Digital cameras get CFIA approval for beef grading” was the announcement in mid-October 2010. So where are we today?
Despite the fact that the three largest slaughter facilities in Canada have the technology installed, they have yet to request to use it to facilitate grade assessment. No doubt it is coming, but which packer will be the first to make the shift to technologically assisted grading is yet to be determined.
If we look south of our border for an indication, we see that there are 28 packers with the technology installed with only 10 as of Nov. 15, 2010, using the technology to assist carcass grade assessment. That is the current status of technology for beef carcass grading in Canada and the U.S.
By far the most challenged grade assessed by a grader is the Canada B4 grade for dark-cutting beef. On a national scale B4s constitute less than two per cent of our total graded fed slaughter. However, having a low national percentage is no comfort to the producer who was hit hard in the pocketbook by carcasses grading B4. The price discount on B4s is significant and varies by packer, and by season. Why is it so severe? As described by a well-respected individual in the retail business, dark cutters “do not fit into the retail counter, period!”
The scientific community has done endless studies on B4s to determine their root cause and to possibly identify any preventive or remedial management practices that could reduce their incidence. When the appearance of large groups of B4s can be traced back, there is usually anecdotal evidence of a root stressor. Producers should be able to identify these instances and make every effort to avoid them in future shipments.
No one wants to get a B4, not the producer, packer or the grader. However, there is an obligation for the grader to apply the regulations and by all industry members to support the prevention of dark cutters from entering into our quality meat products both for the domestic and international market.
As a Canada Beef Export Federation representative stated, “Meat colour is the one absolute defining characteristic that distinguishes Canadian beef from U.S. beef.” We have a Canadian advantage and all members of the industry need to support it to maintain Canada’s beef credibility in the marketplace.
Privatized grading, through the efficiencies of contracting for grading service, has saved the industry over $33 million in delivery costs in 14 years. The privatization success of the CBGA and the increasing credibility of the Canadian grade name is something in which all industry partners and graders can take pride. Again, we have a Canadian advantage in our privatized delivery of beef carcass grading.