University of Minnesota Beef Team
Minnesota is a leading state in dairy production and cull dairy animals are a regular part of the industry.
Although this revenue represents less than 10 percent of the dairy producer's income, the resulting beef represents a tremendous opportunity for the agricultural industry as a whole in increasing beef demand.
In recognizing this, Beef Quality Assurance programs in Minnesota and throughout the United States have fo-cused efforts on ensuring the safety and quality of dairy animals destined for the beef retail case.
There is a perception by the consumer, and even some parts of the industry, that dairy beef's ultimate destination is primarily ground product. In some ways this may be the case, and in fact millions of pounds of lean ground dairy beef are sold annually. But now more than ever, increasing use of dairy beef for whole muscle cuts such as steaks and roasts, is becoming a reality.
The 2007 National Market Cow and Bull Beef Quality Audit compared chan-ges in carcass utilization from 1999 to 2007. The Audit found that the use of rib eyes went from 74 percent to 100 percent and tenderloins went from 79 percent to 100 percent use.
Interestingly, usage of whole muscle cuts from the round increased dramatically such as the knuckle (from 37 percent to 86 percent) and the inside round (42 percent to 79 percent). Perhaps of most dramatic increase was the top sirloin butt, which increased in utilization from 5 percent to 71 percent.
It is estimated that approximately 44 percent of the beef from dairy carcasses are used as whole muscle cuts such as steaks, roasts, cubes and filets.
Foodservice establishments utilize these products as fully cooked and typically thinly sliced products for sandwiches and wraps. Roasts can be utilized for slow roasted and shredded products or dishes that use sauces.
It is certainly recognized that without some sort of alternative processing method, dairy beef from cull cows will be far tougher than fed beef. However marinating, mechanical tenderization such as tumbling, or the use of enzymes can easily address this issue. Additionally, cooking methods can sufficiently overcome tenderness while adding value and convenience to the product.
In fact, one could easily argue that the beef from the dairy industry is the ultimate opportunity for value-added beef products. By their nature, alternative processing will be necessary to market as whole muscle cuts. Compiling that with the fact that these cull animals may be purchased at a lower rate, potential for profit is recognizable.
No, dairy cows will not compete for quality on a large scale, however it is interesting to note that the National Beef Quality Audit found that dairy steers graded high choice and prime more often than native beef breeds.
For 2009, commercial beef production declined, which means now more than ever cost savings need to be realized and innovation is necessary to maintain and increase lean beef and total red meat consumption. The National Cattlemen's Beef Board has recognized that carcass weight trumps grade performance when calculating the value of modern beef carcasses. More specifically, large plants are looking to maximize the amount of saleable lean from each animal unit. It stands to reason that cull cow carcasses, while certainly not meeting the need for quality, do present an opportunity for efficiency and total volume.
In the current competitive market facing decreased consumer spending, it may be necessary to consider alternative means of producing products that the consumer both desires and is willing to purchase. The cull dairy cow may represent increased inputs on behalf of the beef processor; however increased value may make this an attractive undertaking.
University of Minnesota Meat Science models much of its extension efforts to meeting the needs of the state of Minnesota and adding value to our agricultural products. Current research is exploring the potential of cull cow beef for value-added opportunities.
Through a re-search project funded by the Minnesota Beef Council, University of Minnesota Meat Science has been working with en-hancement options for cuts from the cow round. More recently, the project titled “Effect of Brine Enhancement and Mechanical Tenderization on Consumer Sensory Characteristics of Cow Semi-membran-osus Steaks” indicated that there may be potential to market whole-muscle products from the cow round with mechanical tenderization and enhancement.
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