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Comparative Analysis of Ribeye Steaks Derived from Certified ONYA® Cattle and American Wagyu Cattle: An Empirical Evaluation of Meat Tenderness

Comparative Analysis of Ribeye Steaks Derived from Certified ONYA® Cattle and American Wagyu Cattle: An Empirical Evaluation of Meat Tenderness

Comparative Analysis of Ribeye Steaks Derived from Certified ONYA® Cattle and American Wagyu Cattle: An Empirical Evaluation of Meat Tenderness

Tenderness is one of the most valuable characteristics of high-quality beef. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer more tender beef and are willing to pay premium prices for tender cuts of beef. Tenderness is positively correlated with consumer eating experience and price-point premium. The tenderness of beef can be objectively measured by performing a Warner-Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF) test. WBSF is considered the “gold standard” for tenderness analysis and provides empirical data enabling comparison between meat cuts and between cattle (where the test cut of beef is standardized, e.g ribeye). The lower the WBSF value, the more tender the ribeye.

Wagyu beef cattle are famous for their ability to incorporate large amounts of intramuscular fat into the muscle tissue matrix. This fat is commonly called “marbling”. The Wagyu breed of cattle was developed in Japan where highly marbled beef is a very expensive delicacy. In the past 25 years, Wagyu genetics have been increasingly incorporated (bred) into the US beef herd, with many Wagyu crossbred cattle and American purebred Wagyu cattle being raised and marketed to American consumers. The best American Wagyu beef is super tender, highly marbled, and richly flavorful. It is also very expensive, with prices ranging from 200 – 500% higher than “typical” beef. As an example, the average cost of the Wagyu ribeye submitted for this comparative analysis was $97.50 per 14-16oz ribeye.

Certified ONYA® beef was developed by BetterFed Beef. Certified ONYA beef is also highly marbled, super tender and flavorful. Certified ONYA cattle are crossbred from Jersey dams and Gelbvieh sires and are raised in a tightly managed system to produce highly tender beef. The BetterFed Beef system controls genetics, nutrition, health, comfort, and environment, allowing for low-stress and high-performing cattle production. All cattle harvested are males (steers) and because younger cattle are typically more tender, our steers are harvested prior to 18 months age. The objective of this study was to compare the tenderness of BetterFed Beef’s Certified ONYA ribeyes to Wagyu ribeyes using the “gold standard” method for quantifying tenderness.

Materials and Methods

In this experiment, ribeyes from 22 different beef cattle was collected, and each ribeye was sampled six different times. All samples were received frozen, and vacuum sealed. The WBSF analysis was performed by the North Dakota State University Meat Science Lab in Fargo ND, under the direction of Dr. Robert Maddock, Professor, Meat Science.
The sources of the 22 different ribeyes are listed in APPENDIX 1.

Experimental Procedure
Warner-Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF) equipment and protocol were used to determine the tenderness of each ribeye. The WBSF protocol and procedure used in this study can be viewed and downloaded at the American Meat Science Association website.

Statistical Analysis

Statistical Analysis was performed using the PROC MIXED procedure of SAS (statistical analysis software) to compare WBSF means between Certified ONYA® and Wagyu ribeye (TABLE 2).


Certified ONYA® and purebred America Wagyu ribeye tenderness is not statistically different, which means that certified ONYA beef is equal in tenderness to American Wagyu. All samples were considered extremely tender, (with one Certified ONYA sample beyond levels of detection). The typical WBSF value for a retail ribeye ranges from 2.1 to 5 (TABLE 1).

Conclusion and Discussion
The data in this study confirms the hypothesis that Certified ONYA® beef is as tender as purebred American Wagyu beef. All samples in this study (22 ribeye x 6 samples/ribeye) were found to be extremely tender. Certified ONYA beef may offer discerning consumers a valuable alternative to purebred American Wagyu beef, as it is equally tender and more affordable.

TABLE 1: Warner-Bratzler Shear Force values for a retail ribeye samples

TABLE 2: Comparison of the average Warner-Bratzler Shear Force values between Certified ONYA® ribeye and American Wagyu ribeye

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