It’s not hard to create good looking cattle.
Just pick a pair that outwardly show traits known for producing good beef and let them mate. Though that explanation is a little oversimplified, the process still lacks for the scientific accuracy Agri Beef and its Snake River Farms brand demand as it continues to improve the American Wagyu program generation by generation.
So Agri Beef developed a new process.
Without accuracy, it’s hard for a beef company to figure out which of its bulls, all of which are bred for the correct traits, are actually responsible for the highest quality beef when it comes time to grade their offspring. American Wagyu cattle are slow fed for more than 500 days at Snake River Farms, where parentage information was almost certainly lost – if they ever were sure about it, as single ranches can use multiple bulls to produce calves.
On the flip side, if beef producers can track which bulls are responsible for which calves all the way through their lifespan, then see which papas are producing the most desirable beef, we can ensure we breed a new generation of bulls even better than the one before.
The task handed to Annie Inks, Agri Beef’s Genetics Supply Chain Manager, was to find a way to build a foundation for that constantly improving quality in our cattle herds.
Inks has developed a program that tests cattle as they enter our specialized feeding operations, using their DNA to match them to the appropriate bulls. That information is then stored with other information about the cow, such as their health records, which is included in an electronic chip attached to the ear.
When the animals are processed, their precise grade becomes part of the data Inks can use to decide which bulls get to continue their bloodlines in the next generation of the herd.
Traits that are selected for include things such as efficiency, yield, and tenderness. By increasing both the quality and quantity of these traits in our herds, Agri Beef able to produce larger amounts of higher quality beef.
It is important to note that genetics are not the sole determinant of quality. Agri Beef understands that proper management, nutrition, and handling play an important role in producing great beef.
The applications don’t end with encouraging quality. While there are incredibly limited examples of genetic disorders that can be passed along in cross breeds, this acts as one more preventative step among many that can keep the issue a non-starter.
Agri Beef is constantly searching for ways to make the most of our already outstanding cattle with big and small changes. In this case, a small step while checking American Wagyu cattle into our feeding operations was all it took to make sure our steaks will only taste better over time.