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Applications of Management Technology to Value-Added Beef Production

Investigators
Comerford, John
Institutions
Pennsylvania State University
Start date
2009
End date
2014
Objective
  1. To determine economically sound and sustainable production methods for value-added beef production.
  2. To measure the response of new technologies available in the beef industry to value-added beef production.
Outcomes:
1. A production protocol can be designed that meets economic, sustainability, and consumer acceptability for value-added beef products.
2. The application of genetic and animal health technology can be applied efficiently to the production of value-added beef products.
More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Significant changes in the eating habits of American consumers are driving modifications in beef products at the retail level. These changes include a reduction in meal preparation time, more eating outside the home, greater awareness and interest in production practices for food products, increased response to food safety issues, health issues related to food, and family economics. In response to these changes the mainstream beef industry has increased the number of meat products available to consumers (particularly from chuck and round parts of the carcass), developed and utilized technology that increased production efficiency and reduced product cost, and engaged in greater testing and handling processes that improve product safety. However, the industry has been slow to grasp methods and provide products that address consumer concerns about production methods, animal handling, animal feeding methods, and product enhancements. It is estimated that fully 40% of the meat products in retail sales will be natural or naturally-produced in the next 20 years. While the specific definition of natural may vary from USDAs official one, it will include grass-fed, pasture-fed, specific feeding systems, and the use (or non-use) of production technologies. Many recent technologies available to the beef industry, such as gene markers for carcass traits and production, have not been employed or tested in natural and grass-fed production systems. Research shows only one in five consumers prefers the taste of grass-fed beef compared to grain feeding, and surveys show grass-fed and natural production systems are more costly than conventional grain feeding. These results are not compatible with consumers enduring less disposable income for food. Methods to produce these beef products with less cost while engaging a larger consumer base are needed to make value-added products sustainable on the farm and in the marketplace.This project is designed to provide producers with production tools that can enhance the acceptability and value of naturally-raised and pasture-fed beef. The integration of links from forage management, animal production and health, and consumer evaluations are needed to provide a chain from production to consumption that meets the needs of both producer and consumer.

APPROACH:
Procedures: 1. Determination of optimum production protocol
a. Breed comparisons: up to four cattle breeds representing diverse body types will be produced under natural and(or) pasture fed systems to measure productivity and consumer evaluation of meat products. Animal, breed, growth, and carcass traits will be correlated with consumer and taste panel values for taste, tenderness, and overall acceptability.
b. Forage systems will be evaluated to enhance forage quality, animal intake, and consistency of availability. This will include forage variety combinations and evaluation of new cultivars. Measures of forage quality and availability will be compared with animal production, carcass traits, and consumer acceptability values in multivariate analyses.
c. Feeding systems for stored forages will be evaluated that will enhance animal intake, reduce feeding losses, maintain forage quality, and improve animal productivity in comparative studies.
d. Soil erosion, nutrient deposit, and carbon sequestration will be evaluated in comparative studies with feeding and animal handling systems.

2. Application of technological tools
a. Gene markers for tenderness and carcass marbling in cattle will be compared to actual carcass traits to determine their prediction of enhanced carcass values.
b. Animal health technology related to parasite infection, viral disease, and mineral deficiency will be tested under production conditions to determine those technologies that can be employed under these environmental conditions to enhance animal performance and prevent disease.
c. Expected progeny differences in sires for growth and carcass traits will be used to test their application in cattle under natural and pasture-fed production systems.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
PEN04326
Accession number
218360
Categories
Parasites
Food Preparation and Handling
Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants