A MAJOR research project has taken a step towards its goal of enhancing the Welsh beef industry’s excellent reputation, through a training course which explored world-leading techniques for grading meat by eating quality.

The BeefQ Project, led by Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), this month invited representatives from across the Welsh meat processing sector to several days of intensive training by Australian specialists in the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grading system.

Thanks to the event, organised at two major abattoirs by project partners Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), a cohort of trained meat quality graders will be available at abattoirs approved to process PGI Welsh Beef.

Later in the BeefQ project, these graders will be able to pass on their expertise to producers at demonstration events, giving a real insight into how what they do on farm influences the various elements of carcase quality.

The overall aim of the three-year project, supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Fund Programme 2014-2020 which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government, is to increase the eating quality and value of Welsh Beef production and improve returns to farmers and processors.

Deanna Jones, of HCC, said: “This training is a very important early step in the BeefQ project, which we hope in time will give a real boost to the Welsh beef sector.

"We were delighted that key representatives of Wales’ major processors were able to attend.

“The MSA system is considered to be a world-leading process in predicting the eating quality of beef.

"It was extremely valuable, therefore, to be able to bring specialists from Australia to discuss how it may be applied in Wales, and train people in its use through both practical and classroom elements.”

Aberystwyth University’s Dr Pip Nicholas-Davies added: “Since launching BeefQ formally at the Royal Welsh winter fair in late-2018, we have been moving ahead with our partners to put the project plan into action.

“As well as the training course, preparations are underway to survey the animal throughput of the processors involved in the project, and select a representative range of animals to grade for meat eating quality.

"From these graded animals, sample cuts will be taken to go forward for consumer testing later in the project.

"The first samples will be collected this month, with further samples being collected in the autumn to account for variabilities at different times of the year.”