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The Meat Standards Australia (MSA) Grading Scheme

After a strong reduction of meat consumption in the nineties, the Australian industry found some difficulties to restaure demand of beef due to a low convenience, inconsistent eating quality, declining knowledge of different cuts of meat, and health concerns (McKinna, 1995; Yann et al., 1993). The biggest problem was the inability of the industry to predict consumer satisfaction (Bindon and Jones, 2001). So, this justified to start a new R&D program called Meat Standards Australia (MSA) leaded by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
As a principle, untrained consumer panels are used for the MSA system to predict the eating quality. Efforts were developed to minimize the variation in protocols to improve repeatability and transparency.: untrained consumers (and not expert panelists) scored beef for different traits related to meat eating quality such as tenderness, flavor liking, juiciness and overall liking. The final step of the MSA approach is to combine the different scores by consumers from sensory analysis to generate a global eating quality score. MLA concluded that a single carcass grade was not able to accurately predict eating quality of individual cuts within carcasses produced from a variety of production systems, processing treatments, and cooking styles (Polkinghorne et al., 2008 a,b). The MSA protocols are relevant for all muscles which are scored individually for nominated cooking methods and days aged post slaughter.
The MSA system is based on information of all animals from birth to slaughter plus post-mortem information (marbling, breed, carcass weight, gender, and the use of hormonal growth promotants (HGPs), ageing time, cooking method etc.) that are used to calculate the global meat quality score. After the carcass grading, eating quality is indicated for each muscle cooking methods combination: all the cuts receive a grade which is good-every-day (3 stars), better-than-every-day (4 stars), premium (5 stars), or downgraded (2 stars). These grades can be also improved if desired by choosing for instance a longer postmortem ageing period (which should be in any case more than 5 days) and/or alternative carcass hanging techniques.
In Australia, the beef industry has changed and is still continuing to involve. The strength of this method is grading by untrained consumers and the result of MSA implementation is important: consumption of beef has been improved by 1.6% from 2000 to 2006 (Polkinghorne et al., 2008a).

Differences between French and Italian livestock practices

In French systems, animals are raised where environmental conditions dos not allow the establishment of crops or where land is not accessible to work (such as areas with high humidity index, less favored regions or mountains). In this country, breeders have long-term tradition in adding value through genetic heritage by selectively breeding some of the World’s best beef cattle breeds in terms of meat quality and sustainable livestock farming.
The number of bovine breeds in France is more than 40 (including minor ones) with about ten well-known beef cattle breeds only, three of them being famous beef breeds originally developed in the north-eastern Massif Central (Charolais), its western borders of Massif central (Limousin) and in the hills and valleys of south-western regions of France (Blonde d’Aquitaine). These three breeds are expanding fast across France and in other countries in the world. There are minor niche beef breeds that count only limited herd numbers but that are being managed under special-purpose conservation programs. Finally, the result of genetic improvement during the history between dairy and beef breeds, induced dual-purpose breeds (called ‘Croisé’ in French). In generally, in France, there are three typologies of farms: the first one is suckler-cattle farms that guarantee the production of new generation (cows with the veal), the second one takes care of new generations and of finishing animals (‘naisseur-engraisseur’) and the third one manages the finishing period only (‘engraisseur’) (Couvreur, 2018). Generally, males are used to provide meat but a large proportion, approximatively 25% of total, goes in other countries for the finishing period such as for young bulls (not castrated males of 12-24 months of age) or steers (castrated males). In contrast, 23% of females stay in France than 10% of total are exported with the males to other European countries (Couvreur, 2018; European Commission, 2011).
Cattle stay in pasture except in the winter season where they are indoors into a barn. Animal feeding may not be accurate but sometimes breeders add to the pasture high energy feeds especially in the finishing period where a mixture of fibers and corn is provided (Brouard et al., 2014). This system guarantees a high standard in livestock welfare and a low farming cost, and indirectly it contributes to take care of landscapes and environment. In this context, farming systems with late-maturing breeds who grow slowly are sustainable especially for the owners who may have another job.

Evolution of partnership between France and Italy

After the Second World War, many countries in Europe were unable to satisfy the food demand of their population. In 1957, aiming to reorganize agricultural systems, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was set up following the decision of six European countries: France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands (Rome Treat).
This period was characterized by the introduction of coupled support of agricultural product called CMO (Common Market Organization). Especially a high support was created in the 1968 for milk, butter and cereal production, but the support was lower for meat production.
In France, before 1960-70, cattle (mainly cows and castrated males) were labor forces utilized in principle to help the farmers in the fields and were not differentiate between breed purposes. The same scenario was found in Italy, where animals were used as a labor force in agriculture for many years and the first livestock farms appeared in the South Italy only.
Before 1980, the livestock French system mainly kept the male beef cattle (especially Charolaise) in the North of France to guarantee the best growing performances thanks to high energy diets mainly with concentrates. Therefore, cattle were located into a few regions with flat areas such as Beauce and Champagne. After the finished period, steers were sent to the meat market or butchers (especially in the case of Limousine). After the 1980s, the increase in the French population forced the system to change and the decision of the French government was to satisfy the food demand from the population first, and dairy cows were mostly reared for milk production.
With the economic recovery (1980-90), the result of coupled support policy started in the 1960, was a high milk production that generate a huge surplus in the Common Market. The situation remained that all cows’ populations were selected with the aim to increase milk production attitude. So, the French government has introduced a special premium, in addition to COM, only for suckler cows (from 1980) to avoid the losing genetic aptitude in meat production and another premium for the males slaughtered at 12 months of age decreased to 10 months (from 1986 to 2005). The difficulties in young beef breeding, explained in the previous paragraph, are the results of losing convenience in French farms, so the premium was ‘shifted’ in the Italian market system.
The breeding of young bulls began in Italy in the 1980s thanks to the ability to guarantee an optimal growing and quality performance on animals by using high-energy content diets. Another reason may be related to meat quality requests from the Italian and the French populations. The French consumers prefer aged meat and the Italians consumers avoid visible fat, mainly because of health concerns. After food scandals, the consumer choice moved to a preference for low-fat products, principally caused by wrong understanding of relationships between fat consumption and human health.

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‘Broutards’ price evolution

The introduction of community money (€) and the introduction of new subside policies continue to induce a decrease in the price at the sale of young bulls. From 1980 to 1992, with the goal to sustain the milk production, a milk surplus was registered due to the introduction of suckler cow premium. In the 1987 a premium for males was introduced to encourage fattening of bulls and steers.
In the 1993, the policy of subsides changed in coupling the payment to hectare or animal head with the goals to reduce the over-production from EU countries (Mc Sharry, 1992).
The next period from 1993 to 2003 was characterized by the increase in direct payments following the introduction of crop support mechanisms and additional premium for extensive cattle system (capped under a unit stocking rate limited for hectar), existing scheme payments revaluated (suckler cow and male premium) and sustainable agricultural practices and development of regional farmland. Also, this period was characterized by the first BSE crisis (1996) started in the UK that caused the reduction in meat product consumption and then lower prices at the sales of beef cattle. In the 2003 (Luxembourg agreement), the total decoupling of beef cattle subsides introduced a single payment scheme for farms (Veysset et al., 2012). The price of beef cattle declined due to the second BSE crises 2000-2001 also, due to 50% drop in grass growth caused by the hottest summer (2003).
Finally, from 2006 to 2015, the recovery in beef cattle prices was associated to the rise in cereal prices, and thus animal feeding stuff prices. This chapter is illustrated by the next graph provided by Liénard et al. 1998. The aim of this work started on 1998 year, is to represent, as accurate as possible, the price evolution (red line) of French Charolaise broutard across more 20 years.

Analysis of data from “Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (FR)”

The experimental abattoir of INRA center located in Theix (Clermont Ferrand – 63000 FR) has its own database in which a great number of traits related to meat quality have been collected. For many years and until today, the Charolais breed is the most representative in France, so this explains why the data collection has not so many data from the Limousine breed.
The data derived from carcasses from Charolaise breed were collected without commercial consideration but according to experimental constraints requested by INRA scientists. The data collection started in 1983 and it is still in development, however the data collection provides measure of 863 beef cattle. The data have been selected to further analyses muscle production, fat tissue and skeletal weights, color indices of meat with the goal to understand if the measure taken on a specific rib can predict the overall aspect of carcass traits and meat qualities traits. Conformation and fatness score were transformed into numeric classification units on a 15-point scale.

Total amount of skeleton weight (Sq Ca)

Table 17 describes the analysis of variance between the carcass skeleton weight and all 6th rib measurements. The amount of total variance explained are respectively 55% of young bulls, 81% of cows and 37% of steers. An important significant effect (p <0.001) found for ‘6C Sq’ (skeletal weight on 6th rib) for all animal types. In agreement with Bonny et al., (2016b) cartilage measurements is more relevant in young animals (p <0.1) than in old animals. Longissimus Dorsi area increases with the energy intake of feed (Schoonmaker et al., 2001; Keane and Drennan, 1980). With high increasing LD muscle weight, animal size is still growing also from a skeleton point of view, this is probably the main reason that explains why both measurements tend to be correlated for young bulls and steers (p <0.1) but less in cows. Table 22, in agreement with variance analysis, identified significantly correlations with all measurements taken on the 6th rib specially with the weight of skeleton r = 0.74 (p <0.001) and total rib weight r = 0.68 (p <0.001) but also with age r = 0.26 (p <0.001), hot carcass weight r = 0.83 (p <0.001) and finally, carcass fat deposit weight r = 0.56 (p <0.001).

Table of contents :

1. Introduction page
2. Beef grading systems page
2.1 Consumer Acceptability of a Quality Guarantee System page
2.2 EU Carcass Grading and Classification page
2.3 The USDA Grading System page
2.4 The Japanese Grading Scheme page
2.5 The Meat Standards Australia (MSA) Grading Scheme page
3. Livestock Systems page 
3.1 Differences between French and Italian livestock practices page
3.2 Evolution of partnership between France and Italy page
3.3 ‘Broutard’ price evolution page
AIMS page
1. Ontologies strategy page
2. Data collection protocol page
3. Statistical Analysis page
1. Ontology page
2. Result and discussion from Statistical Analysis page
2.1 Data from ‘Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique’ page
2.2 Data from Beauvallet and Plainemaison page
2.3 Data from Azove page


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