'Athletic steers' wanted — Consumers, butchers, packers look for good color, good marbling in meat

From hoof to the hook.
Large animal owners of grand and reserve champions at the Auglaize County Fair received a glimpse of how their animals would be judged by packers and butchers — and ultimately the consumer. They also learned the fair judges were right on with their evaluations, according to a carcass judge’s report.
Lindsay Butler, who is studying animal science and meat science as a student at The Ohio State University, said for the barrows and gilts, the lambs, the market beef steer and carcass steers that the judges “nailed it” when they picked grand and reserve champions. The market numbers in regard to fat content and size of meat bared out those evaluations.
“I think the cattle were very nice and overall as a whole they graded well,” Butler said Wednesday standing in a freezer at Kah’s Meats in Wapakoneta. “With the pigs, it was hard to tell because we only were able to look at the top four but the judge did a good job of picking the winners and the lambs were the same way. The judges did a pretty good job overall.”
Butler explained the meat packers are looking for at least top choice with the steers, with the premium grades really reserved for the angus. She said they also want to see at least a 12.5-inch ribeye for the size of steers in the 4-H show for this county and they don’t want to see a yield grade of 4 because that means there is too much fat and the packer is throwing away too much of the animal.
She said cattle producers need to find that right balance between lean meat with great marbling. Marbling is small lines of fat throughout the meat.
“The thing about getting them too lean then they are not really finished,” Butler said pointing to the area where porterhouse steaks and sirloins come from on a steer. “They need that cover of fat and if they are too lean then you run into that problem that the meat does not have any of that marbling.”
She explained the fat adds flavor to the meat and should keep the meat from shrinking when they are grilled or cooked.
With lambs, she said meat buyers are looking for at least 1/10 of an inch of back fat and good cover throughout the animal. Lambs and hogs have to have good color, too.
“A lot of this has to do with the consumer and what they want,” Butler said. “With sheep you don’t want to see dark-colored meat and with pigs you don’t want to see really light-colored meat.”
Butler’s comments turned into constructive criticism for the 4-H exhibitors present.
Slade Oen, who showed the grand champion market gilt, learned what the judges and meat packers are looking for in an animal.
“Everything was pretty much right on between the judge’s evaluation at the fair and Butler’s evaluation here,” Slade said. “It helps a lot to learn what they are judging for and what you need to do to get them to be what the meat packer wants.”
Kort Sutherland, 10, won with a steer he raised on his farm and purchased from his grandmother and grandfather, Diane and Charlie Sutherland, in the Auglaize County Born and Raised show.
“We learned he had too much fat in some places and not enough meat in other places,” Kort said. “Overall, it was still a good steer with good meat.”
Getting his first glimpse of his steer as a carcass proved educational for the youngster.
“You want your steer to have a real wide rump so he has a good rump and round steak,” the son of Anita and Drew Sutherland said. “You want him to have a good back so he has a good loin and good shoulders so he has good ribeye. You don’t want him too fat, but you want him fat enough so he has marbling.”
With several more years to go in 4-H, Kort said he had a better idea of what a judge is looking for when they are judging the animal in the ring. He also plans to help out his three sisters, Kyra, Kaymi and Korynn when they start showing.
Lee Turner and his brother, Brandon, coined their own phrase for what judges are looking for in cattle — an “athletic steer.”
Lee, who showed the grand champion beef steer, and Brandon, who showed the reserve champion dairy steer, learned more about the qualities a judge and a consumer wants.
“I really learned how people prefer their meat cuts,” said Brandon, who is a junior at Waynesfield-Goshen High School.
“What the consumer wants today,” chimed in Lee, who is a 2013 graduate of Waynefield-Goshen High School.
Along with great hair and good body form, the sons of Holly and Chris Turner said judges are looking for a steer in the 1,250- to 1,350-pound range and a good walking steer.
To achieve this the brothers have a plan.
“We change their feed throughout the year,” Lee said. “We feed them differently in the winter, spring and summer. We try to fatten them up in the winter and then we try to cruise them into the show.
“We walk them more in our yard and behind the tractor as the show gets closer,” Brandon said. “They want a sound standing steer.”
“They (judges) want an athletic steer,” they said in unison as they looked at each other with a laugh.