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NDSU conducts beef tenderness study for e-commerce company

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Company sought unbiased study comparing their ribeye steak against American Wagyu ribeye steak.

North Dakota State University’s Meat Science Laboratory, a facility of the university’s College of Agriculture, recently worked with BetterFed Beef (BetterFed) to conduct a study measuring the tenderness of its beef. BetterFed, a national e-commerce company, offers a specialized product, Certified ONYA beef, which the company sources directly from farmers and producers to sell on its online storefront. The company recently approached NDSU for their assistance in conducting a third-party, unbiased study comparing their ribeye steak against American Wagyu ribeye steak. Dr. Rob Maddock, professor at the university and manager of its Meat Science Lab, facilitated and executed the study.

“It is rewarding having private companies come to us for our expertise and resources,” says Dr. Maddock. “NDSU is a nationally recognized research university with incredible capabilities, especially in meat and animal sciences, and we are happy to assist companies like BetterFed Beef.”

Ten purebred American Wagyu ribeye steaks from various online retailers and 12 BetterFed Beef Certified ONYA ribeye steaks were given to NDSU to conduct its comparative analysis. The facility performed a tenderness evaluation using the Warner-Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF) Test, a protocol recognized and used by the USDA.

“The positive for consumers is that tenderness can be objectively measured by performing the WBSF test,” says Maddock. “This test is considered the ‘gold standard’ for tenderness analysis and gives us empirical data allowing comparison between, in this case, the American Wagyu ribeye steaks and BetterFed’s Certified ONYA ribeye steaks.”

BetterFed Beef developed certified ONYA beef to be highly marbled, extremely tender and flavorful. Certified ONYA cattle are crossbred from Jersey dams and Gelbvieh sires. They are raised in a tightly managed system to produce the specialized product. The BetterFed system controls genetics, nutrition, health, comfort and environment, allowing for low-stress and high-performing cattle production. All cattle harvested are steers. Because younger cattle are typically more tender, they are harvested prior to 18 months of age. The objective of this study was to compare the tenderness of BetterFed Beef’s Certified ONYA ribeye to Wagyu ribeye using the “gold standard” method for quantifying tenderness.

The best American Wagyu beef is super tender, highly marbled, and richly flavorful. It is also costly, with prices ranging from 200–500% higher than beef in the average supermarket or grocery store. For example, the average cost of the Wagyu ribeye submitted for this comparative analysis was $97.50 per 14-16 ounce ribeye. The average cost for the same ribeye from BetterFed is $37.99.

The experiment required six tests and sampling from each of the 22 Ribeye steaks to gather data. Dr. Maddock then analyzed the data to define its results. BetterFed Beef’s Certified ONYA ribeye steak was determined to be equal in tenderness to purebred American Wagyu. All samples were statistically defined as being in the WBSF’s category of “extremely tender.” 

“BetterFed Beef came to us hoping they could authentically tell its customers their product is just as tender as some of the most expensive beef in the world,” says Maddock. “The data in this study confirms and supports their hypothesis.”

Max Winders, co-founder of BetterFed Beef, comments, “Tenderness is one of the most valuable characteristics of high-quality beef. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer more tender beef, and we were willing to put our product on the line, comparing it to what is known as the most tender beef in the world.”

BetterFed ships its products directly to its customers in customized packaging complete with dry ice and insulation to maintain quality. The products include ground beef (ground from whole muscle groups), steaks, roasts and specialty cuts such as picanha and heart. The study's full results can be found on BetterFed's website.

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