Ossification score is a measure of physiological maturity of the beef carcase through bone development in the vertebrae. Hot standard carcase weight (HSCW) is used in conjunction with the ossification score to calculate a weight for maturity measurement. Faster grown cattle have better eating quality.
As beef cattle mature the cartilage present around the bones of the spinal column gradually change into bone (ossify). The rate at which this occurs is reasonably predictable but is affected by factors such as sex, nutrition and prolonged stress. The scale of ossification runs from 100 to 590 with the higher scores indicating greater physiological maturity. The ossification score can impact on the compliance of a carcase to a processor eating quality specification.
Cuts from carcases with lower ossification at the same weight are have a better eating quality. Carcase ossification provides an indication of collagen fibre (connective tissue) development in meat that contributes to toughening of cooked meat. Increasing ossification has a cut-by-cut effect depending on the level of connective tissue within a cut.
Ossification score is influenced by a number of other factors:
- Heifers tend to have higher ossification scores at the same age compared to steers.
- Hormonal growth promotants (HGP) – treatment tends to increase ossification scores.
- Prolonged stress such as nutritional setbacks or injury can increase ossification scores, and this is not reversible.
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