Meat Eating Quality – the future of breeding cattle.

As environmental and sustainability issues come to the fore there has been renewed interest in the Hereford breed with its early maturity and ability to finish more economically at lower weights.  Herefords can provide the consumer with excellent meat produced in a system that benefits the animal and environment.  The Hereford represents quality over quantity and it offers an opportunity for Irish and European farmers to increase margins at the premium end of the market.

Meat eating quality could become more and more important in the future in terms of our unique selling point. That was the message from Donagh Berry at the Teagasc beef conference in Mayo in December 2019.

“Other countries have caught up very fast with traceability and tagging, so we need to move on to the next level. We believe that one of these avenues could be meat eating quality.

“For the last few decades, farmers have selected on quantity rather than quality when it comes to bull selection, heavier carcase weights, better confirmation, while meat eating quality hasn’t been to the fore in the decision-making process,” he said.

If society moves towards eating less meat, farmers need to make sure that anything they do eat is good. Teagasc and ICBF, using a trained tasting panel, have assessed 5,500 animals for tenderness, flavour and juiciness. This is good news for the Herefords as the Hereford sires are 1 of few breeds that come out on top in terms of all 3 important criteria; juciness, tender along with being the top breed for flavour out of the entire trial.

Ireland will therefore be one of the world leaders in this area and currently boasts the largest database globally of meat sensory data on genotyped cattle assessed by trained panels. He said: “Although large breed differences in meat eating quality are evident, up to 15% of the within-breed differences in meat eating quality is due to genetic differences.

“While single gene solutions are being marketed as being able to differentiate products on meat tenderness, they account for only a very small proportion of the underlying variation and are therefore not reliable.

The Teagasc research geneticist said the next step is to include meat eating quality in genetic indices and hopefully in the future the market would pay more for animals sired by high meat eating quality bulls.

Article by Adam Woods, Journalist for the Irish Farmers Journal on 11th December 2019 and Niall Claffey, Journalist for Agriland on 11th December 2019.

Further Update (2021):

ICBF have proven that after trialing various breeds for Tenderness, Juiciness & Flavour – they can now determine that Tenderness has the highest heritability meaning that genetics can directly affect the tenderness of beef.

From the research carried out; Herefords have ranked at the top of the table across all breeds for tenderness with a result of 85% satisfactory. Docility may also be hugely influential towards this trait. The top three Hereford bulls in terms of tenderness scoring have been named as; Moyclare Lucky, Moyclare Lieutenant & Gageboro Morgan. Herefords are also ranking at the top of the charts for juiciness & flavour (see chart below).

With the trial coming to an end; ICBF have said that the move now is towards having Meat Eating Quality data available on animals as they are slaughtered which could link with future payment systems. They have also confirmed that work is underway to add this data directly into economic indexes.


***Report & Results credited to Niall Kilrane, ICBF, Monday 18th January 2021***

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