Beef producers with grain-fed feeding systems may have new options for producing a healthier product for consumers, and ultimately boosting their bottom lines, thanks to a new research study sponsored by the Center for Beef Excellence.
“The results of this study have the potential to boost the health benefits of beef and help change consumers’ perception about eating beef,” said the center’s executive director, Willard Lemaster. “If beef is considered the healthiest protein option, consumption will increase, which will in turn increase profitability for producers.”
The center is partnering with Dr. Jay Pettegrew of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Masonic Village Farm in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County, to conduct a year-long study on a select group of the farm’s cattle.
Pettegrew’s research is based on scientific data showing foods high in saturated fatty acids lead to cardiovascular disease, as is the perception with consuming beef. Reducing those acids and increasing polyunsaturated fatty acids, considered to be more healthful, may produce a healthier product, low in saturated fat.
Studies show meat from grass-fed cattle tends to be higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids and therefore perceived as healthier, as compared to meat from traditional grain-fed feed lot systems, which is the most common type of production in Pennsylvania.
Pettegrew will study beef cattle sire and dam families to determine if the conversion of the two types of fatty acids is different in genetic strains of cattle. If the research proves to be true, the center will use the results to help producers with feed lots develop feed rations using a variety of different by-products to efficiently help increase polyunsaturated fats in the meat.
As the study progresses, the center will provide updates on the findings. For more information on the study or about Pennsylvania’s beef industry, contact Lemaster at 717-425-5545 or Lemaster@beefexcellence.com.