Towards a regional beef carcass classification system for Southern Africa
Southern Africa is home to over 64 million cattle, of which 75% are raised on natural pasture in smallholder farming areas. Indigenous cattle breeds Bos indicus (zebu), B. taurus africanus (Sanga type) and their crosses with B. taurus (European and British) are the most dominant. Despite their dominance, indigenous cattle breeds in smallholder farming areas are commonly marketed through informal markets, and their contribution to formal national economies is therefore limited. This is partly because the current beef carcass grading and classification systems used in the region value inappropriately carcasses from slow-maturing indigenous cattle breeds that are ideally suited to being marketed off natural pasture. The existing systems use carcass yield and quality attributes, but do not predict eating quality at consumer level. Moreover, the principal criteria used to estimate carcass yield and quality, namely age, fat cover and conformation, are assessed indirectly and subjectively. The objective of the current review is to provide an overview of beef carcass grading and classification systems in Southern Africa and analyse their shortcomings in valuing carcasses from indigenous breeds and local production systems. In addition, the review highlights opportunities for improving these systems in Southern Africa and makes suggestions towards developing a regional beef carcass classification system.
Keywords: beef, carcass grading and classification, indigenous cattle, smallholder farming