Carcass audit shows increase in ‘significant abscesses’

The examination of 30,000 carcasses revealed more animals dehorned, which reduces bruising and labour at slaughter

CALGARY — Preliminary results from a 2016-17 beef carcass quality audit show fewer horns, more tag, more liver abscesses and about the same number of brands compared to the last audit in 2010-11.

Mark Klassen, director of technical services for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, gave early results of the audit Aug. 16 at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference.

The audit involved examination of 30,000 beef carcasses.

An estimated 93 percent of the animals were polled, compared to 88 percent in the last audit five years ago. Horns tend to cause meat losses from bruising and extra labour so an increase in polled animals is considered a positive development for carcass quality.

An estimated 79 percent of carcasses carried tag, the term for visible dirt, mud or manure on the hide. That is slightly higher than the last audit when 74 percent had tag. Presence of this material slows the slaughter line at plants and could increase the risk of fecal contamination on the meat.

“Livers are one we’ve been watching for awhile,” said Klassen, as he told producers that an estimated 18 percent of carcasses had “significant abscesses.”

“That’s higher than 10 percent in 2010-11 and that’s higher than the previous audit as well, so there’s been a steady trend upwards,” said Klassen.

“There are some reasons for that. It’s not an easy issue to address but it does have consequences especially at the packing side.”

About five percent of carcasses had visible injection site lesions, slightly higher than the two percent seen in 2010-11. However, there were fewer lesions found when internal primal cuts were examined.

“Over the longer term this does reflect an improvement,” he said.

Brands reduce the value of cattle hides because the branded area has to be removed. About 13 percent of cattle examined in the audit carried brands, which is the same level as five years ago.

The recent audit revealed fewer cattle with bruises, some 36 percent compared to 43 percent seen in 2010-11. Fed animals tend to have fewer bruises than cows.

Klassen said carcass weights in Canada tend to be heavier than those in the U.S., by 22 to 77 pounds in recent years. Canadian carcass sizes show a steady upward trend, which has allowed beef production to be maintained despite having fewer animals.

After compiling all data from the last audit in 2010-11, Klassen said auditors calculated the cost of carcass quality defects at $61.80 per head. The same calculation will be made for the most recent audit once the numbers have been finalized.

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