Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Journal of Animal Science (2013) 91: 1,454-1,467. DOI: 10.2527/jas2012-5914.


U.S. government publication.


Angus-cross steers (n = 128; initial BW = 270 ± 3.8 kg) were used in a 3-yr study to assess effects of forage species grazed before slaughter versus concentrate finishing on carcass and meat quality. At the completion of the stockering phase, steers were randomly allotted to mixed pasture (MP; n = 36/yr) or corn-silage concentrate (CON; n = 12/yr) finishing treatments. At 40 d before harvest, MP steers were randomly divided into 3 forage species treatments: alfalfa (AL), pearl millet (PM), or mixed pasture (MP). Average daily BW gain was greater (P = 0.001) for CON than for forage-finished (FOR) steers during the early and overall finishing phase. During the late finishing phase when FOR steers were grazing difference forage species, ADG was greater (P = 0.03) for PM than MP or AL. Harvest weight and HCW were greater (P < 0.001) for CON than FOR due to the differences in animal performance. Total fat percentage of the 9th to 11th rib section was 46% less (P = 0.028) for FOR than CON due to reductions (P < 0.001) in the percentage of subcutaneous fat. Warner-Bratzler shear force (WBS) values at 14 d and 28 d of aging did not differ (P > 0.78) between CON and FOR and were not altered (P > 0.40) by forage species. Trained sensory panel juiciness, initial tenderness, and overall tenderness scores did not differ (P > 0.17) by finishing treatment or forage species. Beef flavor intensity was greater (P < 0.001) for CON than FOR. Beef flavor intensity was greater (P < 0.02) for AL and PM than MP. Off-flavor intensity was greater (P < 0.001) for all forage-fed steaks, regard-less of forage species, than CON. Finishing on forages reduced (P = 0.003) total lipid content by 61% for the LM compared with CON finished cattle. Forage species grazed before harvest did not alter (P > 0.05) total lipid content of the LM. Oleic acid concentration and total MUFA of the LM were 21% and 22% less (P = 0.001) for FOR than CON. Concentrations of all individual [linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic (EPA), docosapentaenoic (DPA), and docosadexaenoic (DHA) acids] and total n-3 fatty acids were greater (P < 0.001) for FOR than CON. Finishing on AL increased (P = 0.017) the concentration of linolenic acid compared with MP or PM. The ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids was greater (P = 0.001) for CON than FOR and did not differ (P = 0.88) by forage species. Concentrate finishing increases carcass weight with same time endpoints and accelerates deposition of MUFA in comparison with FOR, which reduces carcass weight and fat deposition but maintains high concentrations of n-3 and CLA fatty acids. Finishing system or forage species grazed 40 d before slaughter did not alter beef tenderness but FOR had greater off-flavors according to both trained and descriptive sensory panelists.