Beef industry terminology, grading and branding vary across the globe. In the second part of a four-part series examining the US beef industry and markets, Farmers Guardian’s sister company Urner Barry looks at the differences between the UK and US.
Beef industry terminology varies around the world with major differences in the cuts and grading between the UK and US.
In the US, there are seven main primals. These are the round, which is equivalent to the topside, silverside and thick flank; the chuck, which includes the neck and chuck, chuck and blade, and thick flank; the rib, which is the equivalent of the forerib and thick flank; and the loin, which includes the sirloin and rump.
The flank, plate and brisket also represent primal areas.
These will then be cut into smaller items called sub-primals to be sold to further processors, retailers and foodservice.
In the US, all plants must demonstrate USDA inspectors are present to ensure beef is wholesome and safe for consumption.
However, it is voluntary to inspect for quality and yield grading, although it is almost always done at fed-cattle packing plants as grading plays a large role in determining value.
Quality grades for tenderness and flavour, while yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcase.
There are several beef quality grades, the most recognized being USDA prime, choice and select.
Prime is the highest grade of beef in the US due to its high marbling content.
For many years, prime accounted for only 2 per cent to 3.5 per cent of graded beef, but that percentage has jumped to around 10 per cent since 2017.
This is due in part to improvements in genetic selection, better feeding, and conducive weather conditions following the 2012 drought-induced liquidation of the cattle herd.
The USDA Comprehensive Fed Cattle Weekly Report provides information on the status of fed cattle being harvested in the United States.
The latest report showed carcase weights unchanged at 878lbs (398kg), which is 2lbs (13kg) above last year.
Quality grading remains seasonally high at 83 per cent.
Heavier carcase weights due to backlogged fed-cattle supplies are leading to a greater percentage of fed cattle grading choice and prime compared to last year.
Packers continue to work through cattle supplies after COVID-19-related processing limitations caused a notable bottleneck in production.
In terms of carcase maturity, quality grades of prime, choice and select are classified as young beef, or less than 42 months of age.
Prime and the majority of choice-graded product were derived from carcases less than 30 months.
There has also been an increase in branded beef programmes to meet consumer demand. Certified Angus Beef was the first USDA- certified beef programme in 1978.
To be certified, beef must pass 10 quality standards.
Demand for consistent, high-quality beef led to attractive economic incentives for cattlemen.
This has led to other branded programmes with their own protocols and criteria. While economic incentives were one of the main drivers, these programmes also help bridge the gap between the consumer and the farmers and ranchers.
Urner Barry is a US based agency covering market prices of red meat, poultry, eggs and seafood. The Farmers Guardian sister company has a long history of reporting on the US beef industry and has now launched a UK beef report (see table). More more on this visit ubcomtell.com
A look at processing capacity and production in the US.