Your Burgers Are Still Done at 71

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Maintaining consumer confidence is crucial to our industry. Consumer confidence in the safety of Canadian beef was briefly shaken by the 2012 XL Foods E. coli outbreak that infected at least 18 people, and resulted in the recall of 1,800 tonnes of beef, a $4 million legal settlement and the sale of the packing plant to JBS Canada. That event also led to a resurgence in media interest in E. coli research. Articles in both Meatingplace.com and the National Post featured interviews with researchers who expressed concern that Health Canada’s recommendation to cook hamburger patties to an internal temperature of 71oC may not be adequate to kill some strains of E. coli. These concerns stemmed from papers published in 2011, 2015 and 2016 that studied the genetics of heat resistant E. coli strains that had survived carcass washing interventions in a commercial beef processing facility in 2001 and 2002.

These concerns deserved serious investigation. In response, Continue reading

Beef Quality Audit

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.



Canada’s fourth Beef Quality Audit was completed in March 2018, following previous audits in 1995, 1998 and 2010/11. The carcass audit measured the incidence and economic costs of avoidable defects in Canadian slaughter cattle and beef and identified opportunities to avoid these losses.

What they did: Mark Klassen, Joyce van Donkersgoed and a team of technicians visited slaughter plants across Canada in the fall of 2016 and winter and spring of 2017. Thousands of cattle and carcasses were examined for a wide variety of possible defects. This column focuses on the most common and costly defects, specifically tag, carcass weight, excess fat and liver abscesses. Continue reading

Hot Water Treatment of Beef Trim

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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Combating bacteria would be simple if they stayed on the surface of beef. In that case, nearly any spray or wash could contact and kill the bacteria or wash them off. But beef isn’t smooth. Shallow cuts and cracks crisscrossing the meat surface can hide and protect bacteria. Killing these hidden bacteria is not simple. Irradiation would work, but isn’t approved for use in Canada yet. Organic acid washes and sprays may not reach the bacteria hidden in these cracks, or the acids may be neutralized by the meat proteins before bacteria can be killed. To kill these bacteria, food safety interventions need to penetrate a short distance into the meat surface. This is particularly important for beef trim (the small pieces of fat and meat that are removed as the carcass is processed into smaller cuts) that is used for hamburger. The late Dr. Colin Gill of AAFC Lacombe showed that exposing beef trim to extremely hot water essentially “cooks” the top few millimeters, and kills up to 90% of bacteria.

This raises an interesting dilemma. Consumers want safe beef, but they also Continue reading

Measured changes in the quality of Canadian beef: NBQA video



You can’t manage what you don’t measure. This old saying about the need for accurate and ongoing measurements to know whether things are getting better or worse never stops being relevant to those who work toward improvement.

Let’s look at beef production through that lens. As a cattle producer, the more aware you are of what’s already working well, which aspects of your operation

can be improved, and how much each of those improvements can cost or benefit you, the better you’re able to keep your operation profitable in the long-run. Your management practices can also help or harm those who buy your feeder or fat cattle.

We know that not every animal coming through the packer’s doors is ideal. Some animals will have horns that need to be cut off, or extra mud on the hide that slows down the processing line. Some carcasses will Continue reading

Bruising and injection sites: Canada’s Beef Carcass Quality Audit

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted with permission.



The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association carried out its first carcass quality audit in 1995. The defects identified in that audit became the focus of the CCA’s Quality Starts Here program. Dr. Joyce van Donkersgoed went on to teach Canada’s cattle producers how they could improve carcass value through better cattle handling and facilities, moving injection sites from the hindquarters to the shoulder, and using products that could be injected subcutaneously (under the skin) rather than intramuscularly (in the muscle) whenever possible. A follow-up audit was carried out in 1999 to measure the progress made in response to the Quality Starts Here program. Plans to repeat the audit were postponed as a result of BSE, but Canada’s third beef quality audit was completed recently. This column is focused on surface injection site lesions and bruises in fed cattle.

Visible surface injection site lesions and bruises are trimmed from the carcass and discarded. This costs producers because it reduces carcass pay weight, and costs packers because surrounding cuts are often damaged. Continue reading

Horns and brands: Canada’s beef carcass quality audit

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted with permission.



Quality audits can identify the most costly defects that impact carcass value, and help to track changes in carcass quality over time. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association carried out its first carcass quality audit in 1995. The defects identified in that audit became the focus of the CCA’s Quality Starts Here program, and Dr. Joyce van Donkersgoed spent a lot of time educating cattle producers about how to improve carcass quality and value by dehorning calves early and moving brands from the rib to the hip or shoulder. A follow-up audit was carried out in 1999 to measure the progress made in response to the Quality Starts Here program. Plans to repeat the audit were postponed as a result of BSE, but Canada’s third beef quality audit was completed recently. This column gives a quick overview of how the carcass quality audit was conducted, and some of the key findings relevant to cow-calf operators. Continue reading

Results of Canada’s most recent beef carcass quality audit

The ultimate goal of the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) is to continually improve the value of Canadian beef carcasses by delivering a consistent high quality, safe product to consumers domestically and around the world.

Regular audits help the industry to identify management practices that influence beef quality, and measure improvements in the quality of Canadian beef over time.

The NBQA study collects and analyses carcass data in packing plants in eastern and western Canada, including all classes of cattle. The results identify various carcass quality defects, including Continue reading

Food Safety Research on Mechanically Tenderized Beef

This is a guest post written by Mark Klassen, Director of Technical Services for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Canada Beef Inc.

Mechanical tenderization is a process that typically utilizes a set of needles or blades which penetrate meat, cutting through muscle fibers and connective tissue to improve tenderness. Mechanical tenderization has been widely utilized in Canada to enhance the eating quality of beef for many years.

During the 2012 recall of beef from XL Foods Inc., there were five reported cases of illness thought to be associated with the consumption and/or handling of mechanically tenderized product. Consequently, Health Canada is now undertaking a risk assessment to examine the safety of mechanically tenderized beef and to provide guidance around cooking temperatures.

To ensure the best information is available to Government and the Canadian beef industry, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has instigated further food safety research. The research is focused on four aspects related to the safety of mechanically tenderized beef. Continue reading