Quality related principles of the South African beef classification system in relation to grading and classification systems of the world
This paper addresses the principles related to different grading and classification systems of the world with specific focus on beef quality related outcomes. The paper uses the definitions that classification is a set of descriptive terms describing features of the carcass that are useful as guidelines to those involved in the production, trading and consumption of carcasses, whereas grading is the placing of different values on carcasses for pricing purposes, depending on the market and requirements of traders and consumers. The literature shows that the criteria used in grading systems rank carcasses fairly accurately according to expected eating experience of the loin muscles but not of higher connective tissue cuts of the hind and fore quarter. Criteria used in classification systems give limited descriptions of the quality related characteristics of the carcass. Only the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) cuts based grading system of Australia seeks to define or predict consumer satisfaction with a cooked meal for each cut of the carcass. Its success is based on a palatability assured critical control point (PACCP) approach to satisfy the consumer. However, MSA requires high technical skills, a well organised infrastructure and proper traceability, high level of integrity from different role players and could be very costly, involving high additional personnel cost. The South African classification system should probably focus on distinguishing between young feedlot and somewhat more mature pasture animals with different criteria within each sub category to describe the variation in product quality. Correct pre-slaughter and slaughter management (stress, weight, chilling rate, electrical stimulation, post mortem aging) could improve consistency within age group.
Keywords: Classification, grading, beef, dentition, age