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Grain Fed Finished take-up underway

10 December 2018

Lot feeders are gearing up to produce their industry’s newest product – Grain Fed Finished (GFF) beef.

As the independent body responsible for auditing National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS) accredited feedlots, AUS-MEAT has been a pivotal player in the new standard’s roll-out.

The GFF Standard was launched on 1 September this year and by the third week of October, AUS-MEAT CEO Ian King said “an encouraging number of lot feeders” had placed orders for the updated version of the paperwork which will, in time, allow them to consign GFF-eligible cattle.

“AUS-MEAT isn’t aware whether any animals have been processed as GFF at this stage. However, we have supplied revised NFAS delivery documentation, as the essential declaration, to approximately 30 feedlots to date,” Mr King said on 22 October.

                    MSA Program Manager Sarah Strachan

That figure represents just under 8% of the scheme’s approximately 400 members.

The new standard

Under the GFF standard, any livestock presented for slaughter must have been fed for the minimum prescribed days on feed – that is, 35 days, with no fewer than 28 days of that on a nutritionally-balanced ration of a recognised high-energy feed of which grain is the highest single component.

“Rations must have an average metabolisable energy content greater than 10 megajoules per kilogram of dry matter,” Mr King said.

“The driver for the standard’s development – as with all industry standards – was industry itself. While the idea was not new, the development of an additional short fed standard was formally proposed as part of the NFAS review in 2014–15.

“It was part of the review recommendations and was adopted into the AUS-MEAT Minimum Standards for Grain Fed Beef by the Australian Meat Industry Language & Standards Committee (AMILSC) this year, coming into effect on 1 September.”

Mr King said AUS-MEAT itself was not involved in the development of the standard to the point of adoption by AMILSC.

Once industry had agreed through the committee to introduce GFF however, AUS-MEAT’s role was associated with updating the NFAS Standards and associated delivery documentation and advising participants of the changes.

“In addition, AUS-MEAT has the responsibility of ensuring audit documentation and auditors are kept abreast of the changes,” he said.

“From an accredited establishment perspective, each site was already required to have systems in place within their documented quality systems with respect to identification, traceability and ensuring that raising claims are supported on product labels.

In this regard this additional GFF cipher [or category] is already addressed by existing processes.

“Details of the new GFF Standard were communicated to all accredited feedlots via an Advice Notice at the time of its adoption into the AUS-MEAT language.”

Mr King said NFAS feedlot audits carried out by AUS-MEAT since the introduction of the GFF Standard had not identified any compliance issues – which was as expected, given the maturity of the NFAS and the fact this GFF Standard was simply a variation of existing longstanding requirements.

GFF is the third and most recently launched product in a beef range based on grain-finishing developed by the feedlot industry.

It complements two premium, traditional long fed offerings: Grain Fed beef (or GF, in which cattle receive a predominantly grain ration in a feedlot for a minimum of 100 days) and Grain Fed Young beef (GFYG, in which cattle with no more than two permanent incisor teeth are kept on feed for at least 70/60 days for males/females).

Making the grade with MSA

While GF and GFYG use AUS-MEAT Chiller Assessment requirements to determine carcase quality, GFF-eligible carcases must grade MSA under the Australian red meat industry’s Meat Standards Australia (MSA) eating quality program.

Established in 1998 under the auspices of MLA, the MSA program uses certified graders in processing facilities to collect carcase measurements that predict the eating quality of cuts from graded product.

This allows processors or brand owners to identify, segregate and deliver consistency in eating quality for consumers.

Feedback from almost 800,000 taste tests completed by more than 114,000 consumers in 11 countries was taken into account in developing the MSA grading system, and today the MSA symbol is respected both within Australia and in international markets as an indicator of tender, tasty, juicy red meat.

MSA Program Manager Sarah Strachan said in 2017–18, 43% of all MSA graded cattle, or 1.34 million head, were identified in MSA grading data as having been grainfed.

“Of all MSA carcases graded in 2017–18, 6% were recorded as being short fed – that is, between 35 and 60 days on feed,” Ms Strachan said.

“These may have met the requirements of the GFF Standard had it existed then, and today those cattle – more than 193,000 head – would be considered eligible for GFF.

“In that period MSA grain-fed cattle had a compliance rate of 98.2% and for those non-grainfed-accredited animals identified as having had 35 to 60 days on feed – that 6% – the compliance rate was 99.3%.”

She said female cattle had a predisposition to deposit fat earlier than males but lot feeders could expect to see individual variation around this.

Ms Strachan said MSA had always recommended producers have cattle “on a rising plane of nutrition for at least 30 days prior to dispatch”.

“This has been based on ensuring cattle have adequate supplies of glycogen – blood sugar – in their muscles to prevent dark cutting.

“Cattle need to be gaining more than 0.8 kilograms per day to absolutely ensure muscle glycogen concentration is maximised, and lot feeding can help achieve this.

“Glycogen is in essence the energy reserve of the muscle.

“The muscle glycogen level is increased by feeding – a process that takes days – and rapidly reduced by stress – which may take only minutes – or activity in the live animal.

“At the point of slaughter the glycogen is converted to lactic acid that steadily decreases the pH of the muscle.

“When developing GFF, ALFA took this 30-day recommendation from MSA into consideration, as well as the need to make allowance for cattle to become accustomed to the feedlot.”

She said while time on feed as a measurement itself did not influence eating quality scores directly, attributes such as increased marbling as a result of feeding did have a positive influence.

Likewise, fat colour – which could often be a company specification – was lightened by lot feeding, as this diluted the yellowing effect of beta-carotene (a natural red-orange pigment) derived from grass in a pasture-based diet, Ms Strachan said.

More information:

For more information about the new GFF standard or how to implement it, contact:

P: (02) 9290 3700

A detailed fact sheet is also available on the ALFA website at