in carcass fatness.