The U.S. beef industry scored wins over the past five years in three areas: improved microbiological safety; improved cattle genetics and beef of higher quality, and fewer injection-site lesions. That's the result of National Beef Audit 2005, the initial results of which were released this week at the mid-year cattle conference in Reno, NV. The rankings are derived from interviews with beef end-users, including exporters, purveyors, foodservice and retail channels.

Of note to producers, as more foreign markets reopen to U.S. beef, "source and age verification" and "more marbling" were the most cited responses from beef exporters to the question, "What one quality attribute could U.S. cattlemen change to make it easier for you to export beef products?"

Meanwhile, "lack of uniformity/consistency in quality" was ranked by end-users as the No.1 defect in U.S. beef. That lack was further defined by four factors: (presence) of marbling; tenderness; palatability; and inconsistency among and within quality grades.

Other defects identified included oversized cuts for the foodservice/restaurant trade; excess fat; abscesses/lesions in cuts, trimmings and variety meats; blood splashed muscle; pathogens and food safety; dark cutting muscle/lack of uniformity in size/shape/weight; blood clots in cuts and trimmings; bruises; and lack of traceability to meet export requirements.

The audit was conducted by researchers and scientists from Colorado State University, Texas A&M University, Oklahoma State University and West Texas A&M University. It was conducted between July 2005 and June 2006, with the work including interviews with beef and beef product export decision-makers, and with purveyors, restaurants, foodservice operators and supermarket officials.
-- Joe Roybal