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Moloney, AP;Wilson, SS;Siphambili, S;Moran, L;O'Riordan, EG;O'Sullivan, MG;Kerry, JP;Monahan, FJ;McGee, M
The Colour, Composition and Eating Quality of Beef from Late- or Early-Maturing Suckler Bulls Finished at Pasture with or without Concentrate Supplementation
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Simple Summary Consumers of beef are increasingly interested in how it is produced. There is a perception that grass-based systems of production have enhanced animal welfare and are more environmentally friendly than conventional systems. This has resulted in the development of "grass-fed" labelled beef which captures a premium in the marketplace. Bulls have traditionally been considered unsuitable for grass-based production systems, but they have growth advantages when compared with steers. However, eating quality or palatability, is a major influence on the decision of the consumer to continue to purchase beef, as is the colour of beef in the display case. There is a view in the meat industry that bull carcasses must achieve a threshold level of fatness for beef to be acceptable to the consumer. This is a challenge if bulls are of late-maturing breed types, but early maturing breed types might be more suited to a grass-based production system. Both breed types were compared and whether supplementary concentrates are required to meet the industry fatness specification. The findings indicate that achieving this specification was not required to ensure acceptable eating quality and that either breed type can be used, without supplementation, to access the lucrative "grass-fed" beef market. Carcasses from pasture-finished early-maturing (EM), rather than late-maturing (LM), breed bulls may be more suited to meet the minimum carcass fatness classification of 2+ (6.0 on a 15-point scale) required for some markets. The comparative colour and eating quality of beef from grass-fed bulls of different maturities are unknown. Sixty yearling suckler-bred bulls were assigned to a 2 (maturities: EM and LM) x 2 (finishing strategies: grass only (G0) or grass + 4.0 kg concentrate daily (GC)) factorial design. Bulls were at pasture from 7 April, concentrates were introduced (or not) 97 days later, and bulls were slaughtered at 192 d post-turnout (approximately 19 mo of age). Carcass fat scores averaged 5.02, 6.20, 6.33 and 7.30 for LMG0, LMGC, EMG0 and EMGC bulls, respectively. Muscle colour did not differ between treatments. Muscle from LM had lower intramuscular fat concentration, collagen solubility and a tendency (p < 0.1) towards lower ratings for tenderness, texture, and acceptability of 14 d aged beef. Concentrate supplementation decreased the ratings for muscle tenderness but ratings for acceptability were not affected. Achieving the minimum carcass fatness was therefore not required to produce beef of acceptable eating quality and suckler bulls can access the "grass-fed" beef market.
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