Canadian beef quality audits conducted since 1995 show steady improvements, but tough steaks are still a common complaint.
The last audit, which was completed in 2010, found that 39 percent of consumers complained about toughness.
The audit looked for flaws in beef carcasses at packing plants and also bought four types of steaks from grocery stores in Montreal, Toronto, London and Calgary.
Volunteer consumers received 1,100 samples that they had to cook themselves.
Another 1,200 samples were collected for objective determination of quality by a trained sensory panel.
Few consumers thought the problem was their cooking and instead blamed the beef, said meat scientist Jennifer Aalhus of Agriculture Canada’s research centre in Lacombe, Alta.
The audit also evaluated overall carcass quality and found an increase in AAA carcasses with more marbling and less red meat.
“Over time, there has been a significant decline in yield grade one with offsetting increases in yield grades two and three,” Aalhus said.
In Canada, yield grade one represents carcasses with more than 59 percent lean meat yield, two is 54 to 58 percent lean meat and yield three is 53 percent or less.
Carcasses are getting heavier and rib eye areas are bigger.
Auditors noticed that the depth of strip loin has decreased from one inch thick to an average of three quarters of an inch.
The steaks need to be cut thinner to meet portion control requirements, but it is easy to over cook these and affect quality.
“Consumers are beginning to rate steak thickness and fatness as a concern,” Aalhus said.
To view the entire beef quality audit results, visit www.beefresearch.ca/research/beef-quality.cfm.