MSA grading Australia’s world leading grading system has cracked 2 million head of cattle for the years of 2011- 2012 and shows no sign of abating.( Meat and Livestock Australia)

The reason MSA was developed to give consumers confidence and eating satisfaction along with the fact that poultry and pork were making inroads into beef sales.

The MLA are quick to show a graph showing the acceptance of MSA; what it has done is failed to show another graph which would clearly show pork and chicken are still making inroads into beef consumption. The whole idea of MSA was designed under the strategic plan the goal was to supply consistent produce to consumers and accurately describe palatability to consumers. In 1998 the findings were that consumers were dissatisfied with the quality and were reacting to uncertain and unpredictable eating quality by reducing their consumption and MSA would increase profitability. At that time it was concluded that this would result in an annual 1.2 billion payout to Australian beef industry by 2010.

Now in 2012 it is interesting to look back at 1997 when the business plan for MSA was developing the average Australian chewed through 41.3 kg of beef now our consumption is 33.5 kg of beef per year. Some 8.2 kg less than we consumed in 1997 . The strategic plan that was developed stated that the cost to the beef industry on a 6 kg drop of domestic disappearance of beef consumption would equal $1.6 billion loss to AUST beef industry per year. Know with an actual loss of 8.2kg added to the cost of MSA $100 and the metre still ticking.

It is interesting to note prior to 1996 consumption of beef in the UK was 16 kg per person. When BSE struck, the government moved quickly and stopped any cattle over 30 months old being used for human consumption despite all of the fuss over BSE the consumption of beef had risen to 21 kg per person a 31% increase by 2001.

When MSA was first released it was truly a system that producers and consumers could rely on to deliver eating satisfaction. The problem was that people in the processing and retail sector who made their fortune by buying low-grade beef at discount prices and then on selling a product at a top grade product. These people refused to adopt MSA and the whole project was in danger of failing MLA moved quickly to water down the rules. First to go were the MSA graders who are completely independent and are replaced by company graders totally beholden to their employers. Boning groups have been expanded to get 18 boning groups which left cattle that would have never been considered when MSA was first developed. DNA testing soon faced the chop and now we see one supermarket who just sells MSA. It is very simple for wholesalers, retailers to simply put an MSA label on meat that was never designed to be an MSA product. The three star system where it was possible to identify MSA by star 3,4,5. The fact is star three and star five are miles apart in eating quality however now we see MSA graded.

Now we see a system that has cost producers in excess of $100 million and the meter is still ticking and has promised so much and delivered so little and done nothing to stop the lucky dip of inconsistency that continues to plague the beef industry.

The manager of MSA say that 94.3% of carcass is presented for MSA grading actually get through surely this is nothing to be proud of the rules governing MSA are not a fraction of what the rules were when MSA was first launched.

Beef consumption is certainly losing traction to pork and chicken who don’t use cast for age breeders for prime meat production. Unless MLA tightens the rules governing MSA beef will still continue to lose traction against pork and chicken.

From the Australian Beef Association