Genetic selection to boost iron content in beef

Beef Central, 21/08/2013

US researchers have found that genetic selection can increase iron concentration in beef, without compromising other carcase and palatability traits.

To combat iron deficiency, researchers have been looking for new ways to improve iron concentrations in food products.

In a new study led Dr Raluca Mateescu, associate professor at Oklahoma State University, researchers evaluated genes associated with mineral concentration in beef.

They found that producers can increase iron concentration in beef through genetic selection.

“Iron concentrations in beef could easily be enhanced by selection, allowing many consumers to increase their iron intake by simply eating beef from such animals,” said Dr Dorian Garrick, co-author of the study and animal science professor at Iowa State University.

De Meteescu said mineral concentration was an important issue for beef producers and consumers.

Compared with iron from plant sources, iron from meat products is easier for the human body to absorb.

In the study, researchers evaluated 2285 Angus-sired cattle.

After harvesting, they evaluated meat samples for nutrient content.

Dr Garrick said they genotyped the cattle for 50,000 markers spread across all 30 chromosome pairs. He said they were analysing the relationships between measures of performance and the genotypes.

This helped them identify genes associated with iron concentration.

The researchers evaluated the heritability of mineral concentration by looking at five generations of cattle.

Mateescu said iron had moderate heritability, which meant the trait could be successfully selected.

But selecting cattle for high iron concentration may take time. Dr Garrick said selecting a trait like iron concentration was more difficult than selecting a trait like growth performance.

Dr Garrick said beef producers can use genomic information of sires to naturally increase the concentrations of iron in beef.

Beef producers can manipulate the iron content of their product without having a negative impact on other carcass and palatability traits. Dr Garrick said the researchers will need to test other traits before iron concentration in muscle can become a candidate trait for selection.

The full article covering the research is titled “Genome-wide association study of concentration of iron and other minerals in longissimus muscle of Angus cattle.” It can be read in full at the


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