Beef entree with green toppings and sauce on a white plate, on top of a dark wooden table with Eating Quality System logo.

The Silver Fern Farms Eating Quality (EQ) System® is a science-backed grading process, which allows us to guarantee you a better beef eating experience.

Our Eating Quality System® rates beef on six scientific criteria proven to contribute to the eating quality of red meat. It stands behind our Master Graders’ promise of beef that consistently meets the highest standards of taste, tenderness and juiciness.

Cuts are hand-selected by an Accredited Master Grader and are then aged with care for at least 21 days. 

A lot of hard work goes into grading our red meat and we take a lot of care to do it correctly. We use a uniform set of standards to make sure you get the best red meat every time. Our Silver Fern Farms’ accredited EQ Master Graders are essential to how we hand-select the best red meat. Our Master Graders assess individual carcases to collect attributes that are used in the grading process.

In addition to standard measures, such as carcass weight, a set of specific EQ attributes are considered. The key attributes are:


pH testing measures lactic acid levels and is recorded in conjunction with temperature. Ultimate pH is measured in the ribeye muscle using a pH meter. High pH can be detrimental to meat colour, texture, shelf life and eating quality. Energy (or glycogen) levels in the animal are key to obtaining a pH within the acceptable range. Minimising stress and ensuring animals have enough energy reserves through adequate finishing will assist in achieving an ideal pH-level.


Marbling is assessed by the amount and distribution of intramuscular fat within the rib-eye muscle. Marbling has a positive effect on eating quality and its influence is greatest across the high-value loin cuts. It is the last fat to be deposited and the first to be utilised by the animal as an energy source. To maximise marbling, cattle must be on a high-quality diet. Marbling can be improved through genetic selection and farmers should be aware of this characteristic when selecting a sire for their cattle.

Passion Pride Stills x57  People Pacific Plant and Family Day at Splash Planet Hastings 2019
Internal photoshoot for Pride Passion film. Pacific plant November 2019.


The maturity of a carcass is measured by ossification, which is the process of cartilage turning to bone in the vertebrae. As an animal matures, the fibres in the meat become progressively stronger, more rigid and are less likely to be broken down in cooking, resulting in tougher meat. The Silver Fern Farms Eating Quality system relates carcass weight to ossification - effectively a ‘weight for age’ measure. Nutrition plays a significant role in ossification rates. Cattle with fast growth rates will likely have lower ossification.


Rib fat is measured as the depth of subcutaneous fat – the fat between the skin and the meat. For high-quality beef, subcutaneous fat must be a minimum of 3mm in depth. This standard aims to reduce temperature variation within the carcass muscles during chilling. Evenly chilled meat has a more consistent and predictable eating quality, as well as improved visual appearance.


Meat colour is assessed on the chilled carcass at the rib eye muscle area. It is scored against a set of colour reference standards that reflect the bright cherry red colour expected from consumers. Stress can play a significant role in meat colour as it affects meat pH levels.


Fat colour measures the colour of the intramuscular fat lateral to the ribeye muscle. Fat colour is determined by the concentration of B-carotene found in the grass which forms the basis of the diet of New Zealand stock. High levels of B-carotene will cause a more intensive yellow colouring in some animals. Breed and nutrition can also have an influence on fat colour.


Our accredited EQ Master Graders collect individual carcass attributes using a uniform set of standards. They undergo an intensive training course and are re-tested every 8 weeks.

For consistent and accurate grading our certified graders use the following process:

  • All animals are assessed on the same part of the carcass

  • Attributes must be assessed within a specified time

  • A special torch is used to maintain light consistency

  • The torch must always be held in the left hand and be positioned at the correct angle.​