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Beef carcass weights are continuing to increase, as shown by the last National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) (Boykin et al., 2017). Subsequently, increased ribeye sizes resulting from increased carcass weights are becoming difficult to adequately portion steaks for the food service industry. Crossbred calves from dairy cows bred to beef bull semen could be one solution to help remedy this difficulty. These calves, commonly referred to as “beef × dairy,” could combine the strengths of both dairy and traditional beef cattle to provide an ideal alternative for food service operators.
As dairy producers continue to utilize advanced reproduction technologies to produce beef × dairy calves, it is necessary to investigate the role of these animals in the beef supply and what potential benefits they may possess. In the 2016 NBQA, dairy carcasses had an almost 13 square centimeter smaller ribeye area than beef carcasses (Boykin et al., 2017), which may be of benefit if smaller-sized ribeyes would produce steaks more appropriately portion for the foodservice sector (Boykin et al., 2017). Meanwhile, previous research studies have shown that dairy carcasses can have similar quality characteristics and eating acceptability as beef carcasses (Ramsey et al., 1963; Corbin et al., 2015). Even so, dairy carcasses possess muscle composition and dressing percentage disadvantages compared to beef carcasses. European researchers have shown that the inferior muscle composition of dairy carcasses is improved when crossed with beef cattle breeds (Huuskonen et al., 2013). Beef × dairy cattle may serve as the proper alternative for smaller cut sizes suitable for food service steaks without the negative implications of purebred dairy carcasses.
The objectives of this study were to investigate the consumer acceptability and tenderness of beef x dairy steaks, as well as the steak yield and dimensions from the ribeye, top butt, tenderloin, and strip loin compared to native beef cattle.
30 USDA Choice steers from a lot of beef × dairy cattle and 30 USDA Choice steers from a lot of native cattle raised in similar conditions were identified for the study in the processing facility. Carcasses (n = 60) were graded by a camera and ribeye areas, preliminary yield grades, KPH percentages, marbling scores, as well as carcass weights were recorded. Carcasses were fabricated and each of the ribeyes (n = 56), bone-in strip loins (n = 46), tenderloins (n = 60), and top sirloin butts (n = 41) were collected (Some subprimals were lost during the in-plant fabrication process). Vacuum-packaged subprimals were transported to a collaborating meat wholesaler and cut into steaks. Carcass-to-subprimal yields, subprimal-to-steak yields, weight of subprimal pre-trim, total steak number, steak trimmings, and steak dimensions were collected for each subprimal type. One steak from each subprimal was reserved for Warner-Bratzler shear (WBS) force objective tenderness measurements.
One steak from each ribeye and strip loin and two steaks from each tenderloin and top butt were used for consumer sensory analysis. These steaks were vacuum-packaged, boxed, and transported to the Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center at Texas A&M University and stored at 2-4˚C until utilized for sensory and tenderness evaluations. Non-stick, grated electric grills were used to cook each steak before to sensory analysis and tenderness measurements. Samples (n = 203) were analyzed by consumers (n = 118) over the course of six-panel sessions. Panelists rated the tenderness, flavor, juiciness, and overall like/dislike of each sample on 9-point scale. After cooking, the steaks utilized for WBS measurements were stored at 2-4 ˚C for 12-18 hours. Two hours before to WBS measurements, steaks were set out at room temperature. Visible connective tissue was trimmed from each steak and 1.3 cm cores were taken parallel to the muscle fibers. Cores were sheared perpendicular to the muscle fiber with at least four cores analyzed per sample (n = 203).
Carcass grade data did not differ between the native and beef × dairy groups. Beef × dairy had slightly lower preliminary yield grades. Carcass-to-subprimal yields, trimmings, and subprimal-to-steak yields did not differ between the two treatment groups in ribeye, strip loin, and top sirloin butt subprimals. Tenderloin carcass-to-subrimal yields, steak trimmings, and subprimal-to-steak yields did not differ between beef × dairy and native carcasses. However, beef × dairy tenderloins had less lean and fat pre-trim weight than native tenderloins. Total steak number per subprimal did not differ between beef × dairy and native treatments in strip loins, ribeyes, or top sirloin butts. Beef × dairy tenderloins produced 1.6 fewer steaks than native tenderloins. Nonetheless, steak height, diameter, weight did not differ between beef × dairy and native tenderloins. After consumer sensory analysis, there were no differences between beef × dairy and traditional beef in flavor, tenderness, juiciness, or overall consumer like/dislike. Similarly, there were no differences in objective tenderness measurements between the two treatments.
Based on the results reported by this study, beef × dairy could provide increased consistency in the U.S. beef supply, but are not necessarily ideal as smaller alternatives for steaks in the foodservice industry. There were no differences across subprimal types between beef × dairy and native cattle in ribeye size, subprimal yields, and steak yields, and beef × dairy steaks did not have consumer acceptability or tenderness disadvantages when compared to traditional beef. This indicates that these cattle provide the dairy industry with increased economic profit while showing no quality detriment to the beef industry. Beef × dairy may have shorter tenderloins; however, additional research is necessary in order to confirm these findings.