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Emerging Technologies Committee

Genetics of Healthfulness of Beef

by Troy Smith for Angus Productions Inc.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 30, 2010) — Most genetic research of beef cattle has focused on developing tools for selecting breeding animals that possess sought-after performance traits and should, therefore, pass these same traits on to their offspring. During the 2010 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium, in Columbia, Mo., Iowa State University Animal Scientist Jim Reecy explained a research project having a different goal.

Jim ReecyJim Reecy“The public is bombarded with statements saying certain foods are good or bad for human health. As a result, the public is becoming increasingly interested in the healthfulness of food," Reecy said, speaking before Emerging Technologies Committee break-out session. “So what can we do to make beef healthier for consumers?”

Iowa State University initiated the search for answers, but Cornell University, Oklahoma State University and the University of California-Davis joined the project, along with collaborating producers. Reecy said the project goal is to develop tools to select for animals that produce more-nutritious beef, without jeopardizing eating quality (tenderness and flavor) and without making its production cost-prohibitive. He believes genetic evaluation for nutrient composition of beef could result in development of genomic-enhanced expected progeny difference (EPD) values to aid selection for a favorable fatty-acid profile, lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fat, and higher concentrations of minerals and vitamins.

According to Reecy, a number of genetic markers have been identified that are associated with nutrient composition of beef. For example, 54 markers appear to account for 45% of the variation in myristic acid — a healthful fatty acid.

While beef is a source of many nutrients, evidence suggests there is considerable variation in nutrient composition among beef from different animals. The content of iron and other minerals can vary significantly. Some animals produce highly marbled beef that has a favorable fatty-acid composition. But marker heritability appears to be relatively high. Therefore, with marker-assisted selection, Reecy believes producers should be able to breed for animals that produce beef whose nutrient composition is more consistent, more healthful and just as enjoyable.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). Through an agreement with the Beef Improvement Federation, we are encouraging reprinting of the articles to those who will adhere to the reprint guidelines available on this site. Please review those guidelines or contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

API's coverage of the event is made possible through collaboration with BIF and sponsorship by BioZyme Inc. through its significant gift to the Angus Foundation. For questions about this site, or to notify us of broken links, click here.

Headquartered in Saint Joseph, Mo., API publishes the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA, and the Angus e-List, as well as providing online coverage of events and topics pertinent to cattlemen through the API Virtual Library.

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