Carcass Show tells the tale




Enclosed behind a steel freezer door at Tyson Fresh Meats is a meat locker room comprised of prime, choice and select beef, kept at chilling temperatures to preserve carcass quality.

Terry Houser, judge of the 2014 Beef Empire Days Carcass Show, said there are many meat producers who haven't been in a meat packing plant, but if he had his way, every producer would see how meat ultimately is distributed to consumers.

"If I had a wish, I would wish that every meat producer would go into a meat packing plant and see this particular room, because this is where we grade the cattle, and this is where we assign the value to them," Houser said. "I think that would make a big difference in their understanding of how cattle are actually sold. The industry has to sell beef to a consumer. That's the end point."

Houser, a professor at Kansas State University, who has been a carcass judge for 18 years, said his primary goal is to educate everyone as to what goes into grading and selecting quality meat. The criteria include maturity, marbling, ribeye size, the grade of the beef and its yield, or how much red meat is present.

"We want young animals in our prime, choice and select grades, and older animals in commercial and utility. In quality grades, we want tenderness, juiciness flavor, and palatability," Houser said.

The carcasses were graded on a scale of 1 through 5, where 1 means heavy muscle and very trim. A 5 means lots of fat and less muscle. Houser said the goal is to find the best combination between the two, by having high quality and high yield.

"We're looking for 1s, but the fatter ones have the higher quality. They could go at $100 to $200 a plate at your top-of-the-line steak restaurants," he said.

Derek Sawyer of McPherson, who feeds at the Finney County Feed Yard, had four steers ranked in the top 10 in the Live Show Tuesday.

Steer No. 201, owned by Finney County Feed Yard/Creekstone Farms and fed by Finney County Feed Yard, ranked No. 15 in the Live Show. It had a yield grade of 2.88 and produced a 15.92-inch ribeye.

It was Sawyer's first year at the Carcass Show, and he was proud of his ranking, but added you still never know what type of production the carcass may yield.

"Hope to do pretty well," Sawyer said. "We focused on carcass quality, but you never know. You can always give a good guess to what it will look like, but until the hide is taken off, you just never know."

Kendall Lock, who was with Triangle H, had heifers and steers ranked in the top 25 in each division. Lock has been around Beef Empire Days for 24 years, and throughout his time in Beef Empire Days events, he was most surprised about how many prime carcasses were graded prime.

"This show lets you see how our cattle have performed," Lock said. "We get to see them visibly, but it's not very often we get to see the carcasses. The quality overall is much improved compared to the past."

The winner of the carcass show will be announced at 5:30 p.m. today at the Clarion Inn. Bob Kropp, the judge of the Live Show, who also was in attendance at the Carcass show, said it makes him feel good to see some of his top choices score high grades, but he knows it could've easily gone the other way.

"If I see one that I really liked live, and it does well in the meat, it makes you feel really good, but at the same time, if you see one that you really like, and it doesn't do very well here, it makes you feel pretty bad," Kropp said as he laughed.

"But that's part of it. You win a few, you lose a few."

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