NORTH SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — During the 2008-09 financial year, approximately 1 million cattle were graded through the Meat Standards Australia program (M.S.A.), which is a new record for the program. Producers who participated were a major beneficiary from the expansion with average premiums of up to 16 cents a kilogram paid in some categories, according to Meat & Livestock Australia.

The results were tangible evidence of the program achieving greater industry and consumer acceptance said Michael Crowley, M.L.A.’s manager M.S.A. "Achieving these sorts of premiums is proof consumers and the industry are putting their money where the mouth is — guaranteed eating quality is a benefit many see as worth paying extra for," Mr. Crowley said.

The grading total for the 2008-09 year increased by 16.7% over the previous year, equaling to an increase of 140,387 to 979, 228 head.

"Also encouraging has been producer registrations increasing over the last two years, with an additional 2,904 registrations in 2007-08 and 2,787 producers in 2008-09, " Mr. Crowley said. "This is reflective of the price incentive for producers that has been commercially pulled through from processors and customers further down the supply chain."

In 2008-09, premiums attributed to M.S.A. for over-the-hooks cattle ranged from 3.55c/kg for 260 - 280 kilogram yearling heifers to 16.30c/kg for 180 - 220 kg yearling steers in NSW. Premiums in Queensland ranged from 5.02c/kg for 220 - 260 kilogram yearling heifers to 11.78c/kg for 220 - 260kg yearling steers.

M.S.A. beef is a tenderness-guaranteed grading program. All M.S.A.-graded beef is labeled with a guaranteed grade and recommended cooking method to identify beef eating quality according to consumers.

M.S.A.-certified graders collate information from the producer, supervise processing standards and collect individual carcass attributes using a uniform set of standards. Individual beef carcass attributes collected include breed content, meat color, fat depth, marbling, maturity and ultimate pH.

Results are allocated to the carcass including individual primal quality grades, days of aging required and recommended cooking method.