Beefier cattle benefit consumers, industry

More muscular beef cattle can more consistently deliver better meat while adding millions of dollars to the beef industry bottom line, according to new research likely to drive selective breeding programs.

Scientist Peter McGilchrist, of the Cooperative Research Centre for Beef Genetic Technologies, said beef yields were higher from muscular cattle. But until now, it was unknown whether selecting for muscular stock in breeding programs was affecting meat quality.

He tested muscular and fat cattle for hormone sensitivity and muscle sugars critical to meat quality. He will tell the Pathfinders 2010: Challenge and Change Conference at the Alice Springs Convention Centre this week (May 26–28) that muscular animals have more glycogen, a compound that increases the acidity of meat, making it more tender and moist, and giving it the bright cherry-red colour favoured by consumers.

The research, conducted at Murdoch University, Western Australia, with industry collaborators, also showed that muscular cattle were more insulin-sensitive, allowing them to store more glycogen after eating.

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 unacceptable to consumers,” he said. “But fears that selection for muscular cattle might be having the same impact on beef quality are unfounded.”

Dark, firm and dry beef costs the Australian beef industry $35 million a year due to a downgrade in quality.

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.

See the conference program at

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Peter McGilchrist Ph: 0419 986 056

Laurelle Halford (Alice Springs Convention Centre, May 26–28)

Ph: 0417 222 211 Email: [email protected]

CRCA Media Ph: 0419 250 815 Email: [email protected]