Date of this Version
In the mid-90's, Cattle Fax released some alarming data. They showed that over the previous 5-year period the value of the beef rib and loin had increased by just 3-4% while the value of the chuck and round had dropped by 24-25%. Given that these later two primals make up the more than 56% of the carcass, it was clear that dramatic action was needed to reverse the trend. Increasing the value of the chuck and round meant knowing more about the muscles which comprise these cuts. Therefore, the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida joined together and embarked upon the most comprehensive study ever conducted of the muscles in the beef chuck and round. The project was funded by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines profiling as “a biographical essay presenting the subjects most noteworthy characteristics and achievements.” This is a good description of what the project was intended to do, determine the most noteworthy characteristics of the muscles in the chuck and round. The ultimate goal was to add value to the product.
There are several reasons to study these muscles. Some of them have inadequate tenderness. Others may be too variable in tenderness to be of much use in value-added products. In many cases, they may contain excessive amounts of connective tissue. Excessive seam might be addressed by altering the manner in which cuts are fabricated. Ultimately, knowledge of muscle properties will allow greater opportunity for value enhancement.
To ensure we were on track and providing information that the industry wanted and needed, we established a task force to provide guidance and input into the project. We also met with packers, processors, and retailers to determine their questions and needs. This group provided input as to the project design and well as suggestions about the format of the finished report.
We began the project with several guiding principles. First, we wanted to know as much about each muscle as possible. Second, we began with the intent to separate muscles that had traditionally been kept together during merchandising. It was our hypothesis that muscles in close proximity to each other do not necessarily have the same biological function and thus do not have the same physical and chemical properties. One of our packer partners told us to look at muscles as small as a quarter of a pound. We did so. Third, we attempted to determine the effect of carcass weight, quality grade, and yield grade on the muscle characteristics - a process that allowed us to examine 39 different muscles from 142 different beef carcasses.
Not surprisingly, this type of study generates a tremendous amount of data. We examined over 5,500 muscles and determined composition, sensory panel ratings, Warner- Bratzler shear force, collagen content, color, pH, water holding capacity, myoglobin content, and fat binding ability (emulsion capacity). We also determined the fiber type profile of most of the muscles. During fabrication, we obtained muscle dimensions, weights, and yields at a commodity trim level, 2-inch trim, and completely denuded of fat. As a result, we were able to build a data set with well over 30,000 different pieces of information - literally the encyclopedia of information about the muscles in the chuck and round.