Early trials with an electronic bite test show the meat industry could save more than £7m, turning cuts graded as slower cook into thin-cut steaks.

As part of work to increase carcase value, AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) experts have used equipment known as a texture analyser to measure the force needed to "bite" through a small sample of meat, placing a kilogram value to measure its tenderness.

Using this science, muscles within beef carcases have been tested and found to be suitable for use as quick-cook thin-cut steaks. During the summer months, tougher cuts used for winter dishes may lose value, needing to be frozen, exported or put through the mincer.

Early tests indicate the industry could reap more than £5.2m creating thin-cut steaks from Chuck (stewing/braising steak) and £2.5m from the Leg of Mutton Cut (taken from the fore-quarter of the carcase and also used for slow cooking). Extensive analysis has also been carried out on beef in the US.

AHDB has identified thin-cut steaks as a new way of getting consumers to eat more beef any day of the week. Today's busy lifestyle means people are changing their eating habits and demand ease of cooking meat of any kind.

Mike Whittemore, Head of Trade and Product Development at AHDB, said: "The "bite test" uses shear force to measure tenderness, meaning that retailers could quantify quality and charge accordingly. It also helps to ensure consistency and boost confidence in beef steak".

The human jaw is so sensitive it can detect a change in tenderness of just 0.5kg. Research with UK beef will continue, potentially offering retailers opportunity to label thin-cut steaks from good through to premium, on counters across the country.

Market round-up

United Auctions sold 232 store heifers at Stirling on Wednesday to average 210.5p per kg (-1.6p on the week) and 390 store, beef-bred bullocks to level at 228.6p (+9.5p). Thirty-eight store, B&W bullocks averaged 145.7p (-3.8p) and 26 store bulls levelled at 222.9p (+26.2p).

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold 4 prime heifers in Dumfries on Wednesday to a top of 229p and an average of 223.6p.

In the rough ring 31 beef cows sold to 158p and averaged 130p, while 11 dairy cows peaked at 139p and levelled at 110p. Four bulls averaged 119p.

The firm also sold 456 prime hoggs to a top of £90.50 per head and 196p per kg to average 176p (-9p).

A smaller show of 374 cast sheep saw heavy ewes sell to £98.50 for Texels and average £52, while light/export-type ewes peaked at £52.50 for Cheviots and levelled at £38.