THE CANADIAN BEEF GRADING SYSTEM CANADIAN BEEF GRADING AGENCY YIELD AND QUALITY GRADES UNDERSTANDING BEEF QUALITY

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1 THE CANADIAN BEEF GRADING SYSTEM CANADIAN BEEF GRADING AGENCY YIELD AND QUALITY GRADES UNDERSTANDING BEEF QUALITY

2 THE CANADIAN BEEF GRADING AGENCY The Canadian Beef Grading Agency The Canadian Beef Grading Agency (CBGA) was created in It is accredited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to assess grades in accordance with Canada s national standards. The grading system functions to facilitate marketing and production decisions and to achieve greater consistency and predictability in eating quality. In addition to grading, the CBGA is involved in certification of brands, such as those for beef produced only from a specific breed of cattle. This independent verification assures buyers that the standards for Canadian branded beef programs are being fully satisfied. Only qualified graders are permitted to grade a beef carcass in Canada. Each grader must successfully complete a comprehensive training program approved by the CBGA, followed by a written and a practical examination. Once certified, graders are regularly audited by CBGA officials and through the National Grade Monitoring Program administered by the CFIA. These ongoing audits ensure that grading is performed in a manner which is consistent and accurately reflects Canada s national requirements for high quality beef. CANADIAN BEEF GRADING PROCESS SCHEMATIC Food Safety Inspection Carcass Chilling Quality Grade Assessment Carcass Maturity Meat Color Fat Color Carcass Muscling Meat Texture Fat Coverage/ Texture Marbling Canadian Food Inspection Agency Canadian Beef Grading Agency 2 The Canadian Beef Grading System

3 The Grading Process for High Quality Canadian Beef A carcass may be graded only after it has been inspected and received the meat inspection stamp, indicating that the beef satisfies all food safety requirements. Each requirement for quality attributes must be met to qualify for the Canada A, AA, AAA and Prime grades and any deficiency cannot be offset by other traits. Quality and yield grades can only be assigned to carcasses by a certified Canadian Beef Grading Agency grader. Canada s Quality Grades Canada s quality grades for beef from youthful carcasses are Canada A, Canada AA, Canada AAA and Canada Prime. To assign these grades, a detailed assessment of the carcass is made by a certified grader following chilling for a minimum of 12 hours. Attributes evaluated include maturity, meat color, fat color, carcass muscling, fat coverage and texture, meat texture and marbling level. Canada s Yield Grades The yield grade is a measure related to the amount of lean or muscle in the carcass. The Canada 1, Canada 2, and Canada 3 yield grades are assessed on the basis of lean yield percentage, calculated using measurements obtained with a specially designed ruler. These measurements allow the determination of both fat class and muscle score, which is used to determine the yield grade. The Canadian Beef Grading Agency is accredited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to assign Canadian beef grades in accordance with national standards defined by federal law. GRADED BEEF CARCASSES Yield Grade Assignment Grade Stamping CBGA Grading Audits National Grade Monitoring Program Audits A carcass may only be graded after it has received the meat inspection stamp indicating the beef satisfies food safety requirements. The Canadian Beef Grading System 3

4 CANADIAN BEEF GRADING SYSTEM Each requirement for quality attributes must be satisfied to qualify for the Canada A, AA, AAA and Prime grades and any deficiency cannot be offset by other traits. Carcass Maturity Meat Color Fat Color The carcass is examined to determine if it satisfies the physiological maturity requirements for Canada s high quality beef grades. The Canada A, Canada AA, Canada AAA or Canada Prime grades require that the maturity must be judged as youthful on the basis of skeletal development in the split carcass. Slaughtering cattle at a younger age enhances beef tenderness. To evaluate meat color, the left side of the carcass is cut through the chine bones and up to approximately 6 inches (15 cm) past the loin (longissimus) muscle. Color is assessed using the rib-eye surface between the 12th and 13th rib. The meat must be judged as having a bright red color, to qualify for the Canada A grade or higher. Consumers consider meat color as an important indicator of beef quality and freshness. Given that consumers find white fat a highly desirable attribute, Canada s regulations state that Canada A, AA, AAA, and Prime may not include carcasses carrying fat with a yellowish tinge. The grader is advised to make a thorough examination of the internal fat, e.g., channel fat, fat-covering over the flank, skirt, and rib area, and protrusions of fat between the spinous processes. 4 The Canadian Beef Grading System

5 Carcass Muscling Meat Texture Fat Coverage and Texture Muscling relates to the general build, outline and shape of the carcass which contributes to the determination of grade as well as the percentage of meat to bone. A well-muscled side with good length will give a higher yield of high-priced cuts than will a shorter side of comparable muscling. Canada s high quality beef grades do not permit carcasses with deficient muscling. The beef texture is evaluated by the grader and must be judged to be firm to meet the requirements for high quality Canadian beef. Texture is perceived by consumers in terms of how the beef feels in the mouth during chewing, and is an important contributor to eating quality and consumer satisfaction. To qualify for the Canada A, AA, AAA or Prime grades, the fat must be judged to be firm following both visual and tactile assessment. Consistent fat cover enables the carcass to cool in a way which maximizes eating quality. For Canada s high quality grades, the minimum fat thickness is 2 mm or just over 1/16 th of an inch. The Canadian Beef Grading System 5

6 Marbling Yield Grading Stamp To assess marbling, the exposed cross-section of the rib-eye muscle is evaluated for the amount, size and distribution of intramuscular fat deposits. Marbling assessment requires a freshly-cut muscle surface which is exposed to air for at least 10 minutes. Official photographic standards are utilized to ensure consistent and accurate assessment of marbling levels. Measurements of fat depth and rib-eye size are made using a specially designed grading ruler. These dimensions are used to determine the fat and muscle score which are incorporated into the equation to determine the lean yield percentage of the carcass. Carcasses with the highest values for lean yield percentage will be given the Canada 1 yield grade. When all required examinations have been completed the grade is applied using edible ink. The official grade stamp is applied to the short loin and rib of both sides of the carcass. Grading stamps are maintained at all times under the supervision of the Canadian Beef Grading Agency. The Canadian Beef Grading System 6

7 Canadian Beef Grading Standards for Youthful Cattle Quality Grade Standards for Youthful Cattle GRADE MARBLING* MATURITY** MEAT COLOR FAT COLOR MUSCLING MEAT TEXTURE* Prime CANADA Slightly Youthful Bright red No yellow fat Good muscling Firm only abundant only permitted or better AAA AA A Small Youthful Bright red No yellow fat Good muscling Firm only only permitted or better Slight Youthful Bright red No yellow fat Good muscling Firm only only permitted or better Trace Youthful Bright red No yellow fat Good muscling Firm only only permitted or better UNITED STATES *** Prime Choice Select Standard Slightly Maturity Light red Yellow fat No minimum Moderately abundant class A & B permitted requirement firm Small Maturity Dark-cutters Yellow fat No minimum Slightly class A & B permitted permitted requirement soft Slight Maturity Dark-cutters Yellow fat No minimum Moderately class A permitted permitted requirement soft Practically Maturity Dark-cutters Yellow fat No minimum Soft devoid class A & B permitted permitted requirement * Minimum marbling and meat texture permitted for quality grade class. ** Maturity categories reflect domestic requirements. *** Standards as of March Marbling Standards for Youthful Cattle The Canadian marbling standards were changed in 1996 to mirror the copyrighted marbling standards of the United States. The minimum marbling standards used for USDA Prime (slightly abundant), Choice (small) and Select (slight) are the same minimum standards used in Canada to segregate the youthful quality carcasses into Canada Prime, AAA and AA respectively. Canadian Grading Standards for Mature Cattle In addition to the grades for youthful cattle, Canada also has quality grades for mature animals. Bulls are assigned an E grade and cows are placed into one of four D grades. Canada s D1 grade requires excellent carcass muscling, firm white or amber fat and less than 15 millimeters (mm) or just over 9/16 th of an inch fat depth. D2 requires medium to excellent muscling, white to yellow fat and less than 15 mm fat depth. The D3 grade is assigned to carcasses with low levels of muscling while D4 grades indicate a fat depth of greater than 15 mm. It is also possible to purchase ungraded Canadian beef. For more information on beef from Mature Cattle contact us to get your copy of the Canadian Commercial Beef Brochure. The Canadian Beef Grading System 7

8 A Perspective from the U.S. Industry on Beef Quality Standards A survey* of 230 senior level personnel in the retail, restaurant and hotel industries in the U.S. was conducted by an independent market research firm to determine the importance of individual beef quality standards maintained by the Canadian Beef grading system. A summary of key results in relation to meat color, fat color, texture, and marbling is provided below. Bright Red Meat Colour Approximately 90% of respondents stated they preferred beef which was selected on the basis of bright red meat color and where dark-cutting beef was excluded. White Fat Color More than 85% of individuals participating in the survey indicated that they preferred to purchase beef that was selected to deliver white or light amber colored fat and would not include yellowish or slightly off color fat. Firm Beef Texture In total, 92% of respondents stated they would prefer to purchase beef products that were selected to consistently deliver firm muscle texture. Marbling Standards Use of the USDA standards for measuring marbling was considered an important consideration for delivering consistent quality by more than 95% of respondents from the retail sector. Quality Standards More than 95% of the individuals interviewed agreed that grading standards designed to consistently deliver beef with white or light amber colored fat, bright red meat color and firm muscle texture would provide their company with a quality advantage. The overall results of the beef quality perceptions survey indicate that Canadian Beef grading standards reflect the preferences of the U.S. market place. * Commissioned research performed by Technomic Inc. in The Canadian marbling standards were changed in 1996 to mirror the copyrighted USDA marbling standards of the United States. 8 The Canadian Beef Grading System

9 Understanding Beef Quality An Enjoyable Eating Experience Palatability or eating quality depends on the flavor, juiciness and tenderness of beef products. Each of these three attributes can be enhanced through good production practices at the farm, as well as at the meat processing facility. Tenderness has commonly been identified as the most important contributor to palatability. Aging beef in temperature-controlled environments results in enhanced tenderness through the actions of natural enzymes which soften muscle fibers. Careful handling of the animal to minimize stress during transport and before stunning is also important. Selection of young cattle for beef production enhances tenderness as typically both the amount of connective tissue (collagen) and the resistance of collagen to breakdown during cooking increases as the animal becomes older. Canada s A, AA, AAA, and Prime grades permit only beef from cattle classified as youthful. Yield Grade Distribution for Canada PERCENTAGE OF CATTLE 62% 28% Source: CBGA (2007 Calendar Year) 10% YIELD GRADE CLASS Yield Grade Distribution for the U.S. Appearance in the Retail Case Product appearance is commonly used to judge the freshness and quality of beef items. Accordingly, a bright red color is a requirement for all of Canada s high quality beef grades. Canadian beef is typically produced from cattle fed grain including barley, wheat or corn (not grass) during the finishing period, which supports the development of white colored fat that consumers prefer. Yield of the Beef Carcass Yield grades in both the Canadian and U.S. grading system provide an estimate of the amount of muscle tissue or lean yield in the carcass. The equations used to predict lean yield rely most strongly on the depth of the fat at the grading site. Yield is influenced by factors such as: animal breed, age, gender and onfarm management practices. The most accurate way to determine yield is through a carcass cutout. To learn more about yield testing to measure value, visit PERCENTAGE OF CATTLE 37% Source: USDA AMS (Fiscal Year 2007) 43% 9% 10% 1% YIELD GRADE CLASS The Canadian grading system utilizes three yield grades as opposed to the five used by the U.S. grading system. The Canadian yield grade is based on the total amount of lean meat in the carcass. The U.S. yield grade is based on the predicted weight of boneless, closely trimmed, retail cuts from the round, loin, rib and chuck. The Canadian Beef Grading System 9

10 THE CANADIAN BEEF GRADING SYSTEM About Canada s Beef Information Centre The Beef Information Centre (BIC) is a division of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. We are committed to establishing and growing strategic partnerships which maximize the value of Canadian beef for our valued U.S. clients. We offer a broad range of services designed to contribute to the continuing success of your beef business. Find out more about the Canadian Beef Advantage. Contact us: Beef Information Centre 2000 Argentia Road, Plaza 4, Suite 101 Mississauga, ON, Canada L5N 1W1 Tel: (905) Fax: (905) Beef Information Centre th Street NE, Suite 310 Calgary, AB, Canada T2E 7H7 Tel: (403) Fax: (403) U.S. Toll Free: 1 (866) # Printed in Canada

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