CENTENNIAL, COLO. — For almost 90 years, beef grading has been a vital marketing service provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Consumers have come to rely on U.S.D.A. Prime, Choice and Select as symbols of quality through retail, restaurant and commercial foodservice buyers. In the past 10 years, the Beef Checkoff has served as a catalyst for the idea of instrument grading by supporting instrument research with investments exceeding $2.5 million.

"These technologies will strengthen true value-based marketing in beef," said Glen Dolezal, chair of the beef industry’s Product Enhancement Committee. "By investing our beef checkoff dollars in this research, we are helping to ensure the consistency, repeatability and precision of our product, something both producers and consumers are demanding. It’s advantageous throughout the supply chain."

The first video image analysis (V.I.A.) system for instrument grading was approved by the U.S.D.A. in 2005 to augment yield-grade application, and in 2006 marbling assessment by V.I.A. was approved. With the proven abilities of V.I.A. instruments to assess beef carcasses for yield and quality traits, U.S.D.A. has established a series of standards for the use of V.I.A. technologies in current grading procedures.

"U.S.D.A. is aware of the opportunity to augment and improve subjective evaluations performed daily on a nationwide basis by field graders and have taken steps to ensure a seamless and transparent transition to instrument grading," Mr. Dolezal said. "However, this change will likely be introduced in an orderly fashion over time with proper training and understanding of the total process."

Checkoff funding is currently being used to implement existing technologies for evaluating quality grade and to investigate technologies for predicting beef tenderness.

For more information about improvements made in the last 10 years in instrument grading, and methods being researched, visit www.BeefResearch.org and click on Product Enhancement Research Executive Summaries.

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