Grass-Fed Taste Test Shows South Poll Advantage

In a taste test of grass-fed beef, South Poll cattle came out on top

The following is a report regarding a grass-fed beef study.  The study began January 10, 2013 and ended February 3, 2014.  Four steers were selected for the study of similar age and body condition.  The weight of the steers ranged from 486 pounds to 570 pounds.   The four steers consisted of Black Angus, Wagyu x Black Angus cross, Devon x commercial cross and South Poll.   It should be noted the results were based off single animals taken from a relatively large population.  Therefore, the data obtained is not a true representation of the breed type, but merely values of that particular animal.

The primary goal of the study was to determine the meat quality characteristics (tenderness, juiciness, and flavor) of steers grazed on quality forage.  This information was obtained by conducting blind taste tests on March 22, 2014.  Score sheets were obtained from 24 adults.  These tasters included two Professional Barbeque Association judges, five PhDs from the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center (including one Brazilian and one Argentinean), University of Florida Extension Agent Emeritus, a NRCS Official, the President of Red Devon USA, the Triticale Business Manager for Syngenta Seeds, Inc, Union, KY, and a few cattlemen.  Results of the taste test follows later in this report.

The four steers in the study each came from different farms located in Washington County, Florida (Florida’s panhandle).  From birth to slaughter, none of the steers received any grain, growth hormones or antibiotics.  The steers were all delivered from their owners’ respective farms to the Washington County farm of Dr. Ron Harrell (cardiologist) on January 10, 2013.  While at Harrell’s farm, the four steers were kept together.  They were fed high quality forages and baleages such as oats, triticale, millet, cow peas, perennial peanut, clover and Bahia grass. During the last 60-70 days prior to harvest, the steers were grazed entirely on triticale.   

After harvest, carcasses were aged for 12 days, then cut and wrapped.  On March 22, 2014 two cuts of meat (brisket, ribeye) and ground beef from each of the four steers was seasoned with only salt and pepper.  The meat was cooked on a barbeque grill and smoker by a highly-rated professional barbeque pit master, Forrest Dilmore, Forrest’s Fine Foods, Cottondale, Florida and Alexander Harrell, Executive Chef, Sylvain, New Orleans, Louisiana.   Alexander is among the top-rated chefs in New Orleans. 

Tommy Estevez, Lab Technician, University of Florida Meat Processing Center, Gainesville, Florida participated in the meat processing and the quality and yield grade value determinations (see table below).

 

Breed

Entry

Weight

Finish

Weight

Daily

Gain

Hanging

Weight

Percent Yield

Quality

Grade

Yield

Grade

Wagyu-Angus

494

1140

2.24

702

62%

Choice

3.4

South Poll

486

1105

2.14

675

61%

Average Choice

3.8

Black Angus

491

1175

2.37

684

58%

High Select

4.2

Devon cross

570

1145

1.99

688

60%

Average Choice

3.9

 

TASTE TEST RESULTS

The score sheets provided to taste test participants were based on three categories - tenderness, juiciness, and flavor.  The hamburger and ribeye were prepared on a grill, just as a consumer would at home.  The brisket was smoked.   Each taster was served one portion of each type of meat, i.e. hamburger (HB), ribeye (RE), and brisket (BR) from each of the four steers (identified as steer  sample A, B, C and D).   The tasters were asked to rate each portion for tenderness, juiciness and flavor and to score each portion from 1 to 3 (3 being the highest score).  The tasters were not told which breed the samples they were eating represented.  The completed score sheets were collected at the end of the tasting.

The results for the 24 completed score sheets (totaled together) were as follows:

TASTE TEST SCORE

 

 

Breed

HB

Tende HB Tender

HB Juicy

HB Flavor

RE Tender

RE Juicy

RE Flavor

BR Tender

BR Juicy

BR Flavor

Total

A

Waygu x Black Angus

58

58

56

57

60

50

57

57

50

503

B

South Poll

59

62

57

62

64

61

61

57

54

537

C

Black Angus

49

41

53

38

38

48

59

58

54

438

D

Devon x commercial

60

57

59

60

51

61

64

59

64

535

 

Total

226

218

225

217

213

220

241

231

222

2013

 

The summary of total points showed the South Poll scored the highest (537) followed by the Devon (535), Wagyu-Angus cross (503) and Black Angus (438).  Also note, the South Poll scored highest overall of the four breeds for ribeye tenderness, juiciness and flavor.  No definite conclusions can be reached based on this very narrow study.  However, the data obtained is interesting and may be useful for future research ideas.   The most important finding verified that 100% grass-fed beef can be produced without smelling bad, tasting funky and being tough.

 It is worth noting the Pit Master said the quality and taste of the grass-fed beef presented at the tasting event far exceeded his expectations.  Prior to processing, he firmly believed the Wagyu would place first in every category followed in quality order by the Black Angus, South Poll, and Devon in that order.

Cliff White is the owner of Holiday Ranch located in the Florida Panhandle.  His South Poll business partner is Dr. Bruce Shanks (PhD), Sassafras Valley Ranch, Belle, MO.   Holiday Ranch breeds South Poll cattle, a new grass-genetics breed of cattle bred specifically to excel on grass only in a hot, humid environment and produce tender, quality grass-fed beef.

South Poll is a relatively new registered breed of grass genetics cattle consisting of ¼ Red Angus, ¼ Senepol, ¼ Herford and ¼ Barzona.  The South Poll breed was developed by Teddy Gentry, Fort Payne, AL

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