Meat Scientists Give Inside Look at Packing Industry and Labeling

by Sherry Bunting
Campbell5919At Cattle Feeders Day, Dr. Ty Lawrence talked candidly about what affects value beyond the feedlot. He worked in the packing industry before coming to West Texas A&M University to head up the Beef Carcass Research Center, which collaborates with other universities and the industry to improve the quality and yield of red meat. Penn State meat scientist Dr. Jonathan Campbell talked about understanding labeling.

Here are some highlights:

Shrink up?
Lawrence said his weight studies show the typical 3 to 5% estimated shrink in most cattle buying equations is actually low. “The reality is two or three times that,” he said. In his travels to both U.S. and Canadian feedlots, he found mud on the hide can weigh as much as 100 to 200 pounds!

Gettin’ heavy
Lawrence: “Carcasses are steadily getting heavier: 900 to 1000 pounds could fast become average.” Heavyweight discounts are smaller, and the threshold is moving up. Heavier carcasses dilute the costs of running a plant — particularly the significant labor costs. Fewer cattle and larger carcasses are the trend. While cattle numbers are tight, lighterweight carcasses see more discount pressure.

What if they could all be Prime YG 1’s?
At the West Texas A&M Beef Carcass Research Center, Lawrence is involved in a cattle cloning project. He noted how rare it is to see a Prime YG 1 (0.03%), and he began to look at cloning one “to see if this phenomenon can be repeated and if we can capture the genetics to improve the beef industry.” Stay tuned.