The following words or descriptions are often used in association with gourmet-type meats on product packaging as well as restaurant menus, but what do they really mean and is their use regulated?
Angus is a cattle breed developed in Scotland in the late 1700s. It has a smooth, close-grained texture, carnation red colour and finely marbled fat within the lean muscle. Certified Australian Angus Beef (CAAB) is an industry quality assurance program – by buying products carrying the CAAB logo you’re guaranteed Angus genetics and beef produced to exacting specifications.
Bio-dynamic farmers use a form of organic agriculture that places strong emphasis on ecological harmony and environmental sustainability and treats the farm as a total organism. Bio-dynamic food is grown with particular composts, preparations and natural activating substances.
Grain-fed animals are kept in a feedlot for at least 100 days and fed for a minimum of 80 days on a nutritionally balanced, high energy grain-based feed. This uniform feeding regime results in a consistent meat and fat colour, and often high levels of marbling. Minimum standards and certification for grain-fed beef are administered through the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme and audited by AUS-MEAT, the industry body responsible for establishing and maintaining national standards for meat production and processing.
Marble score This is the grading of intramuscular fat (also known as marbling) in beef. The higher the score, the more intramuscular fat – in Australia, marble scores range from 1 to 9+. Marbling has a positive effect on eating quality in many high value cuts, where often the higher the marble score the better the product and the higher the price it sells for. But it’s possible to achieve good eating quality without marbling.
MSA graded Meat Standards Australia (MSA) is a consumer-based eating quality assurance program that grades beef and sheep meat (three, four or five star) and recommends a cooking method. More than 70,000 consumers have participated in MSA testing, providing scores on 520,000 beef samples from 52,000 individual cuts to establish the standards. Program participants (from meat brands and processors through to retailers and restaurants) are licensed to use the MSA trademark and certify products via an approved quality management system in accordance with MSA standards.
Pasture-fed animals are raised on open grazing land with access to water and supplemental feed, comprising a mix of grasses. It’s promoted as a more natural alternative to grain-assisted feeding programs. All certified organic beef is pasture-fed.
Wagyu is a group of cattle breeds from Japan that is genetically predisposed to intense marbling – higher fat content – and has a higher percentage of the healthier unsaturated fat than any other cattle breed in the world. Wagyu beef is increasingly seen in restaurants, butchers and grocers around Australia and is considered a luxury item – you can reportedly pay up to $250 per kilo for the best cuts and 9+ marble scores.
Currently in Australia, beef can be labelled “Wagyu” with only 50% Wagyu genetics (known in the industry as a Crossbreed or F1). The industry’s Australian Wagyu Association runs a certification system that identifies commercial cattle sired by registered full-blood or purebred Wagyu sires.