Researchers continue to evaluate the effectiveness of commercial online video image analysis systems to predict meat tenderness. Previous studies indicated that objective measurements of muscle color were related strongly enough to beef tenderness that carcasses could be sorted for tenderness according to color measurements.

Pilot research at Colorado State University (CSU) with computerized video image system prototypes reduced, but did not eliminate carcasses that generated steaks that were tough or unacceptable in overall palatability. The researchers reported that with further development video image analysis might ultimately be useful for sorting carcasses in branded beef programs that make claims or assurances of tenderness.

Recently CSU meats scientists reported that Computer Vision System (CVS) equipment and a BeefCam module was used to obtain online tenderness measurements at packing plant at chain speeds.

Longissimus muscle (LM) samples from the rib or strip loin were obtained from each carcass and Warner-Bratzler shear force (WBSF) was measured after 14 days of aging. The CVS BeefCam output variable for LM area, adjusted for carcass weight, was correlated with WBSF values in all experiments. The CVS BeefCam lean color measurements were effective in all experiments for segregating carcasses into groups that produced LM steaks differing in WBSF values.

Therefore, the researchers report that online measurements of beef carcasses using CVS-BeefCam were useful for predicting the tenderness of beef steaks. They says sorting carcasses at chain speeds using this equipment could aid in producing groups of beef carcasses with more uniform tenderness.

(J. of Anim. Sci., Feb. 2003. 81:457-465 and 81:441-448.)

Lifetime implant protocols can affect both the eating quality and tenderness of beef. Colorado State University meats and animal scientists investigated repetitive use of anabolic implants on beef carcass quality, tenderness and consumer ratings for palatability using crossbred steer calves. Cattle were implanted at some or all of five phases of production (branding, weaning, backgrounding, feedlot entry or reimplant time).

The researchers found:

  • Implanting steers at branding, weaning or backgrounding vs. not implanting steers at these production stages did not affect marbling scores.

  • Steers implanted twice during their lifetime produced carcasses with higher marbling scores than did steers receiving a total of four or five implants

  • Steaks obtained from carcasses in the control group had lower shear force values and were rated by consumers as more desirable for tenderness than steaks obtained from carcasses in all other treatment groups.

  • Implanting steers at branding or weaning production stages did not affect steak shear force values, consumer ratings for like/dislike of steak tenderness, or percentage of consumers rating overall eating quality of steaks as satisfactory.

  • Implanting steers at backgrounding vs. not implanting steers at this production stage increased steak shear force values, but did not influence consumer ratings for like/dislike of steak tenderness or percentage of consumers rating overall eating quality of steaks as satisfactory.

  • Steaks from nonimplanted steers were rated as more desirable for overall eating quality than steaks from steers implanted two, three, four or five times.

  • Use of implants increased average daily gain by 11.8 to 20.5% from weaning to harvest compared with nonimplanted controls.

  • Implant strategies increased hot carcass weight of steers by 8.9 to 13.8% compared with the control group.

  • Use of implants also increased longissimus muscle area and decreased estimated percentages of kidney/pelvic/heart fat, but did not affect dressing percentage or adjusted fat thickness.

The authors say this study emphasizes the importance of choosing implant programs based on specific marketing targets for cattle. Producers retaining ownership of steer calves destined for marketing on a “quality-oriented,” value-based grid, may choose not to implant cattle until backgrounding or feedlot entry in order to minimize the risk of detrimental effects on beef quality associated with “aggressive” lifetime implant strategies.

The effects of lifetime implant protocols on beef acceptability may be of particular interest to vertically coordinated branded beef programs interested in maximizing quality, consistency, and tenderness of their beef products. J. Anim. Sci. April 2003. 81:984-996