University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher and professor, Rick Rasby, Ph.D., has compiled a list of factors that play a key role in beef flavor. Producers should take some of these management tips into consideration to capture optimal beef prices.

• Production/management factors that influence beef flavor do so primarily via effect on amount and composition of fat.

• Beef flavor desirability increases as intramuscular fat (marbling) increases. Marbling scores of Modest or greater provide the greatest assurance of desirable beef flavor characteristics.

• If the goal is to consistently produce beef with exemplary flavor, then management practices that have been shown to reduce marbling deposition (e.g., ineffective animal health programs, delayed castration of male calves, restriction of dietary energy during the growing period, and aggressive use of growth enhancement technologies) should be avoided. In addition, selecting cattle for increased levels of marbling would, over time, result in favorable effects on beef flavor.

• Grain feeding improves beef flavor. In general, grain-finishing periods of approximately 100 days or longer are effective for developing the desirable beef characteristics commonly associated with grain-fed beef. Moreover, corn-based diets seem to produce beef flavor characteristics preferred by most U.S. consumers.

• Pre-harvest stress, resulting in dark cutting beef, has a negative effect on beef flavor. Therefore, adoption of cattle handling practices that minimize pre-slaughter stress is important for assurance of a pleasurable eating experience.

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