The aim of this project is to improve the quality of life for the EU consumer by developing strategies for the production of beef with improved nutritional value and quality. The content of saturated fat will be decreased while increasing the content of beneficial n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. The project seeks to exploit more extensive beef production practices with higher forage inputs (grass and clover), which are the primary source of n-3 fatty acids (mainly alpha-linolenic acid; C18:3n-3). Four beef production systems representative of those used in the EU, but varying in level of intensification will be examined. Beef produced will be characterised for fatty acid composition and meat quality, especially flavour. The role of the rumen and post absorption processes in regulating the dietary potential to manipulate the fatty acid composition of beef will be examined.
To develop strategies (nutritional, use of different breeds and types of animals) for production of beef which is healthier for the consumer by having a higher content of n-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). These fatty acids also affect meat quality (in particular shelf life and flavour). This work will aim to produce levels of fatty acids in beef which optimise healthiness, shelf life and flavour. The research will offer added value to the consumer in terms of a more healthy and wholesome food produced using methods, which are safe and more natural, based on local breeds and feed resources. The producer will also benefit by adapting strategies to produce more healthy and natural beef, which may command a premium in the market.
The project consists of four Workpackages which have the following objectives:
- To examine novel strategies, nutritional and genotypic, to produce beef with a fatty acid composition which is more consistent with current human health recommendations and consumer requirements (increased P:S ratio, higher amounts of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and CLA) and improved meat quality. The nutritional regimes will focus on the strategic use of grass and/or concentrates rich in C18:3n-3 such as linseed. This Workpackage also contains important exploitation and dissemination plans for the project, including a consensus platform.
- To understand events in the rumen (lipolysis and biohydrogenation) and post-absorption which determine the ability of the diet to manipulate the fatty acid composition of beef.
- To assess the impact of strategies imposed in Workpackage 1 on the fatty acid composition of beef, focusing on long chain PUFA, CLA, trans- and branched-chain fatty acids.
- To assess the impact of strategies imposed in Workpackage 1 on flavour attributes of beef an important part of meat quality and to establish relationships between fatty acid amounts and intensity of individual flavours.
- Completion of a number of experiments designed to produce beef with improved nutritional characteristics. Four beef production systems representative of those used across the EU, but varying in intensification will be examined:
- grass silage and concentrates-based steer beef;
- total herbage-based steer beef,
- high energy bull beef, and
- high energy bull (with the muscular hypertrophy condition) beef.
- Characterisation of feeds and ruminal and post-absorptive events which may alter and/or regulate the fatty acid composition of beef. The following are targets, rumen lipolysis and biohydrogenation, composition of absorbed fatty acids, the impact of dietary n-3 PUFA on lipid transport, muscle metabolism and fatty acid peroxidation.
- Characterisation of the fatty acid composition and meat quality characteristics of beef. Fatty acids will be principally n-3 PUFA, CLA, trans- and branched-chain fatty acids. Flavour attributes of beef and interactions with fatty acids are key targets for the project.
- Novel systems which will permit the production of beef with improved nutritional value in terms of fatty acids thus providing a healthier quality product for the consumer.
- An improved understanding of the interactions which exist between fatty acid composition of beef and meat quality (shelf-life and flavour).
- The research will contribute to the development of food raw materials better adapted for consumer requirements and will promote nutritionally beneficial food components. In achieving this, efficient use of natural resources (for example grass and legumes; local breeds) will be exploited.