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Beefs and Beliefs

Latest Beef Quality Audit Says Overall Quality Rising

Retailers and foodservice purveyors seem to be changing their tune on beef quality. Now they want flavor.

I made the long drive to Denver last week for the release of the latest National Beef Quality Audit. I'm back home now and mulling what it all means.

I thought it interesting, at least, that this audit is the first time flavor has been ranked by retailers and foodservice purveyors above tenderness. The presenters at the release suggest this indicates tenderness has improved to the point it is considered less a problem.

The national tenderness survey was released last winter.

Jeff Savell, head of the meat science department at Texas A&M University, says this ranking of flavor above tenderness is almost certainly progress. He's been involved with beef quality measurements since the first quality audits in 1990-1991.

The 1991 survey showed some real problems with tenderness; about one fourth of steaks were considered tough at that time. Acceptability increased about 20% from 1991 to 1999 and then another 18% by 2005. This latest audit held those numbers achieved in 2005.

Incidentally, eating satisfaction was the only attribute for which packers, foodservice purveyors and retailers all said they are willing to pay a premium. Eating satisfaction is usually defined as a combination of tenderness and flavor.

The least tender cuts continue to be from the round, suggesting the need for improved aging practices and increased consumer education focused on proper preparation and cooking to enhance consumer satisfaction. The latest tenderness survey showed moist-cooking techniques helped.

You can find the new Beef Quality Audit and the latest National Beef Tenderness Survey online.

Here's a video of Savell's own summary of the latest Beef Quality Audit and how it relates to the ultimate eating quality of beef.

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