Selection group considers the mission of marbled meat as necessary and selection for the characteristic advances, but still under many challenges and controversies
“There are fads that hinder our sector too much. The most recent of these is the selection of Nellore for marbling. There is a breeder wanting to make fat in a low-fat animal, raised in tropical pastures, almost 70% of them in the process of degradation.
Marbling is achieved in confinement. Pasture is not done, period. ” The controversial statement by José Bento Sterman Ferraz, a researcher at USP in Pirassununga, SP, during an interview with DBO in April of this year, fell like a “bomb” on the breed selection market.
In a chat with journalists Moacir José and Maristela Franco, in the “Prose Quente” section, the researcher evaluated the selection processes underway in the country and rekindled an old discussion: is it possible to select Zebu cattle for this characteristic?
Under what conditions and at what cost?
Associated with the quality of meat, because it influences its tenderness and flavor, marbling – or rather, its absence – has always been a “stone in the shoe” of the Nelore breed and its creators.
Historic supplier of lean meat, due to its genetics and the extensive farming system prevalent in Brazil, this Zebu cattle has often been excluded from the gourmet market, which is willing to pay high prices for cuts with streaky fat.
Disagreeing with Bento Ferraz and other technicians regarding priorities, a group of breeders is making a significant effort to incorporate this characteristic into the breed, a task that they consider not only possible, but necessary. From different profiles, each responds, in his own way, to the initial question of the report, but everyone believes that this work needs to be done here and now. Growing interest One of the best known marbling selection projects in the country is the “Nelore do Golias”, led by the creator Fábio Souza de Almeida Filho, Fabinho, from Araçatuba, SP.
One of the best known marbling selection projects in the country is the “Nelore do Golias”, led by the creator Fábio Souza de Almeida Filho, Fabinho, from Araçatuba, SP.
Through inbreeding (between relatives), he rescued the breeder’s lineage, which had been imported from India in 1962 and left few descendants, but had a great advantage: his progeny provided marbled carcasses.
This discovery, in 2008, was by zootechnician Marina de Nadai Bonin, during her master’s work at USP-Pirassununga. After evaluating progenies of the 13 largest genearcas forming the genetic basis of Nelore in Brazil, in carcass characteristics, she found that the children of Goliath had higher averages for rib eye area (AOL) and marbling.
That same year, the Golias project gained new horizons, with the formation of Condomínio Teles de Menezes and the bases of a breeding stock of 120 donors, which generate approximately 700 IVF pregnancies per year, a number that is expected to grow even more in near future.
“Once I heard a phrase from James Cruden, former CEO of Marfrig Foods, that I will never forget: when the zebu manages to produce meat with tenderness and marbling, it will put British breeds under his arm”, recalls Almeida, adding: “This is the differential we pursue ”. Fabinho is not the only one.
According to a survey by DGT Brasil (a US-based company that develops and markets ultrasound image interpretation software to evaluate carcass and meat quality), there are currently seven Nellore selection projects in the country with a focus on marbling.
In these projects, 10,602 animals have already been evaluated in the last five years, with considerable evolution in the marbling content: from 1% to 3%, a percentage twice higher than the national average of the Nellore breed.
Such index can raise Brazilian production from the standard level – a term used by the North Americans to classify commodity meat, with absence or just traces of marbling – to select, which indicates a better quality standard, with light marbling.
“As the industry becomes more aware of the demands of certain groups of consumers, it becomes clear that they want not only beef, but flavor, quality. Research has shown that these people are willing to pay for a higher level of satisfaction in relation to the product they consume ”, says the technical director of DGT in Brazil, Liliane Suguisawa.
A recent study from Colorado State University, USA, found a strong relationship between the level of marbling and the perception of quality of the consumer. The tenderness and the presence of a “buttery” flavor in the meat were responsible for 91% of the variations in sensory experiences. In addition, 40% of the variations in the perception of softness and 71% in terms of the desirable flavor occurred because of the marbling level.
“This indicates that selecting animals with a high content of streaky fat means significantly increasing the quality of the meat and adding value to our product”, evaluates the director of DGT Brasil. Fabinho, from Nelore Golias, adds: “They say you don’t pay for marbling. I ask: doesn’t that happen precisely because we don’t have enough Nellore marbled meat to serve the market? ”
Awards have arrived
In recent years, the Nelore Golias project has achieved, with the slaughterhouse partners, premiums between 5% and 15% on the Cepea indicator for heifers. In addition to the structured selection in the interior of São Paulo, the breeder has four more breeding / fattening farms in Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraguay, where genetics are applied from the cradle to the slaughter line.
In the meat project, females are subjected to carcass ultrasound when they reach 11 @, on average, at 20 months. Those that have more than 3.5% of marbling in reading are directed to the gourmet market. The rest are destined for slaughter, being finished on pasture with 16-17 @ at 24-30 months, turned to the commodity market. In the group of superior heifers, the marbling index reaches 5%, with supplementation to pasture.
“WORKING MARBLE IS LIKE WORKING SEXUAL PRECOCITY: WE NEED TO GIVE CONDITIONS FOR ANIMAL TO EXPRESS GENETICS. THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH ”, FABINHO SAYS.
One of the main criticisms of marbling selection in the country is the possible contamination of the data by the environmental effect, in this case the nutrition of the animals, as energy inputs can lead to the deposition of intramuscular fat, the last phase of the fattening curve.ngorda.
The projects, however, refute this argument. Brothers Marcelo and Antônio Grisi, for example, from Fazenda Santa Nice, say they identified animals with a high degree of marbling at an early age (14-16 months), before they deposited subcutaneous fat, and others with three standard deviations for finishing in relation to the contemporary group, without the presence of marbling.
“The only true correlation between the two characteristics is that, once the animal deposits fat, there is greater certainty that it has consumed enough energy to form marbling, if it has the genetics to do so. Marbling is a characteristic of the individual ”, says Antônio Grisi, Tonico.
Based in Amaporã, PR, the farm invests in rotated pasture, but does not feed animals. “Our biggest investment has always been in pasture quality, not in treatment. There is no animal on the farm that eats more than 1 gram of supplement per kilogram of live weight. We do not work with creep feeding, except in the super early batch.
We do marbling on pasture and we have been able to close the account ”, guarantees the coach, who, unlike Fábio Almeida, does not intend to create a meat brand. His interest is in the distribution of genetics for meat quality in the market.
At the property, all animals are submitted to an ultrasound examination at year-end and the data obtained are sent to breeding programs for the generation of DEPs. The Grisi brothers seek not only marbling, but also weight gain, better carcass yield and finishing speed.
“I see the market as a whole. Is marbling advantageous? Yes. It is the bonus of a well-crafted team ”, says Tonico. At the beginning of the project, the farm had 15% females aged 14-16 months with marbling above 3%. In the last harvest, of a total of 1,400 heifers, 52% reached this index. “Whether the market will pay for marbling or not is another question. The fact is that there is a trend towards meat quality as we have never seen in beef cattle. Whoever comes out ahead will reap the rewards. ”
At large strides – At the Nelore Auction for Marbling, which brings together breeders who use DGT Brasil’s assessment services, the average price of bulls has exceeded R $ 10,000 in the last two years, with space for bids of up to R $ 55,200. A market that is beginning to attract the attention of insemination centers.
During ExpoGenética, in Uberaba, MG, Semex closed the contract with the three bulls of Fazenda Sucuri, by Humberto Tavares, who three years ago mapped their entire herd of females with a focus on identifying superior animals in carcass and marbling. The best combined index was that of Astreu, a 22-month-old bull, with a marble grade of 3.27 to the yearling. “There is market demand for this type of genetics. The proof is there ”, says Tavares.
In addition to Semex, CRI Genética has been working with a portfolio of nine bulls focused on this characteristic. “Now that we have discovered this virtue in certain strains, it is necessary to carry out extensive work to capillarize this genetics”, points out Shiro Nishimura, owner of Fazenda Araponga, in Jaciara, MT, who is part of the DGT Group in the banner for “marbled Nelore”.
At Fazenda Araponga, the work has been developed from the bull Ubinag Prudeindia (Nagpur lineage), acquired from Hiroshi Yoshio, 28 years ago. By participating in Geneplus / Embrapa and carrying out ultrasound of the carcass of his animals during the year as required by the program, Nishimura discovered, four years ago, an interesting concentration of animals with a marbling percentage between 4% and 6%, a genetic differential that he attributes to the frequent use of the Ubinag bull in the transfer of the cow.
“I chose this animal because it has high heritability for weight gain. With the surprise about marbling, I decided to expand its use and better direct our work ”, says Nishimura, who has a reserve of 600 doses of Ubinag semen, in addition to the bull’s children and grandchildren.
Currently, the breeder has already identified the potential of marbled meat in 30% of his herd of 800 females, half of them with marbling above 4%.
“I use in these matrices, in particular, positive bulls for marbling. This has allowed me to move forward quickly in the selection process ”, he says. In the last month of August, Nishimura promoted the first marbling auction in Mato Grosso in partnership with the brand Celeiro Carnes Especiais, by rancher Marco Túlio Duarte Soares, with a fundamental difference in the account.
The event gave rise to the project “From bull to pasture”, which aims to promote the use of high-grade breeders for marbling in commercial herds, through the bonus of their crossbreeding.
The heifers (daughters of the bulls sold at the auction) will be acquired by the meat boutique of Marco Túlio at special prices, provided that they have a minimum marbling degree of 3%. “We want to join the three ends: the genetics producer, the calf producer and the meat distributor”, says Nishimura. “We have already shown that it is possible to make Nellore with marbling. Now, we need to organize the production chain to make things more fundamental ”, he says.
Embora esses projetos tenham feito um excelente trabalho visando a disseminação da genética do Nelore com marmoreio, ainda existem Although these projects have done an excellent job of disseminating Nellore genetics with marbling, there are still challenges in selecting the trait in the breed. The biggest one is that the carcass ultrasound information is combined with genetic improvement programs to compose the evaluations of each harvest, a tool capable of debugging the effect of the environment on the selection for marbling and something still recent in the country.
At Geneplus, the ultrasound data were only included in the evaluations at the end of 2016. At the ANCP, measurements were made a few years ago, although the population evaluated is still small. The heritability of the characteristic varies from 0.12% to 0.22%, respectively, in the two programs, a number considered still low to encourage investments in mass selection by marbling.
Liliane Suguisawa, however, believes that there is potential for this number to increase, as the data is being incorporated into breeding programs. “In the United States, for example, the heritability of marbling at Angus is in the 60-70% range.”
For Yuri Farjalla, partner of Fabiano Araújo at Aval Serviços Tecnológicas, a company also specialized in carcass ultrasonography, the road is long. Many farms still use the technique only for measuring the rib eye area (AOL) and thickness of subcutaneous fat, leaving marbling in the background.
In the ANCP Bull Summary, recently released, 15,000 marbling measurements were published, compared to 108,000 for AOL and EGS. “The breeder gives preference to the evaluation of paid characteristics. Marbling has an important space, but the creator does not do it because, in addition to the low low heritability, it has debatable economic returns. ”
Fabiano, for his part, assesses that there is still a lack of systems in Brazil for carcass typification that guarantee proper remuneration for meat quality, including streaky fat. The diagnosis of the efficiency of each producer is made mainly based on the weight of the hot carcass, this being the main remuneration criterion of the slaughterhouse industry.
“We can even work with marbling at Nelore, but for now, only as a niche market,” says the technician. Professor Bento Ferraz, from USP, adds: “Some people receive 10% more here, over there. Only it is a very small market. Our business is cheap meat in quantity. Not very sophisticated. ”
Aval has clients with good marbling assessment banks, but they do not use them for the selection or marketing of their animals. Two examples are the Genetic Additive Group and Rancho da Matinha, both with more than ten years of gauging of carcass characteristics.
“In fact, it is a question of positioning. The marbling selection has its space, as well as all others in the country, but it must be well conducted so that there is credibility. There are still people undergoing ultrasound on an old cow, outside contemporary groups, and that is terrible, ”points out Argeu Silveira, who coordinated the Additive Genetics project for 30 years and today is the technical director of ANCP (National Association of Breeders and Researchers).
What is recommended by the technicians is that the measurement occurs at yearling, the final stage of the composition of contemporary groups, and the age most suitable for selection by marbling, since adult animals tend to accumulate fat naturally.
Gilberto Menezes, a researcher at Embrapa Gado de Corte, clarifies: “Every characteristic must be worked on in established management groups. In the case of marbling, this need becomes even greater, since there are many variables that can regulate the amount of intramuscular fat deposited in the carcass ”, he says.
“Everything is a matter of balance. There is a creator forcing the characteristic and impairing the selection for other purposes, such as performance and productivity, things that have a direct effect on the profitability of the business. The selection must be, above all, a balanced package of characteristics. ”
Bold low cost
In the front group of marbling selectors at Nelore, Mateus Arantes, from Fazenda São Matheus, in Três Lagoas, MS, has adopted a very bold selection strategy: obtaining animals with a high degree of fat streaked only based on carcass ultrasound, without using DEPs.
For that, he stipulated a cut-off note for the selection at 2% marbling and, since then, has kept only superior animals in the herd. “Each producer chooses how to make marbling. I chose to do it at low cost, without grain and without an improvement program ”, he says.
Every herd is valued at an average cost of R $ 20 / head, today the value of ultrasound. There are about 400 Nelore PO females and 1,800 rearing / fattening animals supplemented with mineral salt, in pasture rotated with soy. Although unusual, the Arantes production system has been obtaining good results.
In 2016, of the 112 Nellore females inseminated between 12 and 14 months, 52 pregnant and marbled between 5.8 and 9.8, which can be classified, respectively, as Choice and Choice +. “This is an important characteristic, which must be present in the Brazilian herd. It does not have to be Prime (highly superior), but it cannot be Standard (inferior). As soon as Nelore produces better quality meat, there will also be demand for it. We have to end this story of what comes first: the chicken or the egg. ”
Article originally published in issue 443 of DBO Magazine.
Source: Portal DBO