12 January - 20 June 2016

Organic grass-fed cows may provide healthier beef

26 Feb 14

Meat from grass-fed organic dairy cows may be of a greater nutritional quality than that from cows raised conventionally, although the taste may not meet overall consumer liking – that’s according to research led by Bradley Heins at the University of Minnesota.

The study examined and compared fatty acid profiles, meat quality, sensory attributes and consumer acceptance of beef from dairy cows raised using either conventional, organic, or grass-fed organic methods. Forty nine bull calves were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 replicated groups: conventional, organic, or grass-fed organic. The conventional steers were fed a diet that contained 80% concentrate and 20% forage, while organic steers were fed a diet of organic corn, organic corn silage, and organic protein supplement. Meanwhile, the grass-fed organic steers consumed 100% forage from pasture during the grazing season and high-quality hay or hay silage during the non-grazing season.

The team behind the study revealed that the fat from the grass-fed cows was greater in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in monounsaturated and saturated fat, but noted that consumers rated the grass-fed beef the lowest in overall liking of flavour; however, 43.9% of consumers had at least a slight liking for the grass-fed organic meat.

Heins and his colleagues noted that the majority of beef consumers in the US prefer the taste of conventional grain-fed beef, adding that the United States cattle industry most commonly finishes animals on a corn-based ration. Conversely, in the EU, beef consumers assert that meat from livestock managed under less intensive production systems has a superior taste than meat from intensive production systems.

Consumers are becoming more concerned about the origins of their food, and grass-fed beef and organic beef have the potential to provide alternative beef products for consumers. Organic dairy bull calves may represent a potential resource for pasture-raised beef in the US. [FoodNavigator]

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