BEEF 509 is Still Truly an Awareness Program!

Stan Smith, P.A., OSU Extension

Simply stated, the objective of the BEEF 509 class that’s coming up on December 5-7 is “to raise awareness about the food we produce – BEEF.” Having had the opportunity to participate in one of the first classes of BEEF 509 four years ago, I can testify that it, indeed, accomplishes “awareness” and much more! BEEF 509 is a partnership program between the Ohio Beef Council, Ohio State University Extension and The Ohio State University Department of Animal Sciences.

To further explain BEEF 509, it is a full two day forum offered to individuals representing different sectors of the beef cattle industry – from producer to packer and all points in between. By bringing these individuals together, the opportunity exists to discuss solutions for quality and consistency problems experienced throughout the beef cattle industry. In addition, price and value concepts at the feedlot, packing plant and retail levels are thoroughly explored. Production practices that create quality defects and reduce wholesale values are investigated by first observing live animals of different genetic backgrounds and phenotypic makeup, then slaughtering them, breaking the carcasses down into wholesale cuts of meat, bone and fat and, finally, evaluating the resulting product for taste, tenderness and juiciness.

We began the session of BEEF 509 I attended by evaluating four live steers for their carcass merit. As individuals we estimated carcass weight, fat thickness, rib eye area, KPH fat, yield grade and quality grade. In an effort to exhibit differences between genotype as well as phenotypic makeup, we observed a Salers, a Hereford/Angus, a Simmental and a Chianina (that we later saw had a severely damaged liver). After harvesting these four animals, each of the traits that had been earlier estimated were measured and compared to our estimates for accuracy.

The next segment of BEEF 509 included dividing into six teams of five members, evaluating video tape and photographs of six different steers and selecting a steer to disassemble into primal cuts, bone and fat on the following day. Included in the six steers were a Red Angus, a Red Angus/Limousin, a Hereford/Angus, a Holstein, a Simmental and a Simmental/Angus. Each had obvious genotypic and phenotypic differences. Our task was to identify the one that would yield the carcass that would be the most valuable to a packer. At the conclusion of this exercise, we had the opportunity “taste test” steak from each of the different steers.

Throughout the three days, there was much conversation (and argument!) about differences in genetics, degree of finish, yield grade, quality grade and most anything else that relates to efficiently producing and marketing beef cattle that will ultimately appeal to the consumer. The differences in carcass quality of the steers we evaluated was remarkable. To some of the producers, sale yard managers and educators who were present, the results were quite a shock, yet, to others, it was as they had expected. Numerically, there was over $147 difference between the top and bottom carcass in regard to wholesale value to the packer.

All in all, it was a “hands on” experience that is unequalled by any other program in which I have ever participated. And, I’ve been told that OSU Meats Specialist Henry Zerby has enhanced the BEEF 509 curriculum by adding even more unique excercises for the participants this year.

If you’re serious about your specific place in the future of Ohio’s beef cattle industry, make plans now to attend the year 2001 version of BEEF 509, being held on the campus of Ohio State University on December 5-7. Your cost for this experience is only $100, and, I guarentee you it will be unequalled by any other beef cattle related learning experience you’ve participated in.

Call the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association office at 614.873.6736 right away for registration details. The class is limited to the first 32 persons who enroll.