Demand for Livestock Products & Factors Affecting Consumption

gbsomerville By gbsomerville, 27th Jul 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Essays

This is an essay I wrote about the demand for livestock products and the factors which affect consumption.

Consumer Requirements

British beef and lamb have a reputation for delivering a high flavour and succulence demanded by consumers which goes back over centuries. Traceability is another demand set out by consumers, and assurance schemes such as the Red Tractor Logo ensures we have farm to shelf traceability, this gives consumers added confidence in knowing where there food comes from and covers right across the red meat chain.

Red Tractor food is produced to high standards which are independently inspected at every critical stage in farm to pack. All beef and lamb carrying the red tractor logo has been farmed to high levels of animal welfare and food hygiene and can be fully traced back to the farm. EBLEX quality logo food has been assured to the red tractor logo standards with additional requirements to provide consistent eating quality.

Scotland was the first country to introduce farm assurance standards to provide customers with the “independently audited” label to guarantee peace of mind. Scotch Beef assurance scheme means that only animals from farms that meet the assurance standards are eligible to be classes as Scotch Beef.

These farms are inspected annually and only then can the classification “Scotch Beef” be awarded to those cattle or sheep that have been born and raised on assured Scottish farms. You will always know where your Scotch Beef has come from as traceability gives you the ultimate guarantee of peace of mind from farm to plate through the auditing process which takes note of the following:
> Intake Date
> Supplier Details
> Delivery Note Data
> Weight
> UK Ear Tag
> Product (i.e. cut)
> Pack Date
> Slaughter Code

Scotch Beef products must be traceable and comply with the respective legislation, which specifications include:
> Firm fat that is white and creamy
> Muscle and fat that is free from bruising
> Firm muscle and a good colour

Probably the most important consumer demand is supply of the same meat texture, taste and quality, throughout the year, week in week out. Consumers do not want to buy a fillet steak one week which is succulent, tender, and not too much fat and of a good size, and go back the next week and pick up a fillet steak which is none of the above. If this happened, the likelihood of that consumer not buying another fillet steak again (certainly for a length of time) is very high.

Nor does the consumer want to buy a frying steak or sirloin when they are specifically looking for a fillet or joint. If the consumer demands beef products they must be on the shelf when they want them and they must meet the quality that is demanded too.

Points Affecting Quality

The consumer demands a high quality, but there are several factors that affect the quality of the meat products which are produced and placed on the shelf. The high quality that the consumer buys for the first time is demanded every time thereafter and this can sometimes be hard to keep up with.

When a producer is finishing cattle for slaughter, they need to make sure that the animal is not overweight in fat and is finished to the right condition score, with good looking body, not too much fat and a fair amount of muscles, especially at the shoulders. If there is too much fat, then the cuts that comes off at slaughter end up with too much fat when the consumer is cooking, and not enough meat on the product.

Although saying this, a small amount of fat is needed for the marbling effect which is the
white streaks of fat going through the meat, and this helps to give the taste and texture of the meat. Too much of the marbling and you have a fatty cut. Another thing that the consumer requires is that the meat is a nice bright red, healthy looking colour and not darkened and old looking.

This means that at the farm, finishing and slaughter the animal and meat have to be carefully looked after if we are to meet current demands set out by consumer. Bulls tend to produce tougher meat because of collagen cross linking. Low stress is necessary to maintain muscle glycogen and hence meat quality. Stress can reduce the muscle glycogen stores and increase pH and produce darker firm, dry meat. Any physical damage to the cattle may appear as bruising and is usually waste when in the slaughterhouse.

This means that there are fewer cuts off the animal which means less profit for the producer and less cuts to put on the shelf. If grass fed, this produces flavours more rapidly, although a mixture of both grass and grain feeding is preferred as this produces both flavouring and colour.

If the animal is older than thirty months of age, they must come from a farm assured scheme, as the older the animal, the tougher the meat and less flavour. Cattle under twenty six months are more likely to give tender meat. Although a fatty animal should be avoided, intramuscular fat may improve flavour and juiciness.

When at the slaughterhouse, carcase pH and temperature have a major effect on eating quality. The relationship is very complex but involves rate of fall of both temperature and pH. If the temperature falls too rapidly then cold shortening results, but if cooling is too slow, hot shortening can result.

Scotch Beef have considerate chilling, which means that no part of the carcase is below ten degrees within ten hours of slaughter. pH levels should be between 5.9 and 6.2 after three hours of slaughtering. Electrical Stimulation uses up muscle energy supplies (glycogen) and so accelerates pH fall and the onset and rigour and allows for more rapid chilling. The high voltage used in electrical stimulation increases the tenderness in the loin.

The precise timing and amount of this process is important and works on each muscle differently. Although electrical stimulation may improve tenderness and flavour, it may reduce juiciness. Muscle length also influences tenderness, and hip suspension improves tenderness to the loin and hind leg muscles by imposing stretch throughout rigor. Stretching prior to ageing can increase tenderness. Rigor is onset temperature of fifteen degrees and has the best effect on tenderness.

Ageing is the major determinant of tenderness and flavour. Tenderness increases after twenty four hours until between twenty one and thirty five days. 80% tenderisation takes place ten days after slaughter at one degree. Ageing to fourteen days may improve tenderness and flavour without risks of abnormal flavours. During ageing, beefy, and sweet flavours decline and increase bitter and sour flavours.

Current Issues.

Several issues surround the supply and demand for beef producers, especially during such times as the credit crunch, and is a continuing circle and can be more partially blamed on the retailers and consumers.

The cost of producing animals for slaughter has risen significantly, from the price of feed and bedding to fuel costs and labour. Animals must be kept in good condition and not have any injuries or physical bruising before slaughter as when the carcase is scored, the farmer is paid on the score of the carcase. This means that bull meat will be less than a heifer, due to the glycogen.

An animal that has physical bruising on its carcase has to get the bruising removed, which means that even less payment will be made to the farmer, as the processing plant will be able to take less cuts of meat out of the carcase. Again, if the carcase is not considerably chilled or had electrical stimulation and been hung correctly, price will decrease as flavour, quality etc will not be at its best.

Retailers make it more and more difficult for producers to gain any profit out of beef, with different offers such as two for one and two for five pound, especially when each cut of meat could be worth five pound or more. Another way retailer’s make it difficult for producers is the different ways that beef is brought into the supermarket and sold. Instead of the traditional Sunday roast, with a big beef joint, consumers are demanding more and more ready meals and cheaper ways of cooking.

Whilst the better quality goes onto the shelf such as sirloin and fillet steaks, the poorer quality meat goes into the ready meals. Ready meals are quicker to produce as there is poorer quality meat that comes off an animal than good quality. Consumers are probably the worst to blame for the current economic supply and demand trend, as they want cheaper prices on the fillet, sirloins and roast joints, meaning that slaughterhouses and cutting plants put the prices lower and lower.

The moment prices start to rise consumers are back on the bandwagon wanting prices lower again. This is one of the reasons that retailers are making so much money from the ready meals and two for one offer’s.


Animal, Assurance, Audit, Beef, Consumer, Consumption, Critical, Demand, Farms, Flavour, Food, Hygiene, Independent, Inspect, Livestock, Products, Scotch, Scotland, Standards, Succulence, Traceability, Welfare

Meet the author

author avatar gbsomerville
I am 22 years old, play the piano and accordion. I'm a live sound and studio recording engineer, enjoy the outdoors / countryside, agriculture and most animals... except insects.

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author avatar Denise O
28th Jul 2012 (#)

I have witnessed a huge increase in beef prices over the last 6 months and it is still going higher. I remember some years back so many folks were screaming about the price of milk and yet, those that supply the milk were being hammered with the price of grain and they must make up the price of that, in one way or another. Nice read. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar gbsomerville
28th Jul 2012 (#)

It's a constant battle for all farmers in the UK unfortunately :(
Thank you for the nice comment :)

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