News

Grounds for confidence in GFF compliance rates

21 November 2018

Results of Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grading carried out in 2017–18 suggest more than 99 per cent of eligible carcases will satisfy the lot feeding industry’s new Grain Fed Finished (GFF) Standard once GFF animals start to flow to slaughter.

The GFF Standard was launched on 1 September this year. It requires that cattle be fed for 35 days as a minimum, of which at least 28 days must be on a nutritionally balanced, predominantly grain-based high-energy diet.

No meat has yet been submitted for GFF certification.

However, by the third week of October about 30 lot feeders from the 400 recognised under the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme had requested and received GFF delivery documentation from AUS-MEAT. This documentation will in due course enable producers to consign GFF-eligible cattle for processing.

MSA program manager Sarah Strachan said in 2017–18, 43 per cent of all MSA graded cattle, or 1.34 million head, were identified in MSA grading data as having been grain-fed.

“Of all MSA carcases graded in 2017–18, 6pc were recorded as being shortfed – that is, between 35 and 60 days on feed,” Ms Strachan said.

“These may have met the requirements of the GFF Standard had it existed then, and today those cattle – more than 193,000 head – would be considered eligible for GFF.

“In that period MSA grain-fed cattle had a compliance rate of 98.2pc and for those non-grainfed-accredited animals identified as having had 35 to 60 days on feed – that 6pc per cent – the compliance rate was 99.3pc.”

GFF is the third and most recently launched product in a beef range based on grain-finishing developed by the feedlot industry.

It complements two premium, traditional longfed offerings: Grain Fed beef (or GF, in which cattle are fed grain for a minimum of 100 days) and Grain Fed Young beef (GFYG, in which cattle with no more than two permanent incisor teeth are kept on feed for at least 70/60 days for males/females).

While GF and GFYG use AUS-MEAT Chiller Assessment requirements to determine carcase quality, to gain GFF certification carcases must grade MSA.

The consistency with which shortfed cattle achieved this grading in 2017–18 suggests brand owners and lot feeders can embrace the GFF Standard with confidence, reassured of their new beef product’s eating quality.

MSA had always recommended producers have cattle “on a rising plane of nutrition for at least 30 days prior to dispatch”, Ms Strachan said.

“This has been based on ensuring cattle have adequate supplies of glycogen – blood sugar – in their muscles to prevent dark cutting.

“Cattle need to be gaining more than 0.8 kilograms per day to absolutely ensure muscle glycogen concentration is maximised, and lot feeding can help achieve this.

“Glycogen is in essence the energy reserve of the muscle.

“The muscle glycogen level is increased by feeding – a process that takes days – and rapidly reduced by stress – which may take only minutes – or activity in the live animal.

“At the point of slaughter the glycogen is converted to lactic acid that steadily decreases the pH of the muscle.

“When developing GFF, ALFA took this 30-day recommendation from MSA into consideration, as well as the need to make allowance for cattle to become accustomed to the feedlot.”

She said while time on feed as a measurement did not influence eating quality scores directly, attributes such as increased marbling as a result of feeding did produce positive outcomes.

Established in 1998 under the auspices of Meat & Livestock Australia, the MSA program uses certified graders in processing facilities to collect carcase measurements that predict the eating quality of cuts from graded product.

For more information about the new GFF standard or how to implement it, contact ALFA on (02) 9290 3700 or info@feedlots.com.au

A detailed fact sheet is also available on the ALFA website here.