Sensory and nutritional quality of organically produced beef meat
Katarina Arvidsson Segerkvist. From Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, to Aarhus University, Denmark.
In 2008 the Swedish government presented a new vision: Sweden wants to become Europe's new culinary nation with high standards for food safety and quality for the benefit of consumers. The demand for Swedish quality meat is great, and an increasing share of the Swedish beef is produced with an added value concept for consumers instead of being bulk. We predict that there will be an increased demand for knowledge about meat quality, both on product quality, such as tenderness and quality of output, such as animal welfare. However, the variation in quality of Swedish beef is a big problem since the consumer cannot be guaranteed an equable. Today, the market offers a wide selection of beef and the imported beef has often an even eating quality, according to the consumer, while the eating quality of Swedish meat can vary to a larger extent. If Swedish meat shall be able to compete with the imported beef it is important to achieve a high and even quality of the Swedish beef. Further, the public often associates ruminant derived products with coronary heart disease, since a high share of the fatty acids (FA) in meat is saturated. Even though the role of saturated FAs in different conditions has been questioned, it would be desirable to improve the FA profile of meat. Fat within the muscle is called marbling, which has proven to be of great importance to the meat sensory characteristics. The aim of this project is to study factors, such as feeding strategy, feeding intensity and production systems, that effect sensory and nutritional beef meat quality. We will use data from several, currently running projects. In this way we can get a large amount of samples from animals under different feeding strategies and production systems.
Project Summary Results
The aim of this project was to study factors, such as feeding strategy, feeding Intensity and production systems, that effect beef meat quality. In order to reverse the current trend of lower profitability, with a diminishing number of cattle and reduced meat production as a result, it is important that we succeed in strengthening the Swedish beef production. One way is to ensure the quality of the product, a higher and more predictable and consistent quality of Swedish beef would lead to consumers increasingly choose Swedish beef. Grazing animals also helps to increase the recreational value of the land by keeping the landscape open and maintain or enhance biodiversity as well as contribute to a positive animal welfare.
During 2008 the Swedish government presented a new vision and Sweden wants to become Europe's new culinary nation with high Standards for food safety and quality for the benefit of consumers. In line with the Vision it is important that the beef produced in Sweden meets the consumer demand.
Nearly two-thirds of the Swedish beef production is based on dairy cattle. The remaining third comes from beef cattle or dairy x beef crossbred calves. In 2016, the total beef consumption in Sweden was 255,000 tons, while the Swedish production was around 131,000 tons. This corresponds to a domestic market share of just above 50%. The demand for Swedish quality meat is high and an increasing share of the Swedish beef is produced with an added value concept for consumers instead of being bulk. At the same time, age at slaughter of the dairy breed bulls have increased (average is 18-19 months) in Order to produce heavier carcasses and increase the domestic market share. But this change has negative consequences on the eating quality of the beef due to a higher connective tissue contribution to meat tenderness in these older bulls. Therefore, it is of outmost importance that we know how feeding level, feed sources and production Systems affects beef quality aspects. Meat quality is a diffuse word with different meaning depending on who you ask but meat tenderness, marbling, juiciness, and colour stability are important beef quality characteristics.
Today, the market offers a wide selection of not-well-defined beef. Swedish beef competes with imported beef on supermarket shelves and the imported beef often has a more even eating quality according to the consumer, while the eating quality of Swedish beef can vary to a larger extent. The Variation in quality of Swedish beef is a big problem since the consumer cannot be guaranteed a predictable quality. If the Swedish meat shall be able to compete with the imported beef it is important the whole beef industry, from the cattle rearing to handling the meat after slaughter, takes responsibility to achieve high quality of Swedish meat, i.e. to achieve a high and defined quality of the Swedish beef.
Beef production is suitable for organic production. In Sweden, 19% of slaughtered cattle were reared according to organic rules in 2011. However, rearing young bulls of beef breeds for slaughter is a larger challenge than rearing heifers and steers. Production of organic beef from young bulls is not very common, neither in Sweden nor Denmark. Instead of being used for organic beef production, the bulls are sold and reared as conventional bulls. However, this practice does not fulfill the organic principles on sustainability and wholesomeness. Production of organic beef requires among other things that the animals should be outdoor for an extended period of time and with large quantities (70% or more for cattle from 6 month of age) of roughage in the diet. These rules are two of the major constraints for the development of the organic beef from young bulls as the pure-bred dairy breeds do not perform very well on diets rich in pasture and roughage and classify rather poor on the EUROP conformation scale. Introduction of beef breed semen in the dairy herd could contribute to a better growth rate and higher carcass weight, i.e., higher muscularity of the crossbred animals, and to a better feed conversion ratio, which in terms would improve overall production efficiency. Furthermore, keeping the bulls as entire males is a way to utilize the full growth potential and also to address the welfare advantage obtained without castration. Animals on pasture should get at least 50% of their daily feed intake (on dry matter basis) from pasture. However, for young bulls pasture should contribute with at least 50% of the roughage during the grazing period. It is therefore critical that pasture is of high quality to assure a high growth rate of the animals.
Outcomes of this study
In this project we have used samples and data from experiments, mainly at Research Centre Foulum, Aarhus University (AU), but also at Götala Beef and Lamb Research Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Skara, to evaluate different feeding strategies and production systems on different meat quality aspects. The aims of the included experiments were to study the performance of purebred dairy bulls in organic production, both on pasture and during winter with large proportions of forage in the diet. There has also been a comparison of the Performance of crossbred (dairy x beef breed) animals with pure-bred ones on pasture.
In the present study we have seen that there are no drawbacks in finishing young bull calves on purely grass or forage based feed in comparison with concentrate when it comes to meat and eating quality. The meat has similar colour and sensory profile, in some cases the meat from grazing bulls are ever more tender than from conventionally raised bulls mainly fed concentrates. In addition, the meat from animals mainly fed on a grass based diet had a more favourable fatty acid composition compared to bull fed mainly concentrates. Further, the meat can be manipulated in an even more positive way by inclusion of herbs in the green feed as this increase the content of Vitamins, the essential fatty acids linoleic and D-Iinolenic acid, as well as an improved ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. However, purebred dairy breeds can show a low Performance in organic production Systems. One solution could be production of organic beef from young cattle based on crossbred animals from dairy cows sired with a beef breed. The beef breed is expected to contribute with a better growth rate and higher carcass weight, i.e., higher muscularity, of the crossbred animals which in terms will improve Overall production efficiency. When comparing pure bred Holstein bulls with crossbred Holstein x Limousin bulls and heifers, the crossbred bulls showed a higher daily weight gain and EUROP conformation than purebred Holstein bulls but no differences in fatness were found. A sensory evaluation showed more intense aroma and taste characteristics the meat from the Holstein bulls compared with the crossbred animals, whereas the meat from the crossbreds were more tender than meat from the purebred bulls.
From this study we can conclude that finishing purebred Holstein bulls on mainly grass and forage is fully possible, and can even be favourable compared to a concentrate based diet when it comes to meat and eating quality. We can also conclude that crossbred Limousine X Holstein bulls and heifers may be an alternative to purebred Holstein bulls in organic beef production of young cattle because of the improved gain and carcass conformation, aroma and taste, but the fatness and texture of the crossbred bulls need to be improved. This could be done through changes in the production strategy, especially feeding prior to slaughter, and in the pre and post mortem handling.