A lot of hard work goes into grading our red meat and we take a lot of care to do it correctly.
We use a uniform set of standards to make sure you get the best red meat every time. Take a look at our video to see the process.
Our Silver Fern Farms’ accredited EQ Master Graders are essential to how we hand-select the best red meat. Our Master Graders assess individual carcasses to collect attributes which are used in the grading process.
For each graded carcass the ticket is scanned to obtain the carcass weight, date and carcass number. All carcass measurements are entered into our EQ database. Eating quality outcomes for the different cuts of meat are then generated based on the attribute scores.
In addition to standard measures such as carcassweight, a set of specific EQ attributes is taken into account.
The key attributes are:
1. ULTIMATE PH
pH testing measures lactic acid levels and is recorded in conjunction with temperature. Ultimate pH is measured in the ribeye muscle using a pH meter. High pH can have be detrimental to meat color, texture, shelf life and eating quality. Energy (or glycogen) levels in the animal are key to obtaining a pH within the acceptable range. Minimizing stress and ensuring animals have enough energy reserves through adequate finishing will assist in achieving an ideal pH-level.
Marbling is assessed by the amount and distribution of intramuscular fat within the rib-eye muscle. Marbling has a positive effect on eating quality and its influence is greatest across the high value loin cuts. It is the last fat to be deposited and the first to be utilized by the animal as an energy source. To maximize marbling, cattle must be on a high quality diet. Marbling can be improved through genetic selection and farmers should be aware of this characteristic when selecting a sire for their cattle.
The maturity of a carcass is measured by ossification, which is the process of cartilage turning to bone in the vertebrae. As an animal matures, the fibers in the meat become progressively stronger, more rigid and are less likely to be broken down in cooking, resulting in tougher meat. The Silver Fern Farms Eating Quality system relates carcass weight to ossification - effectively a ‘weight for age’ measure. Nutrition plays a significant role in ossification rates. Cattle with fast growth rates will likely have lower ossification.
4. RIB FAT/TOTAL RIB FAT
Rib fat is measured as the depth of subcutaneous fat – the fat between the skin and the meat. For high quality beef subcutaneous fat must be a minimum of 3mm in depth. This standard aims to reduce temperature variation within the carcass muscles during chilling. Evenly chilled meat has a more consistent and predictable eating quality as well as improved visual appearance.
5. MEAT COLOR
Meat color is assessed on the chilled carcass at the rib eye muscle area. It is scored against a set of color reference standards that reflect the bright cherry red color expected from consumers. Stress can play a significant role in reducing meat color as it affects meat pH levels, which in turn affects color.
6. FAT COLOR
Fat color measures the color of the intramuscular fat lateral to the ribeye muscle. Fat color is determined by the concentration of B-carotene which is found in grass which forms the basis of the diet of New Zealand stock. High levels of B-carotene will cause a more intensive yellow coloring in some animals. Breed and nutrition can influence fat color.
7. EYE MUSCLE
The area of the eye muscle is measured in square centimetres. While this information is not used as part of the EQ grading process it is believed there is a correlation in this measurement and the value our farmers can gain from their carcasss.
What It Takes To Be An EQ Master Grader
Our accredited EQ Master Graders collect individual carcass attributes using a uniform set of standards. They undergo an intensive two week training course and are re-tested every 8 weeks.
Successful graders must achieve a 100% pass rate in their practical assessment and at least a 70% pass rate in their theory assessment.