New beef checkoff-funded research took apart the chuck and round and created a database that can serve as a bible for new product development. Those products could boost beef demand by reinventing uses for those undervalued beef cuts which comprise 50 percent of carcass weight.
The research, which was a muscle profiling project, was first shared Nov. 3-4 in Omaha, Neb., with a task force of cattlemen, packers, retailers, fabricators and the like.
Researchers from the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida extracted 39 muscles in all, 27 from the chuck and 12 from the round. A total of 5,600 samples were measured by length, weight, chemical composition for nutritional values, tenderness, and best cooking method and other valuable processing properties. Those results created the first database of its kind for those muscles.
"It's about time we've done this research. It's about time we as an industry start to understand the product we sell. We will have better use for those muscle groups that we didn't know what to do with before," said Steve Harper. He is the vice president, Meat & Seafood Marketing & Procurement and Product Development for H-E-B grocery stores in Texas.
Rethinking how the chuck and round is used presents opportunities to extract profits that presently might be buried in the carcass. Rethinking these primals can increase the offerings in the raw material supply and create the chance to add new menu items. Lower-valued muscles could be upgraded through value-added techniques such as seasoning or marinades, and some of the more tender muscles could be better used.
Dave Nichols, a seedstock provider and NCBA chairman of the Product Enhancement Committee, said the project "has the ability to take us to the next level. In this project, everyone wins. For the farmer and the rancher, it will add value and increase demand."
Based on the research, value-added specialists will be able to identify which muscles will lend themselves to specific treatments. All the muscles were measured for their water holding capability, as well as their pH level. The ability to retain moisture affects the ability to add value. Researchers also measured the binding ability of individual muscles by measuring the pH level, because that determines the muscle's ability to bind with other agents, such as a seasoning.
Researchers pointed out that extracting some muscles means changing the way the product is cut. For instance, some cuts now come with several muscles bundled together.
While removing a specific muscle in whole form may increase the value for that cut, the increased value has to be weighed against the impact on the remaining muscles.
Many of the cuts, either by tenderness or cooking method, were seen as candidates for value-added products. Micky Beriau, an executive chef for Doyle & Bailey Inc., showed the effectiveness of doing that. He and Chef Ed Brylczyk prepared hors d' oeuvres using seven of the cuts. Each had particular challenges. Some were drier than others; some required different cutting techniques or tenderizing methods. In the end, they all had to become a great eating experience.
"It takes a lot of work to get it to the next level. There's not a lot of moisture in some of these muscles," Beriau said.
He looked at each muscle in terms of what could be done and replicated easily so it was a marketable product.
"We tried to do a lot of these muscles in solid form. It moves the muscle and it's easy to do at home," he said. "I think the way to go with some of these is a value-added product, the same way you did with pot roasts and meat loaf . . . The biggest thing we have to think about is a palatable eating experience. That's what beef is all about -- bringing back those good American memories."
Roger Sheehy is vice president of technical services for JacPac Foods Ltd., a further processor. He said: "We're all looking for where the next cut is going to come from and to be honest with you, we don't have the time to do this work. It had to be done. ... It's a starting point. Next, we'll make products out of it."
The booklet that profiles each muscle is undergoing final adjustments as recommended by the task force. It should be completed soon and then it will be released to the industry.
This project was funded by beef producers through their $1-per-head checkoff and was produced for the Cattlemen's Beef Board and state beef councils by National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The national beef checkoff is administered by the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board. This 111-member board is appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to oversee the collection of the $1-per-head checkoff, certify state beef councils, implement the provisions of the Federal Order establishing the checkoff and evaluate the effectiveness of checkoff programs.