Producing high quality beef, which corresponds to the customers’ needs, has become extremely essential for the farmers. Red Meat in Scotlandnow faces competition from high quality imported products from countries such as USA, Braziland Argentina, even the meat producers from other parts of United Kingdom. Recent surveys indicate that the ‘tenderness of beef’ cuts at Retail Stores and Food Services shops have high variations (Morgan et al, 1991; Hamby, 1992). National Beef Quality Audit ranked ‘inadequate tenderness’ as the second most important Beef Quality Problem (Smith et al, 1995). Owing to the high competition from international producers, and increasing demands of customers, Scottish beef manufacturers are facing a tough time. Producing high quality beef at low prices has become one of the major concerns among the producers. In order to respond to the needs and to maintain the market share, producers will need to resort to methods such as cloning, nuclear transplantation and vitamin supplementation. However, there is always a doubt, if the consumers will accept the enhanced beef?
The purpose of this essay is to outline some of the most successful methods of improving beef-cattle productivity as well as understand what the likely response of customers may be. We also explore the various legislations on the use of beef cattle productivity enhancement methods.
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Different Methods of Improving Productivity
One of the most common, yet advanced method of improving productivity of Beef-Cattle is ‘Embryo transfer’ also, referred as ‘ET’. First experimented in 1949, this method became commercialized only in 1970, when a European dual purposes breed of cattle gained recognition within a very short time period. Since then, ET technology has developed step by step and different techniques such as surgical recovery of Embryo, artificial insemination, rapid development of super-ovulation are being used. Since 1977, Embryo Transfer technique has been famous all over the world. (www.ezinearticles.com); Smith & Nicholas (1983).
Embryo Transfer is an advanced technique where ‘genetically superior’ and sexually mature female is injected with ‘exogenous’ hormones, so as to produce more ova which will then get successfully fertilized inside her, either naturally or artificially, are removed evaluated and transferred into the reproductive tract of surrogate mother, where it is developed into a mature calf. (www.ezinarticles.com).
Studies suggest that Vitamin D (VITD) supplementation in beef cattle is a successful method of increasing the longissimus calcium concentration by as much as 50% as compared to the muscle calcium levels from non-supplemented steers. This results in improving the overall meat tenderness. The researchers figured out that the VITD induced tenderization of meat, is a result of activation of calpain proteases, however, it would be inappropriate to rule out other possible mechanisms that may contribute to the overall tenderness of meat (Ray et al, 1999).
Another interesting finding, experimented on Japanese Black Cattle shows that Vitamin C dose of approximately 20mg to 60mg/kg of weight, can lead to better quality of meat. Vitamin C should be coated with digestible coating which can absorbed by the intestinal tract after it passes through the stomach. ‘Soyabean-hydrogenated oil and fat’ forms a desirable covering material. Results of such doses showed no significant difference between the Cattle supplemented with Vitamin C and the non-supplemented steer. However, the quality of meat showed significant differences in fat marbling (Shimofuri), luster, firmness and texture of the meat. (www.freepatentsonline.com) (Methods of improving beef quality).
Another method used for improving quality is ‘Hydrodyne Process’. This process uses a small amount of explosive, so as to generate a minor shock wave in water. This shock wave passes thorough the objects that form an acoustic match with water. It was found out, that four beef muscles, namely Longissimus, Semimembranosus, Biceps Femoris and Semitendinosus, when exposed to either 50, 75 or 100g of explosives got significant tenderization. A significant 72% reduction in shear force was observed for the longissimus muscle using 100g of explosives. In other three muscles, reduction in shear force with magnitudes of 30 to 59% improvements was observed. Results suggest that using the ‘Hydrodyne process’ for tenderizing beef is a novel opportunity for the meat industry to produce ‘Tender Meat’ (Solomon M.B et al, 1997).
Having said that, it is also well-known that intrinsic quality attributes of beef, especially the tenderness of beef, depends to a great extent on post-mortem factors, such as Temperature, pH, Proteolysis that result in degradation of beef during the post-mortem ageing. However, researchers have also proved that Quality characteristics, depend directly on the muscle biology of live animals which is further regulated by the genetic, nutritional and rearing factors (Geay et al, 2001); (Maltin et al, 2003).
A significant method of improving productivity is ‘Cloning’. In technical terms, Cloning is the production of multiple genetically identical animals (Robl & Spell, 2001). Genetically identical animals have been in production for over 30 years by using the technique of dividing embryos into two or more portions, so as to produce multiple embryos (Robl & Spell, 2001). The technique, also known as ‘Splitting’ did not manage to generate as much public interest or concern, as has the current technique of ‘Nuclear Transplantation’ which is most commonly referred as ‘Cloning’.
Nuclear Transplantation has the potential of producing genetically identical animals in unlimited numbers (Chan 1999; Cibelli et al, 1998; Wilmut et al, 1997).
Somatic Cell nuclear transplantation cloning has great promise, however, the limitations, such as low pregnancy rates and low calf survival rates restrict is current use. Somatic Cell cloning is still in the research phase and it is of utmost importance, that there is necessary research done, in order to improve survival rates and further evaluate variations in results before the commercialization of this technique could take place.
Small scale commercialization of this technology will be the second phase where they multiply animals of high value. When efficiency and quality of embryos improves, cryopreservation will become feasible and large number of embryos will be sold in straws, just as semen is today (Robl & Spell, 2001).
Another interesting and highly controversial topic is the ‘Antibiotic Debate’. For years now, farmers have been feeding their animals with small doses of antibiotics, as it helps the animals gain weight. The weight gain of animals is highly beneficial for the farmers, as it helps increase their profit margins (http://www.pbs.org).
Antibiotics like ‘tetracycline’ are fed to animals to help kill ‘flora’, a bacterium that is found in the intestine of animals. This results in better utilization of the eaten food and leads to increase in weight. Some other subtherapeutic antibiotics include tylosin, monensin, chlortetracycline given for growth promotion and prophylactic purposes (Dolliver A & Gupta S, 2008).
The constant controversy surrounding the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics for farm animals is whether its use causes the rise of drug-resistant bacteria; something that may lead to a widespread health problem (http://www.junkscience.com). Day by day, evidence linking use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics for food animals and human health risks is increasing. Researchers have found that, constant use of such antibiotics for food animals makes the bacteria in them resistant to drugs. If such animal’s meat is eaten by someone as an improperly cooked food, the person may fall ill and may not respond to the treatment possible through antibiotics otherwise (http://www.pbs.org).
Legislation on Use of Different Methods for Improving Beef Cattle Productivity
In 1985, the European Union imposed a ban on the use of growth-promoting hormones in beef production (Caduff & Bernauer, 2004). European Union’s regulatory activity first started its activity in this area in 1980 after a unilateral ban imposed by four EU member countries (Italy,Netherlands,Denmark, andGreece) in absence of EU wide legislation.
Regulatory heterogeneity within the European Union ended up creating conflict among different member states. Countries that possessed more permissive hormone regulation claimed that more strict regulations in other countries were helpful in creating non-tariff barriers to trade (Brand & Ellerton, 1989). At the same time, various scandals related to illegal hormone sale, use of hormones in Livestock breeding grew into a controversial public health issue (Caduff & Bernauer, 2004).
Following the consumer boycotts against hormone beef led to a considerable drop in the prices as well as the sales of beef in many European Union Countries. In response to the constituencies’ preference for hormone free beef, as well as constant media attention and lobbying done by the import-competing beef producers, EU member states that had stricter regulations, refused to relax their standards (Caduff & Bernauer, 2004).
The member states which indulged in producing hormone beef feared losing their European beef export markets due to the partial national autonomy of other countries for regulation of beef hormones coupled with the domestic political pressures. As a result, majority of EU countries agreed to the EU-wide hormone ban, exceptUnited Kingdom(Caduff & Bernauer, 2004).
However, the majority voting council of Agriculture Ministers, helped enable the regulators of EU to overcome the opposition ofUnited Kingdom. In order to avoid further market losses, food processors and retailers supported the Commission’s view and favored the stricter rules, instead of the Laxer and heterogeneous regulations (Caduff & Bernauer, 2004).
Consumer attitude towards enhanced BeeF
Research shows that consumers are willing to pay more for the beef that is known to have increased tenderness (Boleman et al, 1997).
Trained sensory panel evaluations reveal that enhancing beef steak with phosphate/salt-containing solution results in a more tender and juicy end product (Jensen et al, 2002). However, Robbins et al (2002)’s reports show, that enhancement done with phosphate/salt solution resulted in damaging effects on attributes such as color of the beef. For European customers color attribute is one of the most important factors while purchasing fresh meat (Glitsch, 2000). Carpenter et al (2001) also confirm that color red is preferred by European customers while making the purchasing decision.
For consumers, attributes such as color, visible fat, price and cut were the most important and influencing factors, they considered when making a purchase. Other attributes such as tenderness, flavor and juiciness, which were significantly increased by enhancement, were found to be of high importance with respect to the eating satisfaction of customers. Although there was some concern about the added ingredients, there is no doubt that enhancement leads to much tender and juicier beef.
During the course of this essay we have explored that increasing the beef quality without using antibiotics, growth hormones, cloning, vitamin supplementation seems to be a tough ask. Raising beef cattle without enhancement may not result in the quality of beef desired by the customers, and will also prove to be more expensive. On the other hand, it was also observed how important it is to work within the regulations. This is a dilemma which will need further research. Responding to customers’ needs may not be a wise option, as some researchers have found serious health risks; however, concrete evidence is yet to be discovered.
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