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Iowa State researcher aim to improve the nutritional quality of beef

Researchers at Iowa State University are looking to increase the nutritional value of beef. A multi-discipline team will attempt to identify cattle genetics that lead to desired nutritional traits in beef.


May 22, 2008
By Iowa State University

May 16, 2008

Ames, IowaIowa State University researchers are identifying
opportunities to advance the nutritional value of beef.

Funded by recent grants from Pfizer Animal Genetics and the National Beef
Cattle Evaluation Consortium, the research brings together experts on molecular
genetics, biochemistry, meat science and animal breeding to identify cattle
genetics that lead to desired nutritional traits in beef.

"Our ultimate goal is to help improve human health through the beef people
eat," said James Reecy, associate professor of animal science. "For
instance, we could identify genetic markers associated with increased levels of
beneficial nutrients such as fatty acids like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA),
and minerals like zinc, iron and copper. We can detect concentrations high
enough so that a person could get an entire recommended daily allowance from
one serving of beef."

Reecy and colleagues plan to develop genomic tools, or DNA markers, that will allow beef
producers to identify animals that produce meat with enhanced nutrient levels.
The research team includes Don Beitz, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished
Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences; Dorian Garrick, Jay Lush Endowed
Chair in Animal Breeding and Genetics; and Rohan Fernando, professor of animal
science.

The Iowa State group works with researchers from
across the country. University of California-Davis and
Oklahoma State University faculty are working with California and Oklahoma cattle producers who have
contributed meat samples and data indicating how the desired meat traits impact
flavor. Throughout the multiyear project, researchers plan to study observable
traits (phenotypes) and genetic profiles (genotypes) in approximately 2,000
cattle from around the country to identify genetic and environmental
interactions that may play a role in determining nutritional value.

"We want to create a product with a high nutrient content that doesn't
sacrifice flavor or a positive eating experience," Reecy said. "The
research will advance the genetic improvement of the animal itself and the
animal's meat composition and also will aid producers looking for desirable
growth and carcass weight characteristics."

Pfizer Animal Genetics is a business of Pfizer Animal Health, a world leader in
discovering and developing innovative animal vaccines and prescription
medicines. Pfizer, Inc. is the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical
company.

The National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium is an organization of animal
breeding researchers from six land-grant universities.