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Industry panel discusses merits of breeding strategies

Oklahoma City, Okla. –“When producers think about what consumers are looking for today, they must remember that consumers are looking for a higher quality product,” said Norlyn Tipton of SYSCO. 

“Consumers are looking for a smaller portion size than they were in the past, and they are looking for programs with traceability where producers can tell customers where their beef is coming from,” Tipton added. 

Tipon, along with other industry leaders, participated in a panel discussion concerning the merits of crossbreeding and straight breeding at the 2013 Beef Improvement Federation Symposium held June 12-15. 

Consumer preference 

According to Deborah VanOverbeke, professor of animal science at Oklahoma State University, the focus should be on a high quality end product that appeals to consumers.

“To me, it does not matter if the animal is crossbred or straight-bred, as long as we end up with a product that our consumers are satisfied with,” she said. “When retailers and restaurateurs were asked what the most important thing that they look for in a cut of beef was, their answer was eating satisfaction.”

For retailers and restaurateurs, eating satisfaction encompasses flavor and tenderness of the product. 

“Packers gave a similar answer,” VanOverbeke continued. “However, they defined tenderness as most important, then flavor. Regardless of the definition, it has to eat well.”

Breed preference

Other producers and feedlot owners echoed VanOverbeke’s sentiment during the discussion. They also stated that breed did not influence consumer choice. 

“In general, I think Prime is Prime,” said Chris Hitch of Hitch Feeders. “I don’t know if a Prime Certified Angus Beef (CAB) steak is that much different than a Prime Hereford steak or one from another animal.”

“Maybe I am pessimistic, but I don’t think the consumer knows the difference either,” he continued. “They think that CAB is a brand, not a breed.”

“I think all they know is that if they want a Choice steak, it better cost this much, taste about this good and be about this tender,” Hitch concluded. “They don’t care about if it is black-hided, brown-hided or anything else.”

Although the color of the hide does not influence consumer choice, producers see favoritism towards black hides. 

“We see a black-hided tendency in the industry,” Newley Hutchinson of Chain Ranch said. “We sell red cattle with the same genetics as the black, and we get beat up on them going into the feedyard. Some programs will not take them, even with the same genetics, so we try to make our end product black-hided.”

Comparisons

“When thinking about the idea of crossbreeding versus straight breeding for us, there are three breeds that come into play,” said Tipton. “We purchase primarily CAB. We also deal a lot with Snake River Farms, which produces a Wagyu/Angus crossbred product, and then we purchase Hereford.”

“Outside of those three breeds, it becomes a niche market. With the way the industry is today, the niche market is not going to take the world over,” Tipton added.

For Matt Spangler of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the answer is not straight breeding or crossbreeding, but genetics.  

“If we look at system efficiency and how we use genetics, what has escaped the beef industry thus far is actually the development and utilization of terminal and maternal lines,” Spangler said. “I think if we can master that – which is no small task – we could gain a tremendous amount of efficiency.”

Spangler also expressed his doubt that the industry will ever master the use and development of terminal and maternal lines.

“We want to move forward so badly, but we cannot seem to master the basics that have been around for decades,” he stated.

Kelsey Tramp is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.