During a recent meeting in Denver, researchers and other beef industry professionals identified education about the implications and benefits of muscle profiling research as an “overarching need” for the beef industry. The researchers met to help determine next steps for the award-winning beef checkoff-funded program.

Muscle profiling research was behind successful development of value cuts such as the flat iron steak and the petite (shoulder) tender, both derived from the chuck. These items have been part of an industry drive to enhance the value of the chuck and round, thereby increasing the value of the entire beef carcass and, thus, producers’ opportunities for profit.    

The muscle profiling research and product development programs were conducted on behalf of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and state beef councils by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). NCBA serves as one of the Beef Board’s contractors for checkoff-funded programs.

Increased checkoff funding and beef industry focus on new product development – especially on cuts from the underutilized chuck and round – began in 1998. According to Cattle-Fax, the value of the beef carcass from fed animals has increased about $15 per hundredweight since then, with the increase of the value of the chuck alone worth about $6/hundredweight. This means producers receive about $50 to $70 more per head as a result of the increase in chuck value.

More than 5,500 muscles from the chuck and round were analyzed during the initial muscle profiling research. Researchers discovered that several muscles traditionally used for ground beef or roasts had potential to be used for higher value products. It was the most extensive study ever of beef muscles.

Findings from the research helped change industry thinking about how best to cut and use the muscles. Comprehensive information on the muscles, as well as training to help industry turn the research into new products, has been conducted since the research was completed.

In June, the checkoff-funded research team was awarded the 2004 International Meat Secretariat (IMS) Prize for Meat Science and Technology for beef muscle profiling research. The prize recognized the international significance of the research by the team’s four primary scientists.

Each of the team’s scientists – Chris Calkins, Ph.D., University of Nebraska; Steven Jones, Ph.D., University of Nebraska; D. Dwain Johnson, Ph.D., University of Florida; and Bucky Gwartney, Ph.D., NCBA – attended the Sept. 10 meeting in Denver to discuss the program’s future. They were joined by a dozen other industry leaders and researchers from around the country.

Among the priorities addressed by the group at the meeting were:

  • Developing nomenclature (common names) for identified muscles and cuts;
  • Creating economic balance by adding value to those products left after value cuts have been fabricated;
  • Establishing specifications for new cuts and no-roll products based on the original muscle profiling data set;
  • Addressing flavor issues from certain muscles; and
  • Enhancing the value of the bovine myology Web site that delivers the muscle profiling information to the industry

 “While the research we’ve conducted has produced a wealth of information on beef, there are many ways muscle profiling research can further benefit the industry,” according to Gwartney. “This potential has not fully been explored.  By putting together a three- to five-year plan, we can better capture all of the potential from this research, as well as come up with ways to better utilize the findings to produce desirable, marketable cuts to consumers.”