Opportunities for pasture-raised Jersey beef in the Southeast

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2006: $14,952.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Steven Washburn
North Carolina State University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed rations, grazing management, grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management, value added


    Jersey and Jersey-Holstein steers were finished on pasture or using concentrates for 84 days before harvest. Data were collected on 44 steers over 2 years. Steers were harvested at similar ages regardless of weight. Fatty acid profiles differed and concentrate-fed animals had more fat. Taste panel evaluations of loin samples included comparison with choice beef. Taste panel preferences averaged 39.6%, 37.5%, and 21.9% for choice beef, concentrate-fed Jersey beef, and pasture-fed Jersey beef, respectively. The cooperating farmer projected a net return of about $1,000 per head for pasture-fed steers indicating potential for profitable beef enterprises using Jersey or Jersey-Holstein steers.


    This project was a collaborative effort among faculty in two departments at NCSU, an area extension agent, and a cooperating farmer in NC.

    The male offspring of Jersey and Jersey-cross dairy cattle represent a potential resource for pasture-raised beef in the region. There are about 25 dairy farms in North Carolina that have Jerseys or Jersey cross cattle in their herds. Further, the Southern Region has many more dairy farms with Jersey genetics. There have been favorable evaluations of Jersey animals in crosses with more traditional beef breeds and in grain-fed finishing programs (Koch et al. 1976, Shackelford et al, 1994). However, such evaluations have not been done for pasture-finishing systems. The study reported by Koch et al. (1976) noted several characteristics of Jersey-sired steers from Hereford and Angus cows that may be important for family farms interested in including pasture-finished beef among the products offered to customers.

    Jersey crosses had lighter carcasses than other breed groups and although dressing percentages were lower they tended to finish more quickly, had relatively high quality grades reflected by higher marbling scores. However, they had lower fat percentage in the rib-eye area and smaller rib-eye muscle areas than other breed combinations. Means for Jersey and South Devon crosses for the Warner-Bratzler shear force (lower = more tender) were lower compared to most other breed groups but all were within acceptable ranges. All breed group means were significantly above the minimum level for acceptance on the taste panel evaluation. Consistent with the Warner-Bratzler test, Jersey and South Devon crosses were also rated more tender by the taste panel compared to other breed groups. Although flavor and juiciness means did not differ significantly across breed groups, the Jersey crosses were numerically the highest for both of those taste panel measures. Overall taste panel acceptability was highest for the Jersey crosses (Koch et al., 1976).

    In a follow-up study from the Clay Center, Nebraska crossbreeding data, Shackelford et al. (1994) reported that steers from Jersey-sired crosses with Angus or Hereford cows had intermediate scores for lean color (cherry red) and lean texture (fine) but rated among the most firm as opposed to being soft in comparison to other breed groups.

    In reviewing literature on potential for Jersey beef in New Zealand, Morris et al. (2001) noted that most literature was 20 years old and obtained in grain-based feeding systems. They indicated a need to invest in a new characterization of Jersey and Jersey cross cattle for beef production under pastoral conditions. The favorable composition of the intramuscular fat and the high level of monounsaturated fatty acids found in beef from Jersey cattle in pasture-based systems could be significant in terms of human health.

    Because there are readily available Jersey animals in the region, the studies cited above document that there are potentially favorable attributes of Jersey beef. If those attributes hold true in pasture-based systems, there may be marketing opportunities for producers in the region.

    Literature Cited:
    Koch, R. M., M. E. Dikeman, D. M. Allen, M. May, J. D. Crouse, and D. R. Campion. 1976. Characterization of biological types of cattle III. Carcass composition, quality and palatability. J. Anim. Sci. 43:48-62.
    Morris, S. T., E. Navajas, and D. L. Burnham. 2001. Beef Production from Jersey Cattle.
    Review prepared for the C.Alma Baker Trust; Massey University: 26 pages.
    Shackelford, S. D., M. Koohmaraie, T. L. Wheeler, L. V. Cundiff, and M. E. Dikeman. 1994. Effect of Biological Type of Cattle on the Incidence of the Dark, Firm, and Dry Condition in the Longissimus Muscle. J. Anim. Sci. 72: 337-343
    Sitz, B. M.., C. R. Calkins, D. M. Feuz, W. J. Umberger, and K. M. Eskridge. 2005. Consumer sensory acceptance and value of domestic, Canadian, and Australian grass-fed beef steaks

    Project objectives:

    Our primary objective was to evaluate the potential for Jersey and Jersey-Holstein crossbred steers for beef production in the Southeastern U.S. As part of that evaluation, we wanted to compare beef from animals reared primarily on pasture versus those that received a high concentrate diet before harvest. Meat characteristics including fat composition, tenderness, and consumer acceptability were investigated. We are also interested in the potential economic return from Jersey-cross steers finshed either on pasture or in a feedlot.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.