Dairy ranching for beef and milk

Small scale Dairy ranching for the resource poor sector in South Africa

Industry Sector: Cattle and Small Stock

Research focus area: The economics of red meat consumption and production in South Africa

Research Institute: Agricultural Research Council – Animal Production Institute

Researcher: Dr. Susanna Maria Grobler PhD

Title Initials Surname Highest Qualification
Prof MM Scholtz DSc
Ms V Leesburg MSc (USDA)

Year of completion : 2018

Aims of the project

  • To generate results from a dairy ranching system that can be used by existing and new emerging cattle farmers.
  • To benchmark the system of dairy ranching for the resource poor sector in comparison with a small scale dairy production and an ordinary beef cattle suckler (weaner calf) system.
  • To do on station characterization and benchmarking of different cattle genotypes for suitability to be utilized in systems of dairy ranching.
  • To measure the levels of methane emission between the different genotypes

Executive Summary

Dairy ranching is defined as the practice of keeping cows of relatively low milk yield, who are parted from their calves in the evenings, milked out in the morning, and spend the day with their calves at foot while the cows are usually not milked in the evening.

The objectives of the study was firstly to generate results from a project that imitate Dairy ranching that can be used by existing and new emerging cattle farmers; secondly to benchmark the system of Dairy ranching for the resource poor sector in comparison with small-scale dairy production and an ordinary weaner system; thirdly to do on station characterization and benchmarking of different cattle genotypes for suitability to be utilized in aDairy ranching system; and fourthly to measure the levels of methane emission between the different genotypes.

The project commenced with five purebred heifers each of the Bonsmara, Brahman, Nguni and Red Poll breed. The small-scale dairy at Roodeplaat, was used to produce milk from Jersey cows grazing natural veld under small-scale conditions with limited resources. The weigh-suckle-weigh technique was used to estimate milk production from all breeds except the Jerseys, which was milked daily.

When comparing the different breeds, the Nguni cows followed by the Brahman cows showed the highest potential income from a weaner production system. In the Dairy ranching system, the dual-purpose Red Poll cows had the highest potential income. The Jersey cows milked in a conventional dairy system potential income reduced by 24% when cows were milked once per day instead of twice per day. The Dairy ranching system produced the highest potential income compared to the weaner production system and conventional dairy milking once per day. The conventional dairy produced the highest potential income when milked twice daily.

With funding from rural development, another ARC-API project “Dairy value chain”, established small-scale milk production units in rural areas in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape by making use of the Dairy ranching project’s principles after the Dairy ranching project’s promising preliminary results. These small-scale farmers are producing milk now successfully for the past three years.

Understanding the differences in enteric methane production from cattle in different production systems is important for the productivity in the different sectors and for developing mitigation strategies in respect of the contribution of agricultural activities to methane emissions.

In the first study methane production was measured from, Bonsmara, Nguni and Jersey heifers, grazing natural sour veld, forage sorghum under irrigation, oats pasture under irrigation and a total mixed ration (TMR) were significant differences were found between breeds and feed sources. It was also found that individual animals emitted higher or lower quantities of methane irrespective of the feed source. The second study evaluated methane production from pregnant Bonsmara-, Brahman-, Jersey-, Nguni- and Red Poll heifers grazing natural veld and forage Sorghum under irrigation. Bonsmara heifers produced the highest amount of methane and the Jerseys produced the lowest amount of methane on both the natural veld and forage Sorghum.

POPULAR ARTICLE

The smallholder milk producers in South Africa have their own constraints ranging from poor access to support services, lower productivity, limited access to market outlets and low capital reserves. These farmers have the opportunity to make use of a dairy ranching system with lowered liabilities in relation to intensive milk production systems. This includes less infrastructure, lower production costs and relative resilience to rising feed prices.

Methane is one of the major anthropogenic greenhouse gasses, second only to carbon dioxide in its impact on climate change. Understanding the differences in enteric methane production from cattle in different production systems is not only important for the productivity in the different sectors, but also for developing mitigation strategies in respect of the contribution of agricultural activities to methane emissions.

Dairy Ranching can be defined as the practice of keeping cows of relatively low milk yield, who are parted from their calves in the evenings, milked out in the morning, and spend the day with their calves at foot while the cows are usually not milked in the evening. Beef cattle can be a viable option for small-scale farmers to complement other farm enterprises, such as milk production. In tropical countries, making use of the calf to stimulate milking is a popular practice and it was reported that this system is adopted by 95% of 289 farms surveyed in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Advantage of this restricted suckling system include a reduction in milk let-down problems and improved milk production under good nutritional regimes, reduce stress in both cows and calves and the efficiency of milk utilization is higher in calves that are suckled than when they take the same amount of milk from a bucket. Other benefits of suckling calves in relation to bucket fed calves are a reduced incidence of diarrhoea and the elimination of naval suckling. Udder health and the incidence of mastitis also decrease with suckling due to small-scale farmers not being able to milk the cows from time to time due to labour and other personal constraints. When compared to a conventional dairy system, Dairy Ranching has lower input costs, labour requirements and limited infrastructure is needed. It is also the perfect opportunity to add value to small-scale beef production enterprises. Dairy Ranching development in the rural-based, small farmer-oriented cattle industry can therefor increase productivity, raise income, promote self-reliance, reduce malnutrition and therefor improve standard of living.

The ARC-API conducted a trial funded by RMRD-SA to firstly generate results from a project that imitate dairy ranching that can be used by existing and new emerging cattle farmers; secondly to benchmark the system of Dairy Ranching for the resource poor sector in comparison with small-scale dairy production and an ordinary beef cattle suckler (weaner calf) system; thirdly to do on station characterization and benchmarking of different cattle genotypes for suitability to be utilized in systems of dairy ranching; and fourthly to measure the levels of methane emission between the different genotypes measured with a Laser Methane Detector. Purebred Bonsmara, Brahman, Nguni and Red Poll heifers were used to represent a weaner production system and dairy ranching system. Jersey cattle was milked from natural veld in a small-scale dairy at the ARC-API Roodeplaat campus, with limited infrastructure and resources to represent a small-scale rural dairy production system. The weigh suckle weigh technique was used to estimate milk production from all breeds except the Jerseys which was milked daily.

When a small-scale farm has the carrying capacity to sustain 25 large stock units (LSU), the amount of animals that can be sustained on the farm will differ between breeds with different frame sizes and different weights. Therefore, results obtained from the project was converted to simulate a farm with the capacity to sustain 25 LSU which included 15 Bonsmara, 16 Brahman, 20 Nguni, 21 Red Poll and 21 Jersey cows.

When comparing these different breeds in different production systems, the Nguni cows followed by the Brahman cows showed the highest potential income from a weaner production system. In the Dairy Ranching system, the dual-purpose Red Poll cows showed the highest potential income. The Jersey cows milked in a conventional dairy system potential income reduced by 24% when cows were milked once per day instead of twice per day. The conventional dairy produced a higher potential income than a weaner production system from 25 large stock units but less than the Dairy Ranching system, even when compared to pure beef breeds being used for milk production.

With funding from the Department of rural development and land reform’s REID project, another ARC-API project “Dairy value chain” established small-scale milk production units within the resource poor sector in rural areas in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape as one of the project’s objectives. The uncomplicated, economical small-scale Dairy Ranching unit, showed promising results at Roodeplaat, which inspired the coordinator of the “Dairy value chain” project to implement the principles at the newly established small-scale milk production units in the mentioned three provinces. These small-scale farmers received pregnant heifers in 2013/2014. They are producing milk now successfully for the past two/three years with cows already in their second lactation.

The methane production trial evaluated methane production (g/day) from the pregnant Bonsmara-, Brahman-, Jersey-, Nguni- and Red Poll heifers grazing natural veld and forage Sorghum under irrigation.

The methane production was much higher when grazing natural veld (164.8g/day) than grazing forage Sorghum (130.4g/day). The tannin content in Sorghum may have contributed to lower methane production as tannin content reduce enteric methane production. A significant difference was found between different breeds methane concentration (P=0.0692). The large frame Bonsmara and Brahman cows produced the highest amount of methane, 159.6g/day and 170.5g/day respectively. The small frame Red Poll and Jersey cows produced the lowest amount of methane, 139.4g/day and 119.9g/day respectively. Methane production is linked to body weight and from this study, it is clear that small frame animals produce less methane than medium frame animals

From this study, it is clear that Dairy Ranching is a viable strategy to increase income, add value, increase cash flow, competitiveness and long-term survival of rural smallholder cattle farmers.

Please contact the Primary Researcher if you need a copy of the comprehensive report of this project – Dr Grobler on mgrobler@arc.agric.za

Formal and Informal Red Meat Industry in the Western Cape

Hidden in Plain Sight: A Regional Inquiry into the Size, Scope and Socioeconomic Effects of the Western Cape’s Formal and Informal Red Meat Industries

Industry Sector: Cattle and Small Stock

Research Focus Areas: Animal Health and Welfare; Animal Products, quality and safety, nutritional value and preference; The economics of red meat consumption and production in South Africa

Research Institute: Agriculture Research Institute – Animal Production Institute

Researcher: Dr Nick Vink PhD (Agric)

Title Initials Surname Highest Qualification
Mr. Michael McCullough M

Completion Date : 2018

Aims Of The Project

  • 3.1 To determine and report the size and scope of the informal red meat I industry as well as the informal industry’s effects on food safety, animal health and l welfare and food security with an initial focus on the Western Cape.
  • 3.2 To determine and report the size and scope of the formal red meat industry as well as the formal industry’s effects on food safety, animal welfare and food security with a primary focus on the Western Cape.
  • 3.3 To create and test a combined quantitative and qualitative methodology for determining the size and scope of the red meat industry in South Africa with a primary emphasis on the informal sector, a secondary emphasis on the formal sector as well as recommendations for improving current levels of food safety, animal welfare and food security.

Executive Summary

Hidden in Plain Sight

The genesis of Hidden in Plain Sight was two previous studies of red meat marketing systems: one in a rural Municipality in the Western Cape that discovered an informal shadow industry operating alongside a formal system of abattoirs, supermarkets and independent butcheries; the other in the townships and informal settlements of Cape Town that described an informal marketing system filling a vacuum created by the abdication of the formal system of supermarkets and butcheries. Beyond the scope of both studies was an appreciation of the size and scope of the Province’s informal systems of red meat production, processing and distribution. Hidden in Plain Sight attempts to determine size and scope of the Province’s informal red meat industry, its effects on food security, food safety and animal health and welfare.

Informal livestock farmers pasturing cattle and sheep primarily on Municipal land as well as raising pigs in improvised piggeries furnish livestock for informal processing; i.e. outdoor slaughter and indoor butchery in unlicensed facilities such as home kitchens and food stands. One and two kilo ‘value packs’ are then sold from kitchen butcheries in rural communities. Braai stands located near taxi ranks, train stations and major intersection in the former townships of Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and Nyanga in the Cape Town Metropole receive live animals directly from informal producers located on City land surrounding these communities. The animals are slaughtered on the sidewalk in front the stands or in any other adjacent open space. The muscle meat is sliced into strips and braaied, the heads are skinned, split and charred and the offal is piled on the counter for sale to hawkers or take-home consumers.

The informal system exists in both urban and rural areas to serve the 2.6 million low to very low income households in the Western Cape. In addition to low incomes many urban and rural households live in virtual ‘food deserts’ where, in the absence of transportation either public or private access to food sellers is at best difficult.  Low to very low incomes and lack of access expose over half of the Province’s households to food insecurity and place 29 percent at risk of hunger.

An expectation at the inception of this study was that size and scope of the informal system although unknown would rival the formal red meat system and would be sufficient to serve a significant percentage of the Province’s food insecure households. Such was not the case. Survey data based on inspections of informal production sites throughout the Province, census  and interview data from the Veterinary Service and the Farmer Support and Development programmes of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and interviews with Municipal Social Development officials yield numbers of informal produced livestock clearly insufficient to serve a fraction of households at risk for hunger. Three recommendations are offered to increase the capacity of the informal industry to serve food insecure households: conduct a comprehensive inventory of public land suitable for informal production; establish an informal production, processing and distribution pilot project in each District Municipality; investigate existing parallel formal – informal marketing systems in Latin America; develop a prototype two tiered regulatory frame work to facilitate food security whilst ensuring food safety.

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Magazine Article

Michael McCullough

When South African consumers walk into their local supermarket to shop for beef, lamb or pork they expect a fresh, high quality, attractively packaged, nutritious product and they get it. No need to worry about the safety of the product. South African cattle, sheep and pigs are given a through once over before they set foot in an abattoir. Any animal injured, unfit or suspected of disease is promptly rejected, condemned and disposed of. It’s not a business decision, it’s the law.

What supermarket shoppers are beginning to worry about is the possibility the meat they serve their family and friends could come from terrified, abused or injured animals. They want to know that the slaughter process is humane and animal suffering is minimised. That may sound like a contradiction in terms but it’s not. Here’s why:

  • After arrival at the abattoir animals must be rested for at least an hour. The animals must calm and ready for inspection just before they are taken into the abattoir.
  • After passing single file through a narrow corridor each animal is taken individually into a slaughter room and placed in a narrow box or a harness. This happens out of sight of the other animals to reduce stress on those queued up behind.
  • The actual killing must be painless. Animals are stunned with a strong but not fatal electric shock or with a captive bolt pistol that delivers a sharp blow to the animal’s forehead.
  • While the animal is unconscious both the arteries and veins in the neck must be severed quickly and accurately. Contrary to the movies where the victim drops dead just after his throat is cut; if one or more veins or arteries are missed the animal may take from a minute to five minutes to die. If the stun wears off before enough blood is lost to shut down the brain the animal can experience pain.
  • Stunning and wielding the knife is hard, skilled and dangerous work. Humane slaughter depends on workers who are alert and careful. Tired operators may become careless or insensitive to animals’ welfare therefore abattoirs insure their operators take regular rest periods to maintain their skills.

The animal’s carcase is then moved to a high ceilinged room and hoisted head down to finish the bleeding process. The carcase is now ready for butchery. For consumers preferring kosher or halal meat the procedure is slightly different. For kosher slaughter no stunning is allowed but to minimise suffering the arteries, veins, vagus nerve, trachea and oesophagus are severed in a single quick sweep of a very sharp knife. Halal abattoirs may elect to stun the animal. Properly done the animal is unconscious in three seconds because severing the vagus nerve is like shutting down the body’s neurological switchboard.  Flip the switch and the lights go out.

One thing consumers shopping at their neighbourhood supermarket or butchery don’t want to worry about is whether the chops and steaks they’re buying are safe to eat. Should they? After all nobody wants to have friends and family or even worse, their boss over for a braai and find out later that everyone wound up at the clinic with gastric ‘distress’ or worse. This threat is all but completely short-circuited by post slaughter meat inspections, cold chain management and strict hygiene practices from the abattoir to the wholesaler to your butcher to your shopping cart.  Here’s how it works:

  • After the carcase has bled out, the head and hide are removed taking care to make sure the hair side of the hide doesn’t touch the meat. After all the animal has never seen a shower stall so the hide is pretty grimy. For this reason anything that touches the hide shouldn’t touch the meat such as dirty hands, in in the low income housing areas next to most country towns and in densely populated urban communities like Khayelitsha in Cape Town implements, dirty hands or soiled protective clothing.
  • Organs like the gut and the gall bladder contain seriously infectious bacteria like salmonella so the viscera must come out intact (the viscera is the sack that contains digestive tract). If it splits like a cheap trash bag on the way out everything you don’t want to touch the meat goes everywhere including all over the carcase. Assuming everything comes out as planned it’s time for final butchering and trimming.
  • The carcases are halved, the spines removed, all the other inedible bits and pieces as well as any contaminated meat is cut out and discarded. The carcase is washed and chilled. The slaughter and butchering processes are done.

From here to your grill is just a matter of maintaining the cold chain – keeping the carcase clean and chilled — until it passes through the wholesaler’s cold storage on its way to your neighbourhood supermarket or butchery. The carcase is then cut into meal sized portions, wrapped, marked, priced and put in the display case. Done and dusted.

Just as every coin has two sides so does every industry. The meat industry is no exception. The formal, visible side of the industry serves the middle and upper classes and the informal, mostly invisible side serves everyone else.

When low to very low income consumers shop for beef, lamb or pork do they expect high quality and fancy packaging?  Do their questions about nutrition go much further than Will it satisfy my family’s hunger or not?  Does price matter more to this consumer than where the animal came from, what condition it was in and how did it die? It’s safe to say that putting enough affordable on the table comes first; nothing else really counts.

For these reasons a growing number of South Africans are turning away from supermarkets and butcheries to buy meat produced and processed in their own communities. Why are a growing number of consumers in low income urban communities bypassing abattoirs, supermarkets and butcheries?

Until recently not much was known about the informal red meat industry in the rural Western Cape. It was not completely invisible but rather operated in the shadows just out of sight of most supermarket and butchery shoppers.  Informal stock producers who supply this industry aren’t usually landowners and depend heavily on leased Municipal property adjacent to low income housing areas and shanty towns. Cattle and sheep producers graze their animals where they can find grass and water. However pig producers must confine their animals to keep them from roaming. They build pens from scraps of lumber, sheet metal or other discarded building materials. Pig can’t be kept just anywhere; they need a source of water for mud to wallow in during the warm months (they don’t sweat enough to keep cool). The smell of an informal pig kraal is unforgettable so most are located away from housing. Although neighbours don’t seem to mind cows or sheep wandering through the community they usually draw the line at somebody else’s pig rooting in their garden.

When an informal producer is ready kill a pig, for example he or she spreads the word and takes orders. When it comes time to slaughter the producer recruits several volunteers; puts a barrel or large pot of water to boil on a wood fire and brings the pig forth. The pig is stunned by one or more blows between the eyes with a heavy hammer. A long sharp knife is inserted to the hilt just above the breastbone, twisted vigorously and pulled out. If all goes well (and it sometimes doesn’t) the pig will bleed out rapidly. Unfortunately most informal sites don’t have a convenient tree to hoist the pig so that it bleeds out completely. It’s often left on the ground to ooze blood until the time seems right to dip the carcase into the hot water to loosen the hair and underlying membrane. After the hair is scraped off down to the white skin it’s time to remove the head, the viscera and the rest of the internal organs. The pig should be hung for a day and allowed to cool. In practice this seldom happens. A carcase hanging from a tree overnight is likely to attract unwanted attention from the authorities. So the carcase is immediately butchered into saleable portions, refrigerated or frozen if possible and sold to local consumers. The helpers are usually rewarded with a share of the meat, the head and the offal.

The routine for cattle and sheep is similar except for the extra volunteers needed to handle a 150 kg cow carcase. Cow hides are removed with a knife and sheep skins are pulled off by hand. Unlike a pig no boiling and scraping is necessary.  Contamination from faeces and urine is hard to avoid and accidents often occur when the processing crew is tugging the heavy, slippery viscera out of the gut cavity not to mention the near certainty of hair and dirt on the meat. The carcase is usually rinsed with water carried to the slaughter site in buckets.  Given the rough ad tumble nature of informal slaughter it’s surprising that reported cases of food poisoning from informally sourced red meat are so rare as to be non-existent.

In Khayelitsha, a large densely populated suburb of Cape Town the informal system is not only out of the shadows it’s out loud and proud. Next to every train station, taxi rank and surrounding every major street intersection sidewalk braai stands do a thriving business in grilled beef, pork and mutton. Tens of thousands of commuters stop by these stands every day to pick up a takeaway meal on the way to and from work. Think off these stands as fast food outlets for the black urban working class. Just like the ‘McWhatevers’ in other neighbourhoods      braai stands offer accessible and  affordable (but not necessarily inexpensive) meat to consumers without the means or time to buy meat fresh, take it home, refrigerate it and cook it later. The big difference between fast food outlets in neighbourhoods like Khayelitsha and outlets other less crowded and more affluent neighbourhoods is how the meat gets there and what happens when it arrives.

Live animals are brought in from surrounding communities and slaughtered on sidewalks in front of the stands, alleys behind the stands or any unoccupied space. A source of water to rinse the carcases is strictly optional. The muscle meat is sliced into strips and immediately grilled. The heads are skinned or scraped, split and charred for serving. The offal is piled on tables and sold to customers for home consumption.

To outsiders the scene is a bloody, chaotic and cruel public health disaster. Are there issues with quality? Yes. Nutrition? Absolutely. Packaging? Of course. Safety? Afraid so. Access? No. Affordability? No. To Khayelitsha residents braai stands are a local informal industry that meets their community’s needs because the formal industry is either unwilling or unable to do so.

So which consumer model makes will prevail? The supermarket model that creates expectations of quality, safety and nutrition wrapped up in attractive packaging but comes at a high price? Or the braai stand/informal butchery next door that makes up for little or no packaging, no guarantees of quality, safety or nutrition but delivers affordable prices and accessibility?

For the foreseeable future the answer is both. Consumers who are willing and able to pay a price premium for the value added by abattoirs, wholesalers and supermarkets in exchange for guarantees of quality, safety and nutrition will continue to do so because they can. Consumers who lack the means to pay for those kinds of guarantees and who must take their chances in return for accessible and affordable meat will continue to do so because they must.

Please contact the Primary Researcher if you need a copy of the comprehensive report of this project – Dr Nick Vink  on nv@sun.ac.za

Animal welfare, stress biomarkers and meat quality

Pre-slaughter stress, animal-related factors, stress biomarkers, nanostructure and technological properties of beef

Industry Sector: Cattle And Small Stock

Research Focus Area: The Economics Of Red Meat Consumption And Production In South Africa

Research Institute: Fort Hare

Researcher: Dr. Voster Muchenje PhD

Title Initials Surname Highest Qualificaion
Prof A. Hugo PhD
Dr A.Y. Chulayo Phd

Year of completion : 2018

Aims Of The Project

  • To determine the expression of heat shock proteins, cortisol and glucose and the quality of beef in slaughtered bovine species.
  • To determine the activities of stress enzymes in relation to carcass and physico-chemical characteristics of beef from cattle slaughtered under practical
  • To determine the effects of pre-slaughter stress and inborn characteristics carcass of beef quality

Executive Summary

The main objective of the study was to determine the effects of transportation, distance travelled, lairage duration and animal-related factors on pre-slaughter stress indicators, carcass characteristics, nanostructure and technological properties of beef from six genotypes of cattle. Transportation and handling of slaughter animals is associated with a series of events that expose animals to stressful and unfavourable conditions, compromising their welfare and meat quality. Stress experienced by animals in unfavourable environmental conditions increases the synthesis of stress proteins. In a heat-shocked cell, the proteins begin to unfold and denature, resulting in the production of heat-shock proteins (HSP). HSPs are a subgroup of molecular chaperones, which are classified into five families (HSP100, HSP90, HSP70, HSP60 and small HSPs [sHSPs]) according to thein molecular weights. During this process, HSPs may bind to heat-sensitive proteins and protect them from degradation. Under normal growth, HSPs maintain homeostasis by regulating the folding quality control of proteins. It includes stressed and non-stressed proteins that accompany unfolded polypeptides.

The study showed that exposing cattle to longer hours of transportation with reduced lairage period did not only decrease glucose levels, but also increased the expression of heat shock proteins, cortisol, creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase which are good indicators of animal welfare. Furthermore, pre-slaughter stress negatively affected the beef nanostructure and technological properties, and heifers had the best muscle fibres, sarcomere length and visible intercalated discs with improved tenderness, colour and pH.

Popular Article

The main objective of the study was to determine the effects of transportation, distance travelled, lairage duration and animal-related factors on pre-slaughter stress indicators, carcass characteristics, nanostructure and technological properties of beef from six genotypes of cattle. Transportation and handling of slaughter animals is associated with a series of events that expose animals to stressful and unfavourable conditions, compromising their welfare and meat quality. Stress experienced by animals in unfavourable environmental conditions increases the synthesis of stress proteins. In a heat-shocked cell, the proteins begin to unfold and denature, resulting in the production of heat-shock proteins (HSP). HSPs are a subgroup of molecular chaperones, which are classified into five families (HSP100, HSP90, HSP70, HSP60 and small HSPs [sHSPs]) according to thein molecular weights. During this process, HSPs may bind to heat-sensitive proteins and protect them from degradation. Under normal growth, HSPs maintain homeostasis by regulating the folding quality control of proteins. It includes stressed and non-stressed proteins that accompany unfolded polypeptides.

The study showed that exposing cattle to longer hours of transportation with reduced lairage period did not only decrease glucose levels, but also increased the expression of heat shock proteins, cortisol, creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase which are good indicators of animal welfare. Furthermore, pre-slaughter stress negatively affected the beef nanostructure and technological properties, and heifers had the best muscle fibres, sarcomere length and visible intercalated discs with improved tenderness, colour and pH.

Please contact the Primary Researcher if you need a copy of the comprehensive report of this project – Dr Voster Muchenje on vmuchenje@ufh.ac.za

Improved red meat marketing in South Africa

Improving the effectiveness of the red meat industry in meeting the needs of the modern consumer within South Africa as a developing country with socio-economic diversity

Industry Sector: Cattle and Small Stock

Research focus area: 

  • Red Meat Safety, Nutritional Value, Consumerism and Consumer Behaviour
  • The economics of red meat consumption and production in South Africa

Research Institute: Bureau for food and agricultural policy (BFAP)

Researcher: Mrs Hester Vermeulen

Research Team

Title Initials Surname Highest Qualification
Prof Ferdi Meyer PhD Agricultural Economics
Prof HC Schönfeldt PhD
Dr B Pretorius PhD

Completion: 2017

Aims of the project

  • Improving the effectiveness of the South African red meat industry in meeting the needs of the socio-economical diverse consumer market in South Africa through the development of scientifically based recommendations to guide policy development and product development / improvement.
  • To identify and characterize consumer market segments among low-, middle- and high LSM consumers in South Africa based on consumers red meat perceptions and behavior – considering a variety of species and meat cuts guided by data availability.
  • To develop scientifically based recommendations for the promotion of red meat in South Africa through appropriate marketing messages delivered through suitable communication channels to maintain and / or improve consumers’ perceptions and acceptance of red meat – considering a variety of species and meat cuts guided by data availability.
  • To engage in GAP analysis in order to identify the discrepancies between the actual current characteristics and ideal characteristics (demanded by consumers) of the red meat product offering on South African retail shelves – considering beef and mutton/lamb and a selection of fresh meat cuts guided by data availability.

Executive Summary

Meat purchasing and preparation behaviour:

  • Meat purchasing roles:
    • Marketing information on red meat should have a strong focus on adult women (‘wife’ or head female in households) as the primary red meat purchasers, but still keeping in mind that all age and genders groups within the household could influence her red meat purchase decision. Given the increased role of the husband / head male on meat purchasing during weekends and when selecting meat to entertain guests, red meat information related to these more social settings should be targeted at both male and female adults.
  • Factors considered when purchasing red meat:
    • Across the socio-economic spectrum, for both raw beef and raw mutton/lamb the following factors were important to consumers when making a purchase – and are thus important factors to focus on in terms of red meat production and marketing, no matter which socio-economics group is targeted:
      • Affordability: Price.
      • Appearance: General appearance, colour of meat, colour of fat.
      • Food safety: Food safety in general, expiry date, clean meat (no blood).
      • Quality: Quality guarantee, fresh, fresh not frozen.
      • Sensory acceptability: Tasty, tender, juicy, eaten by all in household.
      • Convenience: Convenience in general, preparation time.
      • Fat: Fat-to-meat ratio, low fat / lean meat.
      • Store where meat is purchased.
    • Among the low-income sample value-for-money considerations such as bone-to-meat ratio, amount of meat per packet and packaging size were also important. The importance of branding and nutritional value increased towards the middle- and high-income samples.
  • Meal planning:
    • As consumers across the socio-economic spectrum usually choose the meat for the meal first and then the other dishes it is critical to ensure that red meat is positioned as a popular ‘spontaneous’ choice in consumers’ minds.
    • Consumer education on red meat meal preparation ideas should rely on multiple sources with the dominant sources being ‘social’ sources and radio for the low-income sample, and recipes, ‘social’ sources (such as friends, mother), television and magazines for the middle- and high-income samples.
  • Red meat preparation and cooking:
    • For beef the most popular cooking methods were stewing, frying and braai. For the low-income group stove-top boiling was also prominent, while roasting and grilling popular cooking methods among middle-income and high-income consumers.
    • When preparing mutton/lamb low-income consumers used frying, boiling and braai, while middle-income consumers mainly used casserole, potjie, braai, roasting and stewing (in order of importance). High income consumers used stewing, braai, roasting, frying and grilling (in order of importance) for lamb/mutton.
    • Among middle- and high-income consumers the time allocated to meat preparation increased during weekends and even more so when entertaining guests. Thus, when targeting these segments with meat preparation information and recipes for more ‘social’ meals, more complex and longer preparation time can be used. However, during the week these consumers want meat options that are easy and fast to prepare.

Meat consumption behaviour:

  • Perceived importance of protein food intake:
    • Considering the statement: ‘It is important to eat animal protein foods daily’, the majority of high- and middle-income consumers were in agreement (96% of high-income sample versus 86% of middle-income sample).
    • Considering the statement: ‘It is important to eat red meat 3 to 4 times per week’, a smaller share of high- and middle-income consumers were in agreement (65% of high-income sample versus 39% of middle-income sample).
    • There seems to be a gap for consumer education particularly among middle- and high-income consumers on the recommended healthy intake of red meat and the health benefits associated with red meat.
  • Protein food intake:
    • The animal protein food options consumed in largest quantities were (in order of importance):
      • Low-income consumers: Chicken, eggs, beef, chicken offal, fish and beef.
      • Middle-income consumers: Chicken, eggs, fish and beef.
      • High-income consumers: Chicken, beef, eggs and fish.
    • The most frequently consumed animal protein food options were (in order of importance):
      • Low-income consumers: Eggs, chicken offal, chicken meat, canned fish, polony / viennas, boerewors, beef liver and stewing beef with bone.
      • Middle-income consumers: Chicken, eggs, beef mince, fish, boerewors, beef (stewing, steak, roast, sausage), cold meats, mutton/lamb (chops, stew).
      • High-income consumers: Chicken, eggs, beef (mince, stew, steak, sausage), cold meats, pork, fish, mutton/lamb.
    • The results in terms of the most popular meat option and red meat cuts could provide the red meat industry with important market intelligence in terms of actions to ensure the continued popularity of prominent cuts as well as the identification of ‘underutilised’ cuts. Furthermore, the meat intake data presented in this report could be very valuable from a food intake / nutritional / food security perspective, as it provides more detailed information on the meat consumption patterns of South African consumers.
  • Changes in red meat intake over time:
    • A significantly larger share of the low-, middle- and high-income consumers indicated that they consumed less red meat than 2 years before the survey (Beef: 87% of low-income consumers, 75% of middle-income consumers and 80% of high-income consumers; Mutton/lamb: 72% of low-income consumers, 85% of middle-income consumers and 88% of high-income consumers). These shares are significantly higher than previous research (2003) where 45% of the total sample reported reduced beef intake. Red meat was mainly replaced by chicken meat and some fish. The main reasons for reduced red meat intake (similar to past studies) were high prices (expensive) and some health concerns.
  • Popularity of red meat among household members:
    • Red meat was generally more popular among adult consumers than among children and teenagers. There might be a growth opportunity for the red meat industry if red meat could be made more appealing to younger consumers, e.g. through innovative product formats, child-friendly recipes and consumer health education.

Meat perceptions:

  • About a third of the low-income consumers remove all visible fat before cooking, while about 15% remove some visible fat before cooking beef and chicken. The serving of meat ‘pan drippings’ originating from the cooked meat applied to about half of the low-income consumers.

Red meat safety:

  • When defining red meat safety consumers across the socio-economic spectrum focused on clean meat, clean purchase environment, meat colour, freshness, grading, expiry date, healthiness and good quality.
  • Considering the relationship between red meat quality and red meat safety a large share of respondents perceived the terms to the basically the same and being equally important when purchasing red meat.
  • The large majority of all respondents (78% to 98% of the various socio-economic sub-samples) perceived food safety as an important factor considered when purchasing red meat. However, only about 13% of the low-income consumers and about a third of the middle- and high-income consumers had red meat safety concerns. It could be argued that consumers ‘control’ for food safety by carefully selecting their red meat purchase outlets. It is also important to note that food safety seems to be a ‘non-negotiable’ attribute to consumers – it has to be in place, implying a responsibility on the red meat industry and retailers to ensure the safety of red meat sold to South African consumers.
  • The low- and middle-income consumers were most concerned about the safety of beef, followed by chicken, while the high-income consumers were most concerned about safety of chicken and beef.
  • The most trusted purchase outlets for red meat are dominated by specific trusted butchery shops and formal major retail chain store, while the most risky purchase outlets for red meat are dominated by hawkers / street vendors, spaza shops, small independent retailers, certain butchery shops and certain chain retailers.

Food-away-from-home:

  • The purchasing frequency of take-away meals differed significantly between income groups, with weekly take-away food purchasing observed for 5% of low-income consumers, 19% of middle-income consumers and 29% of high-income consumers. The results confirmed the dominance of chicken as a popular meat choice among all socio-economic groups, even though beef is also a prominent choice among high-income consumers when purchasing take-away meals.
  • The purchasing frequency of restaurant meals differed significantly between income groups, with weekly restaurant food purchasing observed for 6% of low-income consumers, 11% of middle-income consumers and 9% of high-income consumers. In terms of meat types chicken is the dominant option purchased from restaurants by the middle-income group, even though the popularity gap between chicken and beef is less prominent than for take-away meals. Among the high-income sample beef is the most popular option, followed by fish/seafood.
  • Challenges facing the red meat industry includes increasing the appeal of beef within take-away- and restaurant meals, particularly among the middle-income group; and increasing the appeal of mutton/lamb within restaurant meals, among middle- and high-income consumers.

Red meat information sources:

  • The most highly used and trusted red meat information sources for the particular socio-economic sub-segment were the following:
  • Low-income consumers: TV, radio, advertising, doctors, newspapers;
  • Middle-income consumers: TV, family, friends, doctors, recipe books, radio, food labels;
  • High-income consumers: Family, friends, food labels, recipe books, butcheries, doctors, dieticians.
  • Doctors are among top 10 most used and most trusted meat info sources for all income sub-segments;
  • TV and radio are the top 10 most used and most trusted meat info sources for middle income and low income sub-segments. However, the particular channels / stations will vary between LSM groups.
  • Family and friends (possibly linked with social media), recipe books and food labels are among the top 10 most used and most trusted meat info sources for middle income and high income sub-segments.
  • Advertising and newspapers are among the top 10 most used and most trusted meat info sources for low income sub-segment only, while butcheries and dieticians among top 10 most used and most trusted meat info sources for high income sub-segment only.

Red meat classification:

  • Among low LSM consumers there is a very limited understanding and attention given to red meat classification. Even though middle LSM and high LSM consumers also have a limited understanding of red meat classification, around half of these sampled consumers check the grading / classification mark sometimes or often when buying beef or mutton/lamb.
  • The association of red meat classification with meat quality and safety was limited. Even though many respondents did not mention red meat classification / grading directly when defining red meat quality and safety, many aspects related to it was mentioned such as freshness, meat colour, appearance, smell, tenderness, taste and leanness.
  • Among an extensive range of red meat decision factors ‘grading / classification’ was not among the top 20 most important factors. However, many aspects related to red meat grading / classification was important such as appearance, taste, flavour, quality guarantee, meat colour, fat content, juiciness and tenderness.
  • It is interesting to note that the results presented on the radar plots in terms of consumers’ red meat decision factors, the place of purchase is a stronger quality cue to consumers than the certification marks on the meat. This is an important observation and should be further investigated.

Credence / intangible red meat attributes:

  • The most popular intangible attributes among the middle-income consumers were (in order of importance) (% of sample perceiving attribute as ‘very important’ indicated in brackets): environmentally friendly production (54%), free range (49%), no growth hormones given to animals (44%), animal friendly production (44%), breed of animal (43%) and no GM feed given to animals (43%). The question however arises whether these consumers have the purchasing power to afford the price premiums associated with these attributes.
  • The most popular intangible attributes among the high-income consumers were (in order of importance) (% of sample perceiving attribute as ‘very important’ indicated in brackets): no growth hormones given to animals (56%), no GM feed given to animals (49%), environmentally friendly production (48%), animal friendly production (39%) and free range (36%).
  • In terms of demographic variables (LSM group, gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, household income level and education level), within the middle- and high-income samples, the segments deeming intangible attributes as ‘very important’ did not differ significantly from the alternative segments.
  • The most highly used and highly trusted red meat information sources among the middle- and high-income consumer samples for consumers who perceived at least four or more of the intangible attributes as ‘very important’ were TV, family friends, advertising, food labels, recipe books, newspapers, butchers, radio, magazines, retailers, dieticians, food industry, public health recommendations, doctors, farmers and consumer organisations. These results (presented for each intangible attribute separate in the particular chapter) present marketers of red meat with a valuable overview of the marketing channels to use when marketing red meat products with particular intangible product traits.

Market segmentation for specific beef and mutton/lamb cuts:

  • Market segmentation for individual red meat cuts were based on respondents’ consumption frequency for the various cuts, considered at four consumption frequency levels: weekly (‘weeklies’), 1 to 3 times per month (‘monthlies’), occasionally (‘occasionals’) and never (‘non-users’).
  • Among the low-income consumers the most popular red meat cuts (with the highest shares of ‘Weeklies’ and ‘Monthlies’ combined) were: offal in general (78.8%), beef stew (67.1%), beef mince (46.7%) and beef steak (43.0%). Offal was significantly more important among the low-income sample compared to the wealthier samples.
  • Among the middle-income consumers the most popular red meat cuts (with the highest shares of ‘Weeklies’ and ‘Monthlies’ combined) were: beef mince (89.6%), beef stew (84.2%), beef steak (59.1%), beef roast (48.5%), mutton/lamb chops (39.7%), offal in general (32.8%) and mutton/lamb roast (31.6%).
  • Among the high-income consumers the most popular red meat cuts (with the highest shares of ‘Weeklies’ and ‘Monthlies’ combined) were: beef mince (95.1%), beef stew (83.8%), beef steak (79.9%), mutton/lamb chops (69.4%), beef roast (60.5%), mutton/lamb stew (56.0%) and mutton/lamb roast (28.7%).
  • In terms of demographic variables the results indicated that consumers’ consumption frequency of red meat cuts did not generally differ in terms of household’s size and income as well as the respondent’s gender, age and ethnic group. However, the more aggregated wealth level of consumers (in other words whether they were among the low-, middle- or high-income samples) did make a differences in terms of their red meat intake frequency – with more frequent intake generally associated with higher income brackets.
  • In terms of typical weekly expenditure on particular red meat cuts, more regular low-income consumers revealed a tendency to spend more on red meat considering the segments for beef mince and beef steak. More regular middle-income consumers revealed a tendency to spend more on beef mince, beef steak, beef stew, beef roast, mutton/lamb chops and mutton/lamb roast.
  • In terms of typical quantity of raw red meat consumed per week, more regular middle-income consumers revealed a tendency to consume a larger weekly quantity of beef mince, mutton/lamb chops, mutton/lamb roast, mutton/lamb stew. More regular low-income consumer revealed a tendency to consume a larger weekly quantity of beef offal and mutton/lamb offal. The lack of significant differences for the other cuts within the three main samples once again imply that since more regular consumers and less regular consumers of red meat consume a similar quantity of red meat per week, the more regular segments could be consuming smaller quantities per (more regular) eating occasion.
  • For the various red meat cuts, considered for the low-, middle- and high-income samples, this section also presented information on consumers’ perceptions regarding beef and mutton/lamb, purchase factors, and best information sources to use to provide consumers with red meat information.
  • Across red meat cuts and socio-economic samples, consumers were very consistent in terms of their requirements for red meat labels, with preferences for detailed information and reliable information, date information (use-by date, sell-by date, last day of processing) and information pertaining to production processes (particularly in terms of the use of antibiotics / hormones and also free range in some cases).

Red meat labelling – What do consumers want and what do they see on labels?

  • The red meat labelling aspects that are highly desired by consumers and were widely observed on fresh red meat labels were: price, quality guaranteed, sell-by date and brand.
  • Despite being very important to consumers, labelling information relating to fat content, nutritional value and classification were not commonly observed on the fresh red meat labels.
  • In terms of date information packaging date, sell-by date and expiry date were the most commonly found on fresh red meat labels.

POPULAR ARTICLE

Red meat consumer education – key messages and marketing channels focusing on beef

Mrs Hester Vermeulen, Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy

Prof Hettie Schönfeldt, University of Pretoria

Dr Beulah Pretorius, University of Pretoria

 Acknowledgements: Project funding provided by Red Meat Research and Development SA (RMRD-SA)

PLEASE NOTE:

‘Background’ pictures /photos of the following could work well with this article:

  • Consumer buying beef in a shop
  • Consumer preparing beef in kitchen
  • Eating beef in a restaurant
  • Braai with beef on the grid
  • Example of a nutritional label from a beef product

Introduction:

The share of South African adults within the various socio-economic sub-groups changed significantly from 2005 to 2015, with the marginalised consumers decreasing by 52%, the middle class increasing by 50% and the more affluent consumer group increasing by 32%. The future of the South African red meat industry relies on an industry that are profitable and able to adapt to changes in consumer demand, the production environment and sustainability.

In 2012 the South African red meat industry commissioned a comprehensive consumer study to investigate the red meat behaviour and perceptions of the South African low-, middle- and high-income consumers in Gauteng amongst 586 consumers. The study sample was designed to reflect the income, ethnic and age groups of the South African population. The focus of this article is specifically on the identification of key marketing messages and marketing channels for red meat marketing.

How do South African consumers perceive beef?

Respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement with a series of statements involving potential attributes of beef, pertaining to health / nutrition, affordability, product usage, product procurement, preparation, sensory quality and potential negative aspects.

Considering the positive perceptions of consumers regarding beef, there is significant overlap between income groups involving the following:

  • Product procurement: Beef is easy to obtain.
  • Product usage: Consumers know how to prepare beef, it is easy to cook the meat, it is versatile, good for entertaining and ideal for braai.
  • Sensory quality: Beef is tasty and tender and it does not smell bad.
  • Health / nutrition: Beef is a source of good quality protein and iron, it is nutritious and helps the body grow.
  • Product origin: Beef is locally produced and not imported.

The aspects which dominated the ‘positive’ set for beef of all income groups were: versatile, tasty, know how to prepare it, easy to obtain, good for entertaining, easy to cook and good quality protein source. Popularity when eating in a restaurant was also applicable to the middle-class and more affluent group, with higher importance in the latter group. Furthermore the more affluent group was also positive about further health / nutrition aspects (such as ‘healthy’ and ‘contains iron’), shelf life at home (‘does not go off fast’) and affordability (‘value for money’ and ‘not a luxury’).

Among marginalised and middle-class groups the major concerns (i.e. negative perceptions) focused on beef being expensive, having long cooking times and could cause health problems. Among the more affluent consumers the major beef concerns focused on specific health aspects (high in cholesterol, could cause health problems, can make me ill) and long cooking times required. A significantly larger share of the low-income sample was negative towards beef in terms of the following beef aspects: expensive, long cooking times required, can make me ill, high in fat and ‘not good for the heart’. In general a higher share of the marginalised group was in agreement with these negative aspects pertaining to beef, in contrast to a lower share of the more affluent consumers. As would be expected, consumers’ concerns regarding the affordability of beef decreased as income levels increased.

How do these perceptions translate into marketing messages to promote SA beef?

To enhance beef consumption in the South African context key marketing messages needs to take these observed perceptions into account. Beef product attributes and perceptions and translated marketing messages are proposed in

Table 1.

Product usage and preparation:

Across the socio-economic spectrum consumers were very positive about beef being versatile, easy to cook, knowing how to prepare it, good for entertaining and ideal for braai. The industry could invest or continue to invest in product- and recipe development to ensure that beef remains versatile, familiar, easy-to-cook, ‘trendy’ and a number one choice when entertaining of having a braai. Innovative ways to reduce beef cooking time for consumers with limited time should also be investigated, as well as innovative and tasty recipes to ‘stretch’ beef in dishes. However, it is important to consider the varying life styles, preferences and budgets of the socio-economic sub-groups in the process.

Sensory appeal:

All consumer segments were very positive about beef being tasty and not smelling bad. The middle-class was more positive about the tenderness of beef, even though tenderness was among the positive perceptions of all sub-groups. Sensory appeal is a critical product attribute for beef, even more so given its price premium about chicken meat. Production and product handling practices should continuously be improved, based on sound scientific research, to ensure ‘better beef’ – satisfying the sensory enjoyment needs of consumers of all income groups (e.g. in terms of taste, tenderness, smell and visual appeal).

Health – food safety:

Only the more affluent group was very positive about beef not spoiling fast at home. The lack of cold-storage facilities in the homes of lower-income consumers could contribute to this observation. However, there seems to be a need for consumer education on safe meat handling practices, particularly among the marginalised and middle-class groups.

Health – nutritional value:

All consumers perceived beef as being nutritious, a good quality protein source, helps the body grow and being a source of iron. Only the more affluent group were very positive about beef being ‘healthy’. The research results suggest that consumers (across the socio-economic spectrum) need to be educated on the nutritional value of beef, pertaining to various aspects such as macro-nutrients (i.e. protein, fat) and micro-nutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals). However, it should be kept in mind that the complexity of nutritional information communicated to consumers should be tailored to their typical educations levels.

Health – fat & cholesterol:

Over the last decade or two a growing body of scientific publications confirm the trend of consumers moving towards leaner red meat cuts. In this study consumers were concerned about beef in terms of fattiness, being high in cholesterol and the intake of beef linked to heart disease – with the marginalised group being particularly negative. Addressing consumers’ red meat fattiness concerns is critical, even more so in the light of the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity in South Africa. Corrective actions could include the following:

  • Presenting consumers with leaner beef cuts (e.g. through animal production processes and / or trimming of fat from beef cuts before sale).
  • Consumer education on the tasty preparation of leaner beef cuts (including aspects such as fat trimming at home and avoiding excessive fat intake through actions such as serving pan-drippings with meat with a high fat content).
  • Presenting consumers with a balanced and scientifically sound view on issues pertaining to beef fattiness, cholesterol and heart disease.

Product origin:

All consumers were positive that the beef they buy is usually local meat, suggesting some loyalty to locally produced beef. This is even more important if the large quantity of chicken being imported into the country is considered. The industry could do much more to communicate the origin of beef to consumers and extract some value from consumers’ loyalty towards locally produced meat.

Table 1: Proposed key marketing messages translated from consumers’ perceptions regarding beef meat

Product attributes and perceptions Key marketing strategies and messages
Product usage and preparation:
•     Versatile

•     Easy to cook

•     Knowing how to prepare

•     Good for entertaining

•     Ideal for braai

ü Continuous product- and recipe development to ensure that beef remains versatile, familiar, easy-to-cook, ‘trendy’ and a number one choice when entertaining or having a braai

ü Tasty recipes to ‘stretch’ beef in dishes

ü Innovative ways to reduce beef cooking time

Sensory appeal:
•     Beef is tasty

•     Beef is tender

•     Does not smell bad

ü Improved production and product handling practices based on sound scientific research, to ensure ‘better beef’
Health – food safety:
•     Beef do / does not spoil fast ü Consumer education on safe meat handling practices
Health – nutritional value:
•     Beef is nutritious

•     Beef is a good quality protein source

•     Beef helps the body grow

•     Beef is a source of iron

•     Beef is too fatty

•     Beef is high in cholesterol

•     Eating beef causes heart disease

ü Consumer relevant education on the nutritional value of beef, pertaining to various aspects such as macro-nutrients (i.e. protein, fat) and micro-nutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals).

ü Leaner beef cuts

ü Consumer education on the tasty preparation of leaner beef cuts

ü Presenting consumers with balanced and scientifically sound messages on issues pertaining to beef fattiness, cholesterol and heart disease

Product origin & Affordability:
•     Beef is locally produced

•     Expensive

ü Communicate the origin of beef to consumers

ü Address affordability issues through promoting it as an ‘essential luxury’ or by providing more affordable meat cuts to the consumer

Which communication channels are most suitable to communicate these marketing messages to SA consumers?

Being presented with a list of potential red meat information sources, consumers were asked to evaluate the usage and trust of these sources. Table 2 summarised the most used and trusted information sources amongst the different consumer groups to use in marketing strategies. However, given the diversity of the market the specific channels (e.g. which television channels or which newspapers) as well as the complexity of marketing messages has to be tailored to the behaviour and education levels of the targeted consumers.

Table 2: Highly used and highly trusted red meat information sources (Source: Survey data) 

Category: Information source: Marginalised

group:

Middle-class

group:

More affluent

group:

Printed information sources: Magazines

 

ü
Newspapers

 

ü û
Recipe books

 

ü
Food labels

 

ü
Advertisements

 

ü ü
Medical information sources: Doctors

 

Dieticians

 

û ü ü
Retail information sources: Retail stores

 

ü ü û
Butchers

 

ü ü
Social information sources: Family

 

ü
Friends

 

û
Broadcasting information sources: Television

 

Radio

 

û
Other information sources: Public health recommendations

 

ü ü ü
The food industry

 

û û ü

(NOTES: : Indicates red meat information sources that dominates for the particular sub-group)

Conclusions and implications

Red meat consumption lags behind white meat consumption in South Africa and is losing ground steadily. Marketing efforts to stimulate the consumption of red meat among consumers should build upon aspect where consumers are already positive about beef such as: versatility, know how to prepare, good for entertaining, taste and nutrition (a nutritious meat and a good quality protein source). Furthermore the negative perceptions (affordability, fat and cholesterol content, long cooking time and could be a cause of health problems) should be improved.

Given the dynamic nature of the South African consumer environment with constant socio-economic changes and the influence of global consumer trends, the preferences and behaviour of South African consumers have a very dynamic nature. Subsequently it could be particularly valuable for the South African red meat industry to engage in follow-up surveys of this nature every few years in order to keep track of these dynamic changes.

Please contact the Primary Researcher on the project if you need a copy of the comprehensive report – Hester Vermeulen on hester@bfap.co.za

Amino acid composition of South African beef

Determining the amino acid profile of selected cuts from four age groups of South African beef, as additional to the previously approved project on the nutrient content of South African beef, in order to determine protein quality.

Industry Sector: Cattle and Small Stock

Research focus area: Red Meat Safety, Nutritional Value, Consumerism and Consumer Behaviour

Research Institute: Animal and Wildlife Science, University of Pretoria

Researcher: Prof Hettie Schönfeldt PhD

Team members

Title Initials Surname Qualification
Dr N. Hall Ph.D
Dr B. Pretorius Ph.D

Year of completion : 2017

Aims Of The Project

  • To determine the amino acid profile of South African beef
  • To determine the validity of using nitrogen and a specific Jones factor to define protein quantity
  • To determine the protein quality of South African beef in the context of human nutrition

Executive Summary

Globally protein quality is under the spotlight. The importance of protein quality was emphasized by both the 2007 and the 2011 Food and Agriculture Organization/ World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition reports. These reports questioned the validity of current measures to determine crude protein content and protein absorption, and called for more research. Locally, the national Department of Health Directorate Food Control’s most recent legislation on food labelling and advertising requires that in order to make protein content claims, amino acid data in addition to crude protein (nitrogen), is needed.

During this project, raw and cooked beef cuts (prime rib, rump and shoulder) from all four age groups according to the South African classification system were sent for amino acid analyses at the ARC Irene Analytical laboratory.

Aligning with international debates, a literature review was completed to investigate existing literature on the validity of using the Jones factor of 6.25 to quantify the amount of protein from nitrogen within the red meat matrix. Amino acid data obtained was also compared to the use of the Jones factor to quantify the total protein content of red meat, and alternative factors were explored – similar to what has been done by Sosulki et al. in 1990. Mariotti et al (2008) also queried the use of 6.25 as the converting factor for red meat. Our study found that complete amino acid profiles of local beef amounted to 91% on average of protein based on total Nitrogen content (in weight). This indicates that there is an overestimation of protein in beef when the conversion factor of 6.25is used.

For local legislative purposes, the study found that all cuts from all age groups contain adequate quantities of the essential amino acids as required by the R.429 Food Labelling Legislation. This provides the scientific evidence required for South African beef to make protein content and functional protein claims on packaging and in marketing activities.

Technology transfers

  1. Participation of the Human Nutrition and Health Committee Meeting of the International Meat Secretariat (Canada, 1-3 July, 2015) (Addendum 2)
  2. Participation of the Human Nutrition and Health Committee Meeting of the International Meat Secretariat (Oslo, Norway, 15-18 July, 2016) (Addendum 2)

Reports to Industry

  1. NRF-THRIP progress report 2014
  2. NRF-THRIP final report 2015
  3. RMRD SA Progress report 2014
  4. RMRD SA Progress report 2015

Scientific articles

  1. Schönfeldt H.C., Pretorius B. and Hall, N. (2016) ‘Bioavailability of Nutrients’, In: Caballero, B., Finglas, P., and Toldrá, F. (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Food and Health vol. 1, pp. 401-406. Oxford: Academic Press.
  2. Article to be submitted after presenting “Updating and expanding the Food Composition Table for Western Africa“ at International Food Data Conferences (IFDC) – Official INFOODS conference. Center for Science in the Science and Technology Pole, Buenos Aires, Argentina. 11-13 October 2017.
  3. Article to be submitted after presenting “Amino acid and protein content of lean beef“ at International Food Data Conferences (IFDC) – Official INFOODS conference. Center for Science in the Science and Technology Pole, Buenos Aires, Argentina. 11-13 October 2017.

Theses

  1. Hall, N. 2015. Sustainable red meat from a nutrition perspective. University of Pretoria.

Conferences, symposia

  1. Co-author FAO/INFOODS (2017) Updating and expanding the Food Composition Table for Western Africa. 12th International Food Data Conference (IFDC) – Official INFOODS conference.
    Center for Science in the Science and Technology Pole, Buenos Aires, Argentina. 11-13 October 2017.
  2. Schönfeldt, H.C., Hall, N., Pretorius, B. and Van Deventer, M.M. (2017) Amino acid and protein content of lean beef. 12th International Food Data Conference (IFDC) – Official INFOODS conference. Center for Science in the Science and Technology Pole, Buenos Aires, Argentina. 11-13 October 2017.

Literature review

  1. Hall, N.G. and Schönfeldt, H.C. (2013) ‘Total nitrogen vs amino-acid profile as indicator of protein content of beef’, Food Chemistry. 140 (3): 608-612.

Popular Article

Globally protein quality is under the spotlight

Hettie Schönfeldt, Beulah Pretorius, Nicolette Hall, Maricia van Deventer

Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Well-being, University of Pretoria.

There has been much discussion regarding protein and amino acid requirements for both adults and children over the past few years.

Conventionally, protein content is determined by analysing the total nitrogen content in a food, and multiplying this by a standard conversion factor to obtain protein quantity – referred to as “crude protein”. Because proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, they can be hydrolysed and the separate amino acids can then be measured. The sum of the amino acids then represents the protein content (by weight) of the food. This is sometimes referred to as a “true protein”. This method however needs sophisticated equipment and is more expensive.

A project at the University of Pretoria aimed to determine the protein content and amino acid profile of South African beef (raw and cooked) and to establish if different cuts in the carcass and/or age of the animal influences the amino acid profile of South African beef.

Crude protein and amino acid analyses were done on 36 meat samples from Bonsmara carcasses from fat code two and all four age groups according to the South African Carcass Classification System. Three cuts (rump, prime rib and shoulder) were selected from each carcass and analyses were done on both raw and cooked meat.

Age had no significant effect on the sum of all amino acids (true protein) in both raw and cooked cuts. In the cooked cuts crude protein were found to be significantly different between the age groups for the different cuts. It should however be noted that these differences, although statistically significant, probably have little relevance in terms of human dietary requirements for protein as they differ by less than 2 g per 100 g cooked meat.

The data generated by this study is of further interest as discussions regarding the validity of nitrogen analyses for protein quantity determination and methods used to assess protein quality unfold. Table 1 shows the percentage of total amino acids to protein calculated with the Jones factor. It would be more appropriate to base estimates of protein on amino acid data.

Table 1: Percentage of sum of amino acids (‘true protein’) to protein calculated from total nitrogen using the Jones-factor (‘crude protein’)

Cut Raw / Cooked Percentage (Sum of amino acids / protein calculated from total nitrogen x 100)
Rump Raw 95%
Cooked 89%
Prime rib Raw 97%
Cooked 90%
Shoulder Raw 94%
Cooked 89%

Instead of simply focussing on total protein, attention has shifted to the greater importance of protein quality than actual quantity, emphasising the presence of individual amino acids in a food. One method of measuring protein quality is determining the quantity of the total essential amino acids and the digestibility of the protein source (PDCAAS). Data on the amino acid composition of foods is therefore essential in order to contribute to the current global discussion.

Protein quality answers two important questions namely, how much protein as well as what kind of protein should be consumed. Dietary proteins are classified as either being complete or incomplete. Some foods, such as animal source food, contain all indispensable (essential) amino acids and are referred to as a complete protein. Plant foods, on the other hand, lack one or more essential amino acid, which renders these sources of protein “incomplete”. Amino acids containing sulfur (including methionine and cysteine) and lysine most commonly limit the nutritional value (quality) of proteins in the human diet. Concentrations of these amino acids are, generally, considered lower in plant foods than in food of animal origin. In table 2 the lysine, methionine and cysteine content of commonly consumed food products is reported. Other essential amino acids, lysine and tryptophan, are also consistently found at lower concentrations in plant-based rather than animal-based foods. For example, tryptophan and lysine are limiting in corn; lysine in wheat, sorghum, and other cereals; and methionine in soybeans and other legumes. Including a small amount of lean beef in combination with plant-based foods can increase the protein quality of the meal.

Table 2: Lysine, methionine and cysteine content of commonly consumed food products

Food source  Food Range (mg/100g) from different studies
Lysine Methionine Cysteine
Animal products Beef and Veal (edible flesh) 531–591 147–182 78–182
Chicken (edible flesh) 384–606 88–215 64–114
Offal 375–506 138–181 62–132
Mutton and lamb (edible flesh) 438–589 131–198 63–144
Hen eggs 375–467 181–249 113–189
Fish (fresh, all types) 380–689 120–290 28–144
Legumes Chick-pea 406–463 34–106 50–94
Cowpea 394–479 50–119 48–106
Soya bean 313–477 53–114 51–114
Cereals & grain products Barley 159–250 63–250 81–194
Maize 100–214 53–175 38–200
Millet 100–244 84–246 69–169
Rice (brown or husked) 198–263 117–194 30–79
Rye (whole meal) 151–281 59–181 85–156
Wheat (whole grain) 131–249 63–156 111–212
Roots and tubers Potato 163–488 54–125 7–81

The protein and indispensable amino acid profile of lean beef is reported in table 3. This is compared to the recommended protein requirement of 0.66 g/kg body weight/ day and the amino acid scoring pattern for children older than 3 years, adolescents and adults. According to the South African Food Based Dietary Guideline a serving of red meat can be eaten daily, but should not be more than 90g/day.

Table 3: Dietary protein and indispensable amino acid profile of cooked beef, cow’s milk, cooked soya beans compared to the recommended amino acid scoring pattern for children (3-10years), adolescents and adults

Cooked lean beef Full cream cow’s milk Cooked soya beans Recommended protein and amino acid scoring pattern for older children, adolescents and adults
“Crude” protein (g/100g) 31.8 3.25 18.21 0.66 g/kg/day50kg person = 33g

70 kg person = 46g

Amino acid
(mg/g total protein)
Histidine (His) 28 28 25 16
Isoleucine (Ile) 44 54 44 30
Leucine (Leu) 74 94 74 61
Lysine (Lys) 97 79 61 48
Sulphur amino acids (SAA) Methionine (Met) + Cysteine (Cys) 63 39 27 23
Aromatic amino acids (AAA) Phenylalanine (Phe) + Tyrosine (Tyr) 73 97 83 41
Threonine (Thr) 44 48 40 25
Tryptophan (Thp) 16 12 13 6.6
Valine (Val) 46 59 46 40

The study found that South African beef from all age groups adheres to the requirements as set out by the Department of Health to be labelled and proclaimed as a complete, quality protein.

It is of interest to note that the true protein was consistently lower in the cooked meat compared to the raw meat and that the different cuts varied in the respective amino acid profiles. While the measurement of crude protein (total nitrogen multiplied by a factor) is adequate for many purposes, amino acid data would provide a better assessment of the nutritional value of a food. Through this study the amino acid profile of South African lean beef was determined and is available for future studies.

Acknowledgement: This study was funded by Red Meat Research and Development of South Africa (RMRD SA) and the National Research Foundation Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (NRF-THRIP) (Project id: Tp1208076284).

Please contact the Primary Researcher if you need a copy of the comprehensive report of this project – Prof H.C. Schonfeldt on hettie.schonfeldt@up.ac.za