Beefier cattle benefit consumers, industry

May 27, 2010

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Peter McGilchrist, working at the Cooperative Research Centre for Beef Genetic Technologies

New research shows that beef yields are higher from more muscular cattle without affecting meat quality.

Murdoch University scientist Peter McGilchrist, working at the Cooperative Research Centre for Beef Genetic Technologies, said until now it was unknown whether selecting for muscular stock in breeding programs was affecting meat quality.

The ability to consistently deliver better meat will add millions of dollars to the beef industry bottom line and the new research findings are likely to drive selective breeding programs.

Mr McGilchrist tested the hormone sensitivities of muscular and fat cattle and muscle sugars critical to meat quality, finding that muscular animals had more glycogen, a compound that increases the acidity of meat, making it more tender and moist, as well as giving it the bright cherry-red colour favoured by consumers.

The research, conducted at the Murdoch-based centre with industry collaborators, also showed that muscular cattle were more insulin sensitive, allowing them to store more glycogen after eating, and they were also less susceptible to stress, helping reduce the depletion of muscle glycogen during mustering, transport and yarding before slaughter.

“Intense genetic selection for more muscle and less fat in other meat production species has resulted in pale, soft and dry meat that is unacceptable to consumers,” Mr McGilchrist said.

“But fears that selection for muscular cattle might increase the number of animals with dark, firm and dry beef are unfounded.”

Mr McGilchrist is one of eight early career scientists invited to present their research results at the Pathfinders Conference, organised by the Cooperative Research Centres Association.

The CRCA represents Australia’s 50 CRCs operating under a federal government program to drive public/private sector research.

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