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Assessment of genetic variation in meat quality and the evaluation of the role of candidate genes in beef characteristics

Selective breeding in cattle has been very successful in increasing the quantity of production, but there has been little selection for product quality. This project will identify the genes involved in aspects of meat quality and develop programmes to enhance the quality, accounting for regional variations.

The objective of this project is to define the variation in meat quality using standardised measurements, in and between breeds of cattle representing the spectrum of diversity found in Europe when reared under standardised management conditions. The genetic component of the variation in specific measures of meat quality will be identified, and the contribution of 'candidate' genes and QTL to that variation will be tested, using single nucleotide polymorphisms identified in the project as markers for alleles of the genes.

Progress to Date
Bull calves from 15 different cattle breeds were raised under comparable management conditions and were slaughtered following the protocols for the slaughter and collection of samples that had been established during course of the project. The transfer of samples between partners was delayed, as it was necessary to obtain permission for shipping meat samples from the UK following FMD restrictions. Permission was finally obtained and samples have been exchanged, with the exception of the taste panel samples. This means that all UK samples were tested by taste panelling in the UK. Thus sensory analysis protocols have had to be amended to allow comparison between data obtained in Spain and the UK. Most meat quality testing is now complete and data is being collated into a central database for checking prior to analysis.

Simple sequence differences (polymorphisms) are being examined in genes that may control variation in meat quality traits. A total of 459 candidate genes were identified for study using knowledge of their physiological role in muscle development or composition, or because they code for structural components of muscle. A database has been created that contains information on gene sequences, function and polymorphisms (single nucleotide polymorphisms -SNP or insertions or deletions - INDELS). Tests of methods for routinely testing these SNPs on large numbers of samples were completed but proved either unreliable, or expensive. Therefore the decision was made to sub-contract the work to a commercial service company who are able to deliver the genotyping requirements eliable and al lower cost that would be possible by the participants.

Analysis methods for examining breed and genetically controlled variations in meat quality data and association analysis between the candidate genes and variations in meat quality are being discussed. The methods used in other studies and potentially relevant statistical techniques have been reviewed. As data emerges from the project different levels of analysis being undertaken, starting with the examination of variations in meat quality. Methods for detecting the associations between traits and genes are being developed and tested.

Classified in ANIMALS

Scientist responsible for the project


EH25 9PS Roslin, Midlothian
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 1315 274200
Fax: +44 1314 400434


Project ID QLRT-1999-30147
Organisation Roslin Institute (Edinburgh)
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 February 2001
Duration (months) 56
Total cost 3 878 399 €
Total EC contribution   2 736 000 €
Status Ongoing

The partners

  • Istituo Sperimentale per la Zootecnia (Animal Production Research Institute), Italy - IT
  • Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Department of Dairy and Food Science, Denmark - DK

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