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Adding Value to Beef Carcases Using Muscles from Cheaper Cuts

01 February 2015

The US cattle and beef sector could make an extra $3.75 billion by maximising the carcase and using muscles usually send for ground beef to make niche market products.

Dr Chris Calkins, professor of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln told a conference for processors organised by the UK red meat body Eblex the consumer perception in the US is that the quality cuts are in the form of steaks.

He said that if cuts from the carcase other from the loin and rib region could be taken, then anything that makes a “good steak” could add value to the carcase

He said that the round and the chuck regions are where the opportunities lie and for the US market in particular is was becoming more important to provide the quality the consumers demand and expect.

Research in the US had found that cutting single muscles from areas such as the shoulder clod, that were normally sent for grinding, could produce steaks that had an added premium value.

Dr Calkins said that the shoulder clod was easy to take individual muscles from and now the US beef sector had started to produce steaks including the flat iron steak, ranch steak and petite tenders from this perceived cheaper cut of meat.

He said that in particular, flat iron steaks have caught on and were becoming a big success in the US.

“The whole shoulder was used for grinding, but it is a question of balance of use when you take one muscle out of the cut,” said Dr Calkins.

“However, the flat irons went so well that the balance was maintained.”

He added that the other muscles that were used as separate cuts also helped to maintain the balance of value and these, such as the petite tenders, mainly went through food service outlets.

Dr Calkins said that the chuck roll is also considered a low value joint in the US, but now the beef industry is moving to single muscle use.

He said that it was essential to select the correct muscles to use because some in the chuck roil are tender and others not. For instance as the chuck roll is an extension of the ribeye, the US industry was able to develop Delmonico or Chuck Eye Steaks, as well as Country Style Short Ribs and America’s Beef Road. From the under blade the industry has developed the Sierra Cut and the Denver Cut.

“Some of these cuts are suitable for retail and some are suitable for foodservice,” said Dr Calkins.

Moving on from the development of added value cuts from the Chuck and the shoulder, the US beef industry has also now started to take single muscle cuts out of the beef round including braising cuts from the heel.

“You have to look at each individual muscle and not the whole cut. You have to see that it is not just for grinding,” Dr Calkins added.

The proof that individual muscle cuts taken from perceived cheaper parts of the carcase can add value was seen in taste tests, where one particular cut, the Braison Cut, from the heel used for braising, was given high scores on both tastes and tenderness.

The research had shown that using single muscle cuts to add value from the shoulder clod could add $50 to $70 per head. The added value from the Chuck Roll could be between $40 and $50 a head and for the Round $20 to $30.

“At 25 million head/year of young, fed cattle, the impact is $2.75 to $3.75 billion per year when fully implemented<” Dr Calkins said.

He added: “It could also be that some steak quality meat is being left on the round as the meat is being butchered and this could make more added value.”

The loss of these added value areas is the result of the way the carcase is butchered that has developed through convenience and tradition.

“However, the way the carcase is disassembled could leave more tender meat for added value,” he said.

Dr Calkins said that in a survey by the National Restaurant Association is was found that the desire for locally sourced products was highest on consumer wishes, but consumers were also calling for new cuts of meat.

While 63 per cent of food service purchases of beef in the US is ground beef in the form of hamburgers, with 3.8 million tonnes sold in 2013, steaks were second on the list of consumer favourites.

However, emerging cuts are starting to gain momentum with 71 million pounds of Flat Iron Steaks sold last year, 43 million pounds of Petite Tenders, 11 million pounds of Ranch Steaks, 33 million pounds of America’s Beef Roast, 14 million pounds of Delmonicon Steaks and 2 million pounds of Denver Steaks sold last year in foodservice.

During the same period 65 million pounds of T-bone and Porterhouse Steaks were sold.

Retail sales for the new cuts reached nearly 50 million pounds.

January 2015

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