Effect of Field Pea Level in Feedlot Finishing Diets on Animal Performance, Carcass Traits, Tenderness, and Taste Panel Response

V.L. Anderson, K.M. Carlin, B.R. Ilse, G.P. Lardy, R. Maddock, and J.P. Schoonmaker



Yearling heifers (N = 118) were allotted by weight (initial wt = 926 26.3 lbs.) in a randomized complete block design and sorted into 16 identical pens (four pens per treatment). Treatments were 0, 10, 20, and 30% dry-rolled field peas (DM basis) replacing dry-rolled corn and canola meal in corn-based finishing diets (62 Mcal NEg/cwt). Heifers were fed for 74 days on treatment diets and shipped to a commercial abattoir. Ribeye area, fat thickness over the 12th rib, KPH, and HCW were measured to calculate USDA yield grade and quality grades were recorded. Two rib steaks were used for Warner-Bratzler shear force (WBSF) evaluation and for sensory analysis of tenderness, juiciness, off-flavor, and flavor intensity. Dry matter intake was greater (<.01) for control treatment vs. any of the pea treatments. Gains were not different (>.38) resulting in improved feed efficiency (P<.01) for the pea treatments. Carcass traits were not different except for fat thickness (P<.08) which was greatest for the 20% pea treatment. Increasing level of dietary field peas decreased the force necessary to cut the steaks. Sensory panel analysis indicated a linear increase in tenderness (P = 0.002) with addition of peas. Sensory panel ratings indicated a tendency for increased juiciness (P = 0.14) and no differences in flavor (P = 0.21) or off flavor (P = 0.32) noted. The improved tenderness observed in this study has implications for improving beef acceptability and may provide consumers with a more consistently tender beef product.



Past research with field pea grain has proven that it is a highly palatable and nutrient dense feed that improves animal performance in creep feeds and in beef cattle receiving diets. Anecdotal reports indicate that field pea grain in feedlot diets improves eating satisfaction for beef. This trial was designed to study the effects of field pea grain in finishing rations on animal performance, carcass traits, tenderness, and taste panel response.


Materials and Methods

One hundred-eighteen yearling feeder heifers were weighed and blocked by weight and randomly allotted within block to one of four ration treatments. There were four pens or replicates for each treatment utilizing 16 pens. The four treatments were field peas included in the ration at 0, 10, 20, and 30% of the diet DM in corn-based rations. The alternate protein source was canola meal. Corn and field peas were dry rolled. The finishing diets contained 62 Mcal per lb. (85% concentrate) and were fed for 74 days. All heifers were marketed at the same time when visual appraisal of the animals suggested .4 inches of backfat and at least half would grade USDA Choice. Heifers were transported to a commercial abattoir (Tyson Fresh Meats, Dakota City, NE) for harvest. Carcasses were evaluated after a 48-hour chill. A mechanical tenderness test was conducted at the NDSU meats laboratory on cores from each steak. Sensory panelists evaluated tenderness, juiciness, and flavor intensity.


Results and Conclusions

Feedlot Performance

Dry matter intake was greater for the control (26.86 lbs./hd/day) vs. the field pea treatments (P<.01) which averaged 25.26 lbs./hd/day (Table 1) over the length of the study. Daily gains were not different (P=.38) over the entire feeding period as control heifers gained 3.50 lbs. per day vs. 3.41, 3.72 and 3.54 for the 10, 20, and 30% pea grain diets, respectively. However, during period 3, greater gains (P<.01) were recorded for the 10 and 20% pea diets than the 30% and control diet (Table 1). Feed efficiency favored the pea treatments overall (P<.01).



Carcass Traits

Carcass traits were not affected by treatment with the exception of fat thickness (P=.08) which was greatest for the 20% treatment (0.46 in.) vs. control (.38) and 30% peas (.38) with 10% peas intermediate (.42 in.).


Mechanical Tenderness and Taste Panel Response

Mechanical tenderness and taste panel assessment of tenderness both significantly (P<.01) favored the three pea treatments over the control. The Warner-Bratzler shear test required 9.48 lbs. of force for the 0% pea treatment vs. 8.00, 7.81, and 8.18 lbs., respectively, for the 10, 20, and 30% pea treatments (Table 2) Taste panel tenderness scores agreed with the mechanical test. Higher scores indicate more tender meat in this scale. Taste panel tenderness scores for the control pea treatment averaged 4.56 vs. 5.14, 5.28, and 5.35 for the 10, 20, and 30% pea treatments, respectively, a linear improvement with increasing pea level. Juiciness also improved (P<.04) with pea treatment. The control treatment juiciness score was 4.78 and respective pea treatments were 5.05, 5.14, and 5.14. Flavor intensity was greater (P<.10) for the 20% pea treatment vs. 0% peas with 10 and 30% pea treatments intermediate. No off-flavors were detected in any of the samples (P>.80).



Discussion and Implications

This study was prompted by frequent and consistent anecdotal input that beef fed peas is exceptionally tender and juicy, which has been proven to be true in the circumstances of this experiment. Feeders using peas now have the ability to market a potentially higher value beef product to processors and consumers. Additional research is warranted to define exactly what may be causing the juiciness and tenderness effects. With tenderness as the single most important criteria for consumer satisfaction, field pea grain could make a huge contribution to the beef industry by literally insuring improved tenderness and possibly juiciness of meat.


Preparing ribeyes from pea-fed beef for the CREC Advisory Board.