Build customer loyalty with MSA graded beef and lamb

Meat Standards Australia (MSA) is a grading system proven to take the guess work out of buying and cooking Australian beef and lamb. All products identified with the MSA symbol have met strict criteria to ensure they achieve consumer expectations for tenderness, juiciness and flavour. When a cut of beef or lamb meets the MSA standard it is cut to, or labelled with a recommended cooking method which confirms that cut has achieved the standard for eating quality when prepared by the recommended cooking method.  


Developing the MSA Standard

Research shows that an enjoyable meal experience is of paramount importance to consumers. They expect a tender, tasty, juicy cut of meat at every meal occasion. To develop the MSA standards over 100,000 consumers participated in beef and sheepmeat taste panels to identify the key factors that consistently deliver tender, tasty beef and lamb. 

The MSA team used this research to develop a computer model that predicts an eating quality grade for beef and lamb cuts based on the key attributes known to impact eating quality.

How the MSA grade is calculated

MSA certified graders collate information provided from the producer with a number of attributes measured on each carcase, for beef cattle these include; meat colour, marbling, fat depth, carcase weight, maturity and ultimate pH. This information is entered into a hand held data unit containing the MSA grading model which generates an eating quality grade for each cut based on a specific cooking method.

Integrity of the system

All participants in the supply chain are licensed to use the MSA symbol. If the symbol is used at the point of purchase the retailer or restaurateur must have an approved Quality Management System that meets requirements set out in the MSA Standards Manual. Licensees are subject to a random audit for compliance to the standard, while the MSA standards are audited against the AS/NZS ISO 9001/2008 Standard.

Production of MSA graded beef and lamb

Production and management practices are key factors that influence the eating quality potential of cattle, sheep and lambs. Below is a summary of these key factors, their impact and how they are measured to identify consistent quality beef and lamb.


All breeds are eligible for MSA grading.  However, research shows that breed can impact the eating quality of certain cuts.  An assessment of breed content is made prior to processing.

Nutrition and growth

Cattle and sheep must be finished on a rising plane of nutrition to ensure adequate growth and sufficient muscle glycogen levels prior to processing. Glycogen is a measure of an animal’s energy reserves.  Adequate nutrition and minimal stress during handling results in high muscle glycogen which leads to optimal pH and meat colour compliance at grading.

Handling and Transport

Livestock must be handled in a manner that minimises stress during mustering and transport. Stress is a major contributor to a condition that results in dark, tough beef.

Grading a Carcase

Production inputs are combined with carcase attributes to develop a MSA grade for a specific cut of beef or lamb. Specific carcase attributes and they importance are summarised below.

Meat Colour

The colour of the rib eye muscle is assessed and scored against a nationally approved standard. Meat colour is a leading indication of meat quality as dark beef is known to be tough and unacceptable.

MSA Marbling

Marbling is a measure of intramuscular fat and a lead indicator of flavour and tenderness. The rib eye muscle is assessed to calculate the amount and distribution of marbling against the MSA standard.

External Fat Distribution

An even fat coverage assists uniform carcase chilling which influences tenderness. The thickness of rib fat is measured at a standard location; it must be at least 3mm to meet the MSA standard. External fat must also be evenly distributed over the loin, hind and forequarters.

Ultimate pH

pH is the measurement of lactic acid in the muscle. It is a key indicator of eating quality and is measured by inserting a pH probe into the eye muscle. Only carcases with the optimum pH level achieve an MSA grade.


Maturity is measured in beef cattle by assessing the amount of cartilage that turns to bone along the spine. It describes how quickly the animal has grown and is a lead indictor of beef tenderness. A lamb is determined by the AUS-MEAT classification based on the number of permanent teeth it has at the time of processing.

Reading Carton labels

All MSA graded beef and lamb is identified on the carton end panel with the prefix MSA. The label must state;

  • Cooking method

  • The MSA Grade – MSA 3, 4 or 5 star for cattle and MSA for sheepmeat

  • and ageing requirement in days e.g. MSA 3 roast @ 5 days

MSA product must not be sold to consumers before it reaches the MSA ageing requirement shown on the carton label. To do this check the date it was packed on or the carcase ticket for the date of processing and calculate forward for a release date. All MSA products require a minimum ageing period of 5 days. The MSA standard for beef can be met by a number of ageing requirements up to 35 days. The ageing requirements for beef change depending on the cut.

MSA carcases are identified with a stamp on the carcase.


How to Identify a MSA Primal

All MSA vacuum packed beef, lamb and sheepmeat products must be identified with either a heat printed MSA logo on the bag, an MSA insert or approved an MSA brand insert. In the absence of an approved insert or bag logo the product cannot be sold as MSA.


Meat ordering specifications

To ensure the product you receive meets your expectations,

specify the following to your supplier:

• Cut name

• Packed & release dates

• MSA grade & relevant cooking methods

• Marketing claims e.g. grass or grainfed, brand name, animal age (yearling / lamb)

• Weight range

• Any other specifications e.g. marbling score


How MSA delivers excellent quality Australian beef and lamb

MSA sets the standard

MSA is the world’s leading eating quality program for beef and lamb. The system is based on extensive consumer research and takes into account all aspects that affect eating quality from the paddock to the plate to consistently deliver excellent quality.

Consumer recognition

Consumer awareness that the MSA symbol is an independent endorsement of quality beef and lamb is increasing. 55% of consumers are now aware of the symbol, by promoting MSA through your business you can capitalise on this awareness.

Customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction starts at the centre of the plate with the quality of the beef and lamb you sell. MSA grading takes the guesswork out of buying and selling beef and lamb, ensuring your customers receive tender, juicy cuts every time.

Total peace of mind

MSA beef and lamb cuts are graded to achieve a minimum standard of quality set by the consumer. Selling graded products gives you total peace of mind in the knowledge that graded cuts are backed by extensive consumer sensory research.

Saving you time and money

MSA delivers consistent quality which results in clean plates and satisfied customers. Becoming an MSA licensed outlet can save you time and money ordering, preparing and serving beef and lamb, best of all it can help minimise customer complaints, your worst nightmare.

Confidence with new cuts

MSA gives you the confidence to develop and promote new menu items using underutilised cuts of beef and lamb for a range of approved cooking methods.

Premium quality beef

Research shows consumers can identify and are prepared to pay more for premium quality beef. MSA 4&5 star beef cuts represent the pinnacle of quality in Australian beef. Licensees can use 4&5 star symbols to create a point of difference for these premium cuts.

Underpinning beef brands

Most of Australia’s leading beef brands are MSA licensed. The MSA ‘graded’ symbol together with provenance, breed and finishing claims provides a powerful brand ‘story’ to attract customers to your business.

Program support

MSA provides licensees with free training for all staff so they understand how to purchase, prepare and sell the benefits of MSA beef and lamb to customers.

Staff confidence

MSA grading takes the guesswork out of ordering beef and lamb for your customers. Knowing customers will enjoy tender, juicy cuts every time gives your staff the confidence to promote MSA graded products. 


More information

For further information please visit

Phone: 1800 111 672