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DNA Testing: What's The Big Deal?

The American Criollo Beef Association (ACBA) is proud to provide pre-harvest proof of the tenderness and lean quality of Certified Criollo Beef.

As a consumer, you can reasonably ask, "OK, HOW do you know what kind of meat a particular animal will provide until after you harvest that animal?" The industry-wide standard that provides pre-harvest information about what to expect from the meat from a particular animal is DNA testing. Specifically, Meat Quality, also known as Marbling, (a measure of the intramuscular fat to expect in the meat from any given animal) and Tenderness (how much shear force does it take to cut/chew a piece of meat from that animal) can be predicted, with high levels of confidence, from DNA testing.

The American Criollo Beef Association made the decision, upon inception, that each and every Criollo be DNA tested for Tenderness, and Meat Quality (Marbling). This testing must be completed, with acceptable scores, prior to that animal being accepted in the Certified Criollo Beef Registry (as seedstock), or before entering the grass-fed Certified Criollo Beef Program, to be marketed to the consumer.

Tenderness of meat is largely determined genetically. Proof of tenderness, post-harvest, is demonstrated with precise, objective laboratory tests, measuring the shear strength needed to cut a piece of beef. The American Beef Industry has found exceptional correlation between DNA marker testing scores and post-harvest meat tenderness testing. DNA testing for tenderness is expressed on a scale of 0 to 10; a score of 4, 5 or 6 indicates the eating experience of meat from that animal will be a good one. A score of 7 or higher promises a superior eating experience--as in being able to cut that animal's with a fork!

Criollo, genetically, are naturally tender. DNA testing of registered Criollos reveals that Criollo usually score at least 4 on the tenderness scale, with an average of 6.95. Kobe beef, by contrast, only averages 5.82 on a scale of 10; Black Angus averages 6.21. Click here to see a Benchmark Comparison between our Certified Criollo Beef and the Angus, Kobe/Wagyu, and Texas Longhorn. The ACBA has established the benchmark for Certified Criollo Beef is a minimum score of 4; Criollos scoring 7 or higher are designated "Elite Tender." Criollo who score less than 4 on the Tenderness scale will NOT qualify for the Certified Criollo Beef program. Click here to see an example of Igenity DNA Test Results.

Meat Quality (Marbling) is the measure of intra-muscular fat in the meat of the animal; due to the USDA's grading system, the Meat Quality (Marbling) grade determines the final value of each individual animal's meat. The desirable grades are Select, Choice and Prime. Less than 1% of beef grades out as Prime. Intra-muscular fat from marbling contributes to juiciness and flavor of the meat, but has nothing to do with tenderness.

DNA markers for Meat Quality (Marbling) indicate that Criollo are genetically programmed to be lean. Interestingly, since their meat is predominantly red muscle fibers, rather than white muscle fibers as is found in the European beef breeds), Criollos are capable of marbling in a shorter feeding period than most other beef animals.

Similar to Tenderness, DNA test results on Meat Quality (Marbling) are expressed on a scale of 0 to 10. A score of 4, 5 or 6 indicates that animal's meat has sufficient Meat Quality (Marbling) to insure a tasty, juicy cut of meat; this meat usually grades as "Choice" by the USDA at slaughter. Marbling scores of 7 or higher usually grades as "Prime" by the USDA at slaughter. Click here to see a Benchmark Comparison between our Certified Criollo Beef and the Angus, Kobe/Wagyu, and Texas Longhorn. DNA testing of registered Criollo reveal that Criollo usually score at least 4 on the quality scale, with an average of 5.95. Kobe beef, by contrast, averages 5.20; Black Angus cattle score, on average, 7.01 on a scale of 10. Click here to see an example of Igenity DNA Test Results.

How does this translate into "naturally lean meat?" Feedlots are the "great equalizers" with regards to Meat Quality(Marbling), and the resulting grading. Even beef from genetically inferior animals will eventually marble when grain fed; however, this meat will have the excess fat, adverse impact on our heart health, and lower nutrient value that we are seeking to avoid.

On the other hand, grass-fed beef presents some unique challenges. Since the animal's growth isn't forced through cereal grains, there won't be any significant marbling unless that animal is genetically programmed to do so. To achieve acceptable Meat Quality (Marbling) scores on grass-fed beef, the animals in question must be genetically programmed to marble easily. Animals with low DNA scores for marbling, that are grass-fed, will produce meat with almost no marbling at all--providing beef that is dry, bland, and difficult to keep from overcooking. Cattle genetically programmed to marble easily will have enough marbling in their meat, even though grass-fed, to insure a juicy, tasty cut of beef. In addition, due to being grass-fed, and not forced through cereal grain supplementation, their meat will retain all the health benefits documented through eating grass-fed beef.

ACBA has established the minimum Meat Quality (Marbling) score for a Criollo to qualify for the Certified Criollo Beef Registry (as seedstock), or to be marketed as grass-fed Certified Criollo Beef to the consumer, to be 4, on a scale of 10. Criollo who score less than 4 on the Quality scale will NOT qualify for the Registry or the Certified Criollo Beef program.

As a further quality control measure, the ACBA has determined that any Criollo must have a minimum combined score of 9, from DNA testing for Tenderness and for Meat Quality (Marbling), to qualify for the Certified Criollo Beef Registry (as seedstock) or the grass-fed Certified Criollo Beef program.

The ACBA is confident that their stringent quality control measures, for both the registering of seedstock into the Certified Criollo Beef Registry, and the beef marketed as grass-fed Certified Criollo Beef, will insure a lean, tender, tasty eating experience for the consumer.

For those of you that really enjoy the research, please click here for a key to Igenity DNA information.

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