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MSA Grading Beef

Meat Standards Australia is the world’s leading eating quality program for beef. Commercially launched in 1999 MSA has become widely adopted in Australia and recognised internationally. But what does MSA mean in relation to what our Aussie producers are doing on farm? Through of years of research and development it’s been found that stress-free cattle produce the best meat. As result, MSA grading requires produces and processes to apply quality-of-life guidelines for the welfare, nutrition, genetic improvement and transport of livestock. But how do these hight MSA standards in the paddock or pen impact what we experience on the plate? Accredited MSA graders collate this producer and processor information to ensure its eligible to receive an MSA grade and then assess important scientific characteristics of each carcase to predict eating quality. On arrival all MSA registered livestock must be accompanied by MSA vendor declarations and transport documentation to verify they meet the on-farm requirements. In an abattoir, as carcases are processed a ticket is attached and scanned to record the production date, carcase weight and individual number. This initial step is critical as it ensures traceability is maintained along the supply chain. All breeds of cattle are eligible for MSA grading although as tropical breed content increases, eating quality decreases. This is one of the reasons hump height is taken into account along with carcase weight to estimate the tropical breed effect. Eye muscle area is an indicator of yield and measures the size of the long isthmus dorsi muscle in square cms. The maturity of a carcase is measured by ossification, which is the process of cartilage turning to bone in the vertebrate. This is scored using the AUS-MEAT maturity reference standards. As ossification increases, tenderness decreases Marbling, which refers to the fine flecks of intramuscular fat has a direct impact on the flavor and tenderness of some cuts. MSA uses two systems to measure marbling: the AUS-MEAT score provides a general indication of the amount of marbling, while the MSA score looks closer at marbling distribution and fleck size. The color of the rib eye muscle is assessed using these AUS-MEAT colour chips and scored against the nationally approved standard. Fat colour is assessed at the quartered site, also using AUS-MEAT colour chips. Rib fat is measurement of subcutaneous or external fat at the quartering site. The MSA required minimum is 3mm. A requirement of the MSA grading program is to ensure that all carcases have and even an adequate fat distribution. When carcases are void of fat, and dehydration has occured there will be an increase in toughness in those outer layers of the muscle. pH is a measure of lactic acid and is recorded in conjunction with temperature. This is measured in the rib-eye muscle using a pH meter and must be below 5.71 High pH meat typically has a coarse texture, is less tender and results in cooking inconsistencies. All of these measurements are entered into the handheld data capture unit. The carcase is given an overall value and then the individual cuts are assigned eating quality grades. Only carcases that meet all the specifications are identified as MSA graded. The measurements are also shared with the producer this means that farmers can manage their practices to deliver a premium product. Beef can be cooked in many different ways which is why choosing the right cut is a key factor in ensuring a quality eating experience. All MSA graded cuts receive at least one recommended cooking method. Paring cuts with cooking styles to consistently deliver consumer satisfaction. Meat Standards Australia is an endorsement of eating quality that underpins beef brands. The world-leading MSA program is delivered by Meat & Livestock Australia. To find out more visit

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