A NEW grain fed beef standard called Grain Fed Finished, or GFF, will be in play from the start of next month.
Australian Lot Feeders Association president Tess Herbert said the release of the standard was a significant milestone for the Australian grain fed beef sector.
The minimum standard requires cattle to be produced within the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme production system, be raised on a specific high energy ration for a minimum 35 days on feed, and successfully achieve Meat Standards Australia grading requirements when processed.
“GFF, with its minimum number of days and MSA overlay, enables brand owners and feedlot operators increased flexibility around producing grain fed beef whilst continuing to ensure product integrity and eating quality,” Mrs Herbert said.
“Introduction of the new standard is the result of reviews conducted into both the NFAS and the AUS-MEAT Beef Language and follows broad consultation with feedlot operators, beef processors, retailers, brand owners and Industry representative bodies.”
GFF is being introduced in addition to the existing Australian grain fed standards, being the Grain Fed (GF) and Grain Fed Young Beef (GFYG) standards.
“The existing grain fed standards are widely recognised for delivering high quality Australian grain fed beef and so the GF and GFYG standards will continue to be available without change, with GFF providing an additional feeding option for NFAS accredited feedlot operators,” Mrs Herbert said.
One of the key features of the new standard is the integrity provided by the NFAS production system and the positive connotations that could be attached to its beef products, according to Mr Jim Cudmore, Chairman of Feedlot Industry Accreditation Committee (FLIAC) which oversees the NFAS.
“The NFAS is the highly acclaimed quality assurance program for the Australian cattle feedlot industry which includes stringent animal welfare, nutrition and environmental requirements. The sourcing of livestock from NFAS accredited feedlots is a prerequisite for beef processed in AUS-MEAT accredited processing establishments being described as grain fed,” Mr Cudmore said.
ALFA and FLIAC, in consultation with industry, chose the name GFF to expand the current grain fed offering and accurately describe the resulting product.
“We certainly wanted to include ‘grain fed’ in the description and decided that GFF accurately represented the product. With the specification including fewer days on feed, GFF indicates to the market that the animal has been finished on a dedicated grain feeding regime,” Mr Cudmore said.
Introducing a third standard involving Meat Standards Australia (MSA) for grain fed beef was a sensible evolution for lot feeding in Australia, according to Mr Cudmore.
“All of industry – not just the grain fed industry – is now producing for specific eating quality outcomes. It’s a sensible evolution of the NFAS to involve a standard that specifically relates to an eating quality outcome,” he said.
Refinements in grain processing, ration formulation and feed distribution, integrated with genetic improvements of Australia’s beef cattle herd, has brought enormous advancements in grain fed beef production since the mid-1990s.
“Over the last two decades the genetic base of the cattle we’re feeding has improved greatly so that an animal that may have had to have been fed, for example, for 120 or 130 days to get a certain eating quality outcome in 1995 has the genetic capacity today to achieve it much earlier,” Mr Cudmore said.
“At the same time, our feeding systems have dramatically improved as we’ve learnt to target feed diets to specific groups of cattle.
“The industry has improved, and the cattle have improved, so we can now do things today in a shorter timeframe and still achieve the same eating quality outcomes, or even better,” Mr Cudmore said.
Adoption of the GFF standard from 1 September 2018 will be voluntary and a commercial decision between brand owners, meat processors, non-packer exporters and NFAS accredited feedlot operators who supply them. NFAS accredited feedlots and AUS-MEAT beef processors have received AUS-MEAT Advice on how to adopt the new standard into commerce. A fact sheet outlining how the GFF Standard is being introduced is available here.