Related topics

Subscribe to MLA's e-newsletters

Stay informed with the latest red meat and livestock industry news, events, research and marketing.

Sign up
Back to News & Events

Record-breaking year for MSA program

09 October 2020

A record-breaking 3.8 million cattle were graded through Australia’s globally-recognised eating quality grading program, Meat Standards Australia (MSA) in 2019-20, representing 46% of the national adult cattle slaughter and an increase of 3% points on the previous year.

It’s the highest number of cattle graded in a year since MSA’s inception in 1998, according to the 2019-20 MSA Annual Outcomes Report, now available to download here.

By volume, Queensland continued to process the greatest number of MSA graded cattle with 1.8 million head, while South Australia had the greatest MSA proportion of the state slaughter with 90% MSA graded. Victoria showed the greatest growth with an increase of 17% of cattle being MSA graded.

In 2019-20, 4.3 million sheep followed MSA pathways, representing 22% of the national lamb slaughter and a 2.5% point increase from 2018-19. A total of 64% of these lambs went into MSA trademarked brands.

By volume, South Australia processed the greatest number of MSA lambs at 1.7 million head and had the greatest proportion of the state lamb slaughter following MSA pathways at 78%.

MSA Program Manager David Packer, said the latest MSA Annual Outcomes Report demonstrated the value MSA continued to deliver to producers and Australia’s red meat industry.

“MSA delivered an estimated $172 million in additional farm gate returns to MSA beef producers in 2019-20,” Mr Packer said

“In 2019-20, the average price differential for young non-feedlot MSA cattle was 27 cents per kilogram hot standard carcase weight, compared to the same non-MSA graded cattle according to over the hook NLRS reports.

“Based on the average carcase weight of 279kg of MSA cattle in 2019-20, MSA beef producers potentially received an estimated $75 per head in additional returns for young, non-grainfed cattle and $35 per head for cattle that met grainfed specifications.

“Non-feedlot cattle represented 38% of MSA graded cattle, and feedlot cattle represented 62% of MSA graded cattle.”

Mr Packer said the commitment of producers to education and adopting on-farm practices to achieve outstanding eating quality in their livestock saw the national average compliance to MSA minimum requirements for beef lift to 94.4%, up from 93.8% in 2018-19.

“This commitment is also reflected in the national MSA Index, which increased to a record 58.03, an increase of 0.55 Index points on the previous year. This increase in eating quality is commendable given the challenging climatic conditions experienced around Australia over the past 12 months,” Mr Packer said.

“The MSA Index is a single number and standard national measure of the predicted eating quality of a carcase. It provides meaningful producer feedback to benchmark performance and reflects the on-farm impacts on eating quality.

“The benefits of the MSA program continued to attract producers, with 2,900 beef and sheepmeat producers becoming MSA registered in 2019-20.”

Mr Packer said the Eating Quality Graded (EQG) cipher, released in 2017 to provide brand owners with an opportunity to market product according to consumer eating quality outcomes as an alternative to dentition-based ciphers, has continued to have strong adoption.

“As of June 2020, brand owners and processors that represent 50% of MSA graded beef have adopted the EQG cipher within their business for both domestic and international markets,” Mr Packer said.

“There are now 197 MSA licensed beef and sheepmeat brands exclusively committed to underpinning their stories with consistent eating quality using the world’s leading grading system.

“In export markets, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) again approved MSA as a Process Verified Program (PVP). More brand owners took the opportunity to utilise the USDA PVP shield on MSA products in the United States, taking the total to three supply chains.”

Download the full report here.

For more information about MSA, visit