UK - The proportion of prime beef carcases classified in England meeting the ‘R4L or better’ target specification is increasing, according to EBLEX analysis of 2014 carcase classification data.
The latest figures show that the number of carcases reaching target classification, required by the market, has remained over 50 per cent, rising from 51 per cent in 2013 to 52 per cent in 2014.
Average carcase weights have risen by nearly 20kg over the last ten years, from 323kg in 2004 to 342kg in 2014.
The proportion of young bulls has continued to decline; in 2014, only 11 per cent of cattle classified were young bulls, and the proportion of steers increased to 57 per cent.
The EBLEX classification reports are based on a sample of more than 450,000 cattle classified in Britain by Meat and Livestock Commercial Services Ltd (MLCSL).
More detailed analysis reveals the quality gains over the last year have mainly been in conformation, with just over 60 per cent of prime cattle now achieving conformation classes E to R.
The overall improvement has been seen despite slightly more carcases being classified with fat classes greater than 4L – up from 11.3 per cent in 2013 to 13.2 per cent in 2014.
It is likely that the retention of cattle to increase carcase weight has also resulted in an increase in the fat content of those animals, emphasising the need for beef finishers to continue to pay close attention to the level of finish at selection for slaughter.
Producers are encouraged to handle cattle regularly to ensure the carcases hit target at slaughter.
Looking at the results by month, they show that more cattle are slaughtered with too much fat cover in the summer months than in the winter, whereas in the winter months the proportion of cattle with poor conformation coming through is higher, see chart below.
Producers should remember that they may be penalised for stock that exceeds weight specifications at slaughter.
Prime cattle in England by main sectors of the classification grid, 2014
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