Skip to main content
Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Related Images

Beef and Veal Production

Beef is the meat from bovines; veal is the meat from bovines younger than 12 months. Beef and veal can therefore be derived from dairy as well as beef cattle. Indeed, most of the veal output comes from the million or more bobby calves slaughtered annually as unwanted stock from the dairy industry. Bobby calves are defined by regulations as being all calves that have a liveweight of less than 100 lb. They are killed when a few days old and yield carcasses of 30–35 lb. These calves are predominantly Jersey, although Friesian, Ayrshire, Milking Shorthorn, and crossbred calves contribute a sizable proportion of the annual kill. Cows and bulls of dairy breeding are also slaughtered in appreciable numbers and their carcasses are usually boned out and the flesh is cartoned, frozen, and exported for use in the manufacturing meat trade.

The carcasses of beef-bred animals are of higher quality than those of dairy cattle, and the meat is very suitable for roasting, grilling (broiling), stewing, and boiling in the case of corned beef.

Of the total production of beef in the 1959–60 season, 46 per cent was consumed locally and the remainder was exported to 27 countries, with the United Kingdom taking 20 per cent and the United States of America 57 per cent of the total exportable surplus of 99,634 tons, comprising 31,384 tons of quarter beef and veal and 68,250 tons of boneless beef and veal.

Most of the beef consumed in New Zealand is fresh killed, while all beef exported is either frozen or chilled or is canned. Markets of any consequence for beef are all in the Northern Hemisphere; consequently, the voyage is long and some deterioration of the product may occur.

Beef may be frozen and exported in quarters wrapped in stockinette and hessian. Frozen beef is carried at a temperature of 12° to 14°F, and is thawed on arrival at its ultimate destination. Thawing may cause a delay of several days before the meat can be cut and sold to customers. During thawing, weight is lost through “drip”, a phenomenon which is being studied scientifically because of its importance in the meat industry.

Chilled beef is quartered and wrapped in sterile materials for export. It is carried in specially constructed lockers on the ship at a temperature of 29° to 30°F, in an atmosphere containing 10 per cent of added carbon dioxide to reduce the amount of spoilage to the product resulting from bacteria and fungi. Chilled beef must be consumed within 40 to 50 days of slaughter if it is to be wholesome and fresh and bright in appearance. Chilled beef is preferred to frozen because it can be cut and sold immediately at the point of retail, and the amount of drip it loses is negligible. The cost of shipping beef in the chilled state is high and consequently only best quality beef–particularly hindquarters–can bear this cost and return a profit to the exporter. The majority of forequarters, because of their lower value, are exported in the frozen state.

Lower quality carcasses are boned out and the flesh is placed in a plastic liner inside a cardboard carton and then frozen for export. Boneless beef must have low amounts of fat (not more than 15 per cent “visual” fat) to comply with the specifications laid down by the North American manufacturing meat industry. The flesh of bobby calves is treated similarly to that of boneless beef. Beef which is canned is usually from low-quality carcasses or cheap cuts.

Selected cuts of top–quality beef, rather than full quarters, are being exported in increasing volume. The cuts are wrapped in plastic and frozen in cartons. The marketing of beef in the form of cuts has decided advantages, since the precise requirements of a market can be met and there is a substantial reduction in shipping space in comparison with the carriage of quarter beef. Future developments may involve the air freighting of best cuts of beef to the valuable North American market.

by Percival George Stevens, DIP.AGR., formerly Senior Lecturer in Animal Science, Lincoln Agricultural College and Robert Aitken Barton, DIP.AGR.M.A.C., M.INST.M., Senior Lecturer in Sheep Husbandry, Massey University of Manawatu.

Quality Beef Production, Barton, R. A. (1959); Grasslands of New Zealand, Levy, E. B. (1951); Beef Cattle Production, MacDonald, M. A. (1958)