Research Roundup Column
Patrons of high-end restaurants are willing to pay a premium for farm and state of origin source-verified steaks.
University of Nebraska meats scientists conducted both online and in-restaurant surveys of high-end restaurant customers in Connecticut and Arizona to determine steak purchasing decisions and interest in knowing the origin of purchased beef.
Over 1,000 customers participated in the online survey. Cut of beef ranked highest among steak traits or attributes for purchasing decisions. The filet mignon was most preferred, followed closely by the ribeye and New York steak. Price, USDA Quality Grade and tenderness guarantee were other high-ranking attributes in purchasing decisions. Least important were breed, traceability and brand.
Among respondents, 63% indicated they would purchase source-verified steaks at a 10-20% premium over unspecified source steaks. The origin information of greatest interest to participants included state, country and region. The most important factors cited in overall steak eating satisfaction were flavor, tenderness and degree of doneness. Least important were steak thickness, portion size and aroma.
Among online participants, 192 were chosen to participate in the in-restaurant survey. When presented a menu with different steak prices and origins (farm, region, state or no-origin), 37% ordered the steak identified by the farm, while 31% ordered the state-of-origin steak. Regardless of price, steaks identified by the farm or state were most often ordered.
Participants were willing to pay nearly $5 more for a state-of-origin steak and $9 more for a farm-of-origin steak. When asked where the best beef comes from, 83% responded the Midwest, with Nebraska, Texas, Iowa and Kansas named specifically.
Cattle performance unaffected
Genetically modified (GM) corn doesn’t affect stocker, growing or finishing cattle performance. Good news, since nearly 90% of all corn grown in the U.S. is GM.
University of Nebraska beef researchers compared the feeding value of corn silage, corn stalks and corn grain produced from an insect-protected GM corn hybrid with feeds from a parental hybrid and two other non-GM corn hybrids.
Growing cattle performance was evaluated in steers weighing 614 lbs. in an 86-day feeding study. Corn silage produced from the corn hybrids comprised 80% of the growing ration, with the remainder being wet distillers grains (WDG) and supplement. Feed intake, average daily gain (ADG) and feed efficiency were not different among the steers fed the four different corn silages.
Stocker cattle performance was evaluated in a 40-day grazing trial. Steers weighing 549 lbs. grazed fields of corn stalk residue from the GM hybrid and the parental hybrid. Both groups were fed a daily supplement formulated to meet protein, vitamin and mineral needs. Amount of downed corn in the field was determined to be the same for both hybrids. ADG of the grazing steers showed no variation.
Finishing cattle performance was compared in 639-lb. steers on feed for 175 days. The finishing diets contained 65% dry-rolled corn and 15% corn silage from each of the respective hybrids plus WDG and supplement. Dry matter intake, ADG and feed conversion showed no difference among steers fed the four corn hybrids. Across all groups, ADG and feed conversion was 3.73 lbs./day and 6.00, respectively. Also, carcass weight, percent Choice and all other carcass traits weren’t affected by the hybrid, nor were differences in health or illness observed.
Similar results would be expected to carry over to wintering beef cows grazing GM corn stalk residue or consuming GM corn silage.
Read the full reports on genetically modified corn below.
Scott B. Laudert, Ph.D., is a beef cattle technical consultant and former Kansas State University Extension livestock specialist based in Woodland Park, CO. He can be reached at 719-660-4473.