The most influential palatability trait affecting consumer acceptance of beef is tenderness.

Researchers at Texas Tech University conducted a multi-city study to determine whether marinating meat in calcium chloride (CaCl2) at 72 hours postmortem improves consumer and trained sensory panel evaluations of beef loin steaks, Warner-Bratzler shear force (WBSF) values and the values of CaCl2 marinades to improve tenderness.

Boneless strip loins from eight, not electrically stimulated, USDA Standard-grade carcasses were used. The carcasses were halved, and alternating ends were marinated. The other side was left untouched as the control. The meat was aged for seven days.

Four trained research teams traveled on the same seven-day period to collect the consumer data. There were a minimum of 10 consumers/panel, three panels/store, three stores/city and four cities (Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago and Dallas). The consumers evaluating the steaks represented both genders and varied widely in income level and education. The steaks were evaluated for tenderness, beef flavor, juiciness and overall quality.

The consumers rated the marinated steaks higher than the controls in flavor (6.70 vs. 6.05), juiciness (5.98 vs. 5.45), tenderness (6.75 vs. 5.89) and overall quality (6.68 vs. 6.20). The sensory panel and WBSF results also ranked the marinated steaks higher than the controls.

Consumers can differentiate tenderness levels and are willing to pay $0.95/kg more for steaks marinated in CaCl2, adding $21.64 value to steaks from tough carcasses (Carr et al. 2004 J. Anim. Sci. 82:1471-1474).

Up to half of the Northern Plains' barley crop is used for malt.

After malting, a residual mixture is left, which has been shown to be palatable for beef cattle. The residue consists of thin and light barley, screenings and dried sprouts, which are mixed together, pelleted and sold as livestock feed.

With many other co-product feeds on the market, there is competition for market share. A study at North Dakota State University Carrington Research Center compares conventional barley malt feed with Dura-Sprout, a higher-protein variation using a higher proportion of dried sprouts.

In the study, 98 crossbred cows and their calves were divided by birth date into six pens, with three pens/treatment. The two treatments were the variations of pelleted malt feed. The pelleted feeds were offered as creep feeds for 56 days prior to weaning.

Researchers found dry matter intake was similar for both the conventional barley malt and Dura-Sprout. Daily gains and feed efficiency were also similar.

Current knowledge that no more than 16% crude protein is needed in creep feed held true, as the extra protein provided by Dura-Sprout apparently didn't contribute to increased performance. However, filling the creep feeder with only one ingredient is attractive to cattlemen.

Researchers concluded that offering co-products like barley-malt sprouts as creep feed should improve cattle performance over no creep feed. However, it may not provide the maximum gain that could be reached by supplementing with other ingredients. Feed costs, though, should be attractive with only a single ingredient creep feed.

Vern Anderson, Carrington Research Extension Center Beef Report 2004, pages 47-48.

California State University (CSU)-Chico researchers may have offered commercial cow-calf operators a glimpse of coming opportunity via already-available DNA technology.

Dave Daley, CSU-Chico professor of animal science, just completed a three-year project aimed at demonstrating how commercial producers can economically and effectively use DNA fingerprinting as a tool to improve selection for economically relevant traits. The study included electronically identifying and annually matching more than 4,000 steers and heifers resulting from multi-sire pastures to their sires, complete with feedlot and carcass information.

“We expected differences in sires, but considering the high quality of the bulls and how well they'd been selected, I was surprised by the range,” Daley says.

Producer participants in the project discovered sweeping differences in feedlot morbidity of calves based on sire and/or sire line, along with related performance.

Pick out only calves sired by five different bulls in one year, and there's an average difference of $89.32/progeny between calves sired by the highest value bull and the lowest. And, that's just looking at carcass premiums and discounts.

Fingerprinting the steers and sires would, in effect, provide a snapshot of the heifers, too.

For more on this issue, see “Who's Your Daddy?” on page 35 of this issue.