News | July 15, 2011

USMEF, Oklahoma State Collaborate On Dry-Aging Beef Study

A study that analyzes differing techniques for dry aging of U.S. beef destined for international markets has been completed for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) by researchers at Oklahoma State University's Department of Animal Science. Funding for the research was provided by the Oklahoma Beef Council.

"This is an outstanding example of applying research in the marketplace where it can benefit producers in Oklahoma and around the country," said Brett Morris, chairman of the Oklahoma Beef Council board of directors. "The opportunity to expand markets for U.S. beef by offering dry-aged product is an excellent use of producers' Checkoff dollars."

The OSU researchers, headed by former OSU professor Dr. Brad Morgan, analyzed four different techniques for dry-aging of beef:

  • Wet aging in the U.S. followed by exporting to the international market and dry aging in-market
  • Wet aging in the U.S. followed by dry aging in the U.S., freezing in the U.S. and exporting
  • Freezing in the U.S. followed by export and dry aging in the international market
  • Wet aging in the U.S. followed by dry aging in the U.S. and wet aging while in transit to the international market

The study revealed that the first three approaches all produced varied but acceptable results, while the fourth (wet aging in the U.S. followed by dry aging in the U.S. and wet aging while the product is in transit) had a higher risk of product spoilage.

The researchers measured the product based on expected eating quality, dry-aging yield, cut yield, cooking loss, moisture and fat content.

"This is very useful research for us to share with our export partners around the globe," said Paul Clayton, USMEF's senior vice president of export services. "As demand for dry-aged beef increases, the work that OSU researchers have done will help ensure that the quality of the product can be maintained during shipment across long distances and losses from the dry-aging process will be minimized."

Oklahoma State University was a logical partner with USMEF on the project. OSU faculty members have worked extensively on industry issues in Asia, and they have reported receiving numerous inquiries regarding dry aging.

"The growing popularity of dry aging has generated a lot of interest and a lot of questions," Clayton said. "Since there are varying techniques to accomplish dry aging, this research can provide guidance based on the end result desired, whether it be cut yield, cooking loss, product moisture or other factors important for maintaining a desirable eating experience."

USMEF staff around the world report growing interest in dry aging of beef, but the interest is strongest in Asia.

"Dry aging has definitely created a high-end niche in the foodservice market in Korea," said Jihae Yang, USMEF-South Korea director. "Top hotels and some steakhouses in the trendiest areas of Seoul have been major players with dry aging. It's significant when we see them building their own dry-aging facility, showing their determination to sell dry-aged beef."

Yang noted that while dry aging is typically a high-end niche market, dry aging is not limited to prime grade product. "I think choice or high choice grade beef also can make for a great-tasting but affordable dry-aged steak," she said. "And it's very encouraging to watch dry-aged U.S. beef being talked about by important food industry influencers like chefs, critics, journalists and bloggers."

Dry aging also is catching on in Singapore, which is the culinary trend-setter for Southeast Asia, according to Sabrina Yin, USMEF-ASEAN director.

"Certain importers see the potential of dry aging, and they have to keep introducing new products into the market so that foodservice operators can have something new to feature," she said. "Singapore is a very cosmopolitan country with many well-known international chefs. The demand for dry-aged beef is there."

A full copy of the dry-aging research report is available on the USMEF website, along with a copy of the Research Recap. Additional support for the research project was provided by Outwest Meat Co. of Las Vegas.