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Meat Standards Australia: Mixing and Stress Trial

Did you know that providing cattle with a two-week rest period after transport can increase the eating quality of potential beef cuts and reduce dark cutting?

Project start date: 01 April 2016
Project end date: 31 July 2017
Publication date: 30 September 2019
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
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Several factors make it difficult to quantify and improve the effects on the eating quality of beef, such as the need for large cattle numbers, complex transport pathways and related costs to accurately confirm stress.

This project tested numerous stressors and measures to identify and quantify pre-slaughter animal stress and the relationship between these measures and consumer-rated eating quality.

Several technologies with potential to measure individual animal stress were identified and used in the project. Sufficient data was generated to validate various combinations of transport protocols and pathways that underpin high quality beef.


This project aimed to simultaneously answer questions about the presumed relationship between stress and eating quality, while also addressing industry demand for all cattle, regardless of their transport pathway, to be eligible for MSA grading. For example, whether they are processed through non-licensed saleyards, travel long distances by road or transported by ship.

Key findings

  • Separating cattle by gender during transport reduced stress and created higher Meat Standard Australia (MSA) compliance rates.
  • To be effective, transport recovery periods for long distance trips require active management in response to prevalent weather conditions.
  • On farm measures, even three weeks prior to shipment, may assist in identifying cattle more likely to be at risk of MSA non-compliance or reduced eating quality.

Benefits to industry

Identification and reduction of stress measures for cattle that are transported prior to slaughter will improve animal health and welfare and increase the eating quality of beef, resulting in a higher return on investment for producers.

Future research

Further work is required to:

  • bring potential objective measures of stress to an acceptable commercial level to enable more accurate eating quality estimates
  • improve an effective means of identifying an individual animal’s reaction to stress.


More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: Polkinghornes Pty Ltd