Survey of beef quality at retail outlets

Project number:                    619001

Lead contractor:                   EBLEX internal

Partners:

Campden BRI, Identigen, University  of Bristol, FERA

Start & end date:                   July 2010 – November 2010

Actual end date:                   July 2011

 

The Problem:

A wide range of factors can influence the eating quality of beef available to consumers.  Delivering optimum quality relies on the adoption of a whole chain approach. It is relatively easy to identify whether some practices are in place, for example hip suspension.  It is less easy to identify whether the less obvious requirements (eg maturation period) have been adopted.  If they have, supplier monitoring may be insufficient to ensure that they are adhered to.

The EBLEX Board is concerned that there is an undesirable, and avoidable, degree of variation in the toughness of English beef at retail.

This project is aimed at identifying whether such variation exists at the major multiple retailers in two important beef cuts.  The sampling of English beef at retail also provides the opportunity to undertake some analyses to verify the origin of that beef.

One factor that may influence that eating quality of beef is variation in the age of animals at slaughter.  While a definitive determination of animal age is not possible from a meat sample, an examination of collagen cross-linking can provide information on the variation in physiological age.

 

Project Aims:

To sample beef from 6 multiple retailer outlets and undertake the following assessments:

  1. Shear force (toughness)
  2. Isotopes and trace elements for origin verification
  3. Genotype for detection of Bos indicus (zebu)
  4. Collagen cross link quantification for variation in age

 

Approach:

This project involved sampling beef from major retail outlets and undertaking shear force tests for toughness, as well as a range of tests to assess the origin and variation in age of the beef.

 

Results:

The results showed considerable variability in the toughness of beef from English abattoirs available at retail in England.  While beef of good quality is available from all supply chains, variation means that there are unacceptably tough samples in several multiple retailer offerings.  Those retailers specifying hip suspension, have generally lower shear values than those with other post-slaughter procedures.

The Bos Indicus test results show that this is not contributing to this range in toughness.  Origin results suggest all the beef sampled is of British origin, and collagen cross links suggest extreme animal age is not a factor.

 

Planned activity:

Individual abattoir companies will be briefed on their own results.  These results underpin EBLEX’s approach to knowledge transfer on meat eating quality.