Iowa State Researchers Aim to Improve Nutritional Quality of Beef

AMES, Iowa — Iowa 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. -30- *Editor's note: Jim Reecy is currently on sabbatical at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK, but is available via e-mail.