A new age of beef.
That is how Silver Fern Farms group category manager Grant
Howie describes the launch of the company's Eating Quality
(EQ) System - the first such system for New Zealand red meat.
Mr Howie outlined the system during the first premier
selection beef producer group day at the company's Finegand
plant, near Balclutha, on Thursday.
Those attending heard master graders explain how the system
worked during a tour of the plant.
Mr Howie said Silver Fern Farms was focused on connecting all
parts of the ''value chain'', and forming relationships, to
ensure the end result for the consumer was ''outstanding
Over the last two years, it had embarked on its beef EQ
programme, which was all about improving the eating quality
It was the largest red meat consumer testing programme run,
with 97,000 taste tests around New Zealand and the United
States involving 13,900 individual consumer taste-testers.
A team of 38 scientists, from Texas Tech University in the US
and the University of Otago's department of food sciences,
was used to help build a predictive beef-grading model.
The grading system was the ''engine room'' of what Silver
Fern Farms could take to the market and guarantee the quality
of its reserve grade beef. A premium price could be gained
for that beef which, the company believed, was the most
tender, juicy and tasty meat on the market, Mr Howie said.
The company was promising a lot and it was only through the
grading system it could do that, he said.
''The idea is to guarantee the eating experience to the
consumer in a way they are left excited every time and want
to come back,'' he said.
Silver Fern Farms knew from its experience with lamb and
venison a ''significant'' number of consumers were prepared
to pay a premium price, and it would aim for top-end markets
A range of branded beef retail packs would be launched in
supermarkets in New Zealand in about four weeks' time. The
range included porterhouse steak, tenderloin, medallions,
stir-fry and roast beef.
All the products were ''guaranteed tasty, tender and the best
eating experience you've had'', Mr Howie said.
Grass-fed beef was becoming an increasingly important factor
in the company's ''beef story'', with cattle in the US fed in
industrial feedlots, Mr Howie said.
''I think this story is so unique in that it's
environmentally sustainable from grass-fed New Zealand farms
and now we're able to guarantee consistent eating quality,''
Silver Fern Farms livestock farming performance manager
Lochie MacGillivray believed fodder beet was going to offer
''real opportunities'' for farmers and the red meat sector.
Trials were done last year with Lincoln University, on fodder
beet and sugar beet and the growth rates achieved were
Four years ago, about 400ha of fodder beet was grown in New
Zealand but by last year that had soared to 16,000ha, all on
the back of the dairy grazing and dairy industry.
There was an opportunity for the red meat sector to ''cash in
on that'' and learn from some of the experiences of the dairy
industry, Mr MacGillivray said.
The fodder beet achieved a very high dressing-out percentage,
a high percentage grading premium reserve, and there also
seemed to be a consumer preference for the meat, which was
juicier, more tender and tastier.
This year would see probably the biggest trial done,
involving 5300 head of cattle over 16 farms and about 200-odd
hectares of fodder beet, he said.