Meat & Livestock News

Exploring Dairy Cattle’s Meat Quality with MSA

TL;DR: MSA research confirms dairy breeds can match beef in meat quality with proper feeding strategies, suggesting new value opportunities for dairy calves and exploring innovative cooking protocols for enhanced eating quality.

MSA is diving deep into research to ensure both cattle and sheep meat meet MSA grading standards. In the past year, this has included studying how rail transport affects beef quality, examining cattle and sheep’s journey through sale yards, and testing different feeding strategies. Two notable studies completed were:

  • The Wagyu Study: This explored whether Wagyu beef offers extra quality beyond what MSA already predicts. For more details, see the full Wagyu Report.
  • The Dairy Beef Study: This focused on checking if the MSA model can accurately predict the meat quality of dairy breeds.

The goal was to see if dairy breeds match up in quality to beef breeds under the same conditions, whether grain-fed or not.

Findings indicated that dairy breeds, at the same carcass weight, showed similar marbling and bone development but had less fat and a smaller muscle area compared to beef breeds. When dairy steers were finished in feedlots or on enhanced pasture, their meat quality was on par with beef breeds. Best results for dairy breeds came from a diet rich in carbohydrates started from weaning, aiming for a 1.5kg/day growth and achieving 300kg carcases by 14 months.

This trial confirmed that the current MSA model can predict the eating quality for all tested groups, including Holstein, Jersey, and their crosses with beef breeds. There’s a push to create a veal pathway for MSA, but dairy veal calves didn’t meet MSA’s current fat and pH criteria, hinting at the need for new standards and chilling methods for a viable MSA veal category.

Innovations in feeding and growth strategies showed dairy cattle could match beef breeds in meat quality and exceed the value of traditional dairy end products.

These findings open up new avenues for dairy calves, especially males from pure dairy breeds, presenting an opportunity to increase their value.

The study also explored new MSA cooking methods for schnitzel and tested consumer responses to the newly developed Texas BBQ protocol, finding it superior to traditional grilling and slow cooking in terms of meat quality.