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Cattle quality under scrutiny at Carcass Show

Published 6/2/2012 in Local News

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

HOLCOMB — Brian Price peered over a ribeye of a sliced-open carcass Friday afternoon at Tyson Fresh Meats in Holcomb.

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Rachael Gray/Telegram Ian Shann, who works in research and development at Tyson headquarters in Springdale, Ark., examines a carcass Friday afternoon at Tyson Fresh MeatÕs Holcomb plant as a part of the Carcass Show judging for Beef Empire Days.

Rachael Gray/Telegram Ian Shann, who works in research and development at Tyson headquarters in Springdale, Ark., examines a carcass Friday afternoon at Tyson Fresh MeatÕs Holcomb plant as a part of the Carcass Show judging for Beef Empire Days.

Price, the manager of Brookover Feedyard, was examining the quality of several cattle from the feedyard during the Beef Empire Days Carcass Show.

In Wednesday's Live Show, during which judges try to predict the quality of beef from looking at the outside of a live animal, several cattle from Brookover came in the top 15, Price said.

Brookover personnel are hoping that's the case for the Carcass Show.

The winners in the heifer, steer and overall divisions will be announced tonight at the Beef Empire Days Awards Banquet, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Clarion Inn Ballroom, 1911 E. Kansas Ave.

Price checked out how the Brookover fed animals stacked up against the other carcasses.

"They're looking pretty good, although we're disappointed in a few," Price said.

"Most are pretty close to what we thought they would be," he said.

Price said it's difficult to predict the quality of the animal because of its history before it gets to the feedyard.

"Sometimes we don't know their history, their breeding or what happened to the animal before we got them," he said.

That makes carcass predictions difficult, Price said.

"You just have to use your experience and visual appraisal," he said. Price said the animals used in the Live and Carcass shows spent about 120 days at Brookover Feedyard. That's about the average stay, he said.

"Usually, cattle spend about 120 to 140 days in the yard," he said.

Ian Shann, who works in research and development at Tyson headquarters in Springdale, Ark., judged the Carcass Show.

He said the quality of the cattle entered in the show was high.

"It's very good. I would say we're definitely above the industry average," he said.

Shann said 72 percent of the carcasses showed choice beef, although none of the carcasses were considered prime.

"We didn't have any prime cattle in this competition, but it's a relatively small percentage of cattle out here today," he said.

Shann said southwest Kansas isn't a part of the U.S. where the cattle frequently beat industry averages.

He said cattle toward the northern part of the country have the opportunity to put on more fat and produce more quality beef.

"The farther south you go, you see the lower quality, higher-yielding cattle," he said.

Shann said to have 72 percent being choice is high.

"This group of cattle is high quality and high yielding. It's an outstanding group of cattle," he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture rates quality grading from high to low as follows: prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter and canner, according to Beefresearch.org.

In order to judge the animals, Shann looked for the best combination of quality and cutability.

For quality, he looks for marbling, or the right amount of fat contained in the muscle of the ribeye. He also looks at skeletal ossification, or bone formation, in the backbone.

For cutability, Shann looks for the lean to fat ratio. He said there are certain areas of the animal where that is judged.

Most are assessed at the 12th and 13th rib juncture, where muscle and fat indicators can be found. Fat is measured three-fourths of the way up the ribeye. Internal fat around the kidney, pelvic area and heart also are taken into consideration.

The ribeye cuts are evaluated based on the animal's hot carcass weight.

"A particular size of carcass is required to have a particular size of ribeye," he said.

On Friday, Shann examined a 760-pound carcass.

"This one weighs 760 pounds, so we're at about a 12.9-square-inch ribeye requirement. This one is 15.9 square inches, so it would get a discount," he said.

Shann said the different factors indicate the quality of beef.

"Really, we're just looking for the best combination of all those factors," he said.

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