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From the News Archives...

Laid-back cattle produce tender meat

For decades, animal scientists have assumed that grain-feeding is the key to tender, juicy beef. Grain-feeding does promote fat accumulation, which results in more highly marbled meat.

But marbling accounts for only about 10 percent of the difference in tenderness, according to new research. The disposition of the animals may play a much larger role.

Australian scientists have determined that the calmer the animal, the more likely it will yield tender meat. To determine disposition, they measure the amount of time it takes an animal to travel six feet after leaving a weight machine. The ones that bolt off the scales "like an F-111 jet fighter" are the ones most likely to produce tough meat, according to Dr. Bernie Bindon, who heads up the Co-operative Research Centre for Cattle and Beef Quality in Australia. Those that amble away are more likely to produce the "cut with a fork" meat that consumers covet. Researchers theorize that disposition may be linked with a gene that increases the likelihood of tender steaks.

The take home message is that grain-feeding is not necessary to produce tender, juicy meat. A kindly cow raised on pasture will yield an equally tender steak.

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