Not every beef carcass is created equal. But now Silver Fern Farms is able to sort the good quality beef from the mediocre.
The co-operative has rolled out a new eating quality grading system for beef which was showcased to directors, company representatives and suppliers at its Finegand plant last week.
Silver Fern Farms group category manager Grant Howie said the aim was to create a demand and premium for New Zealand grass-fed beef.
"Beef farmers produce a huge range of beef - from very good to bad - which used to go in one box.
"Now we are able to sort it out and charge a premium for very good quality beef which will be guaranteed reserve grade," Mr Howie said.
The new beef grading system is backed up by 97,000 taste tests in New Zealand and the United States and 13,900 individual consumers trying various cuts of beef.
Mr Howie said Silver Fern Farms had been trialling the new grading system over the past two years and it had also been implemented at its Belfast and Pacific plants. The grading system measured criteria such meat colour, fat colour, rib fat, marbling, eye muscle area and pH.
"A high pH can be detrimental to meat colour and shelf life while muscling can have a positive influence on eating quality especially the loin cuts," he said.
Mr Howie said beef quality could be influenced behind the farm gate with genetics, feeding and minimal stress playing an important role.
Producers who met the reserve quality standard would receive a premium for their beef, he said.
Silver Fern Farms' branded beef would be in supermarkets in early March and consumers would be able to buy porterhouse steak, tenderloins, medallions, stirfry and roast in conveniently packaged portions.
Mr Howie believed a significant number of consumers would be willing to pay a premium for quality beef.
"New Zealand beef has been underselling for years.
"Now it's time to take it to the best paying markets in the world."
Silver Fern Farms had successfully launched conveniently packaged top quality lamb and venison on to the market four years ago and was enjoying 20 to 30 per cent growth year on year.
- The Southland Times