Progress report for LNC18-413

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $199,149.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Jason Rowntree
Michigan State University
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Project Information

Summary:

Beef producers in Northern Michigan are seeking to increase the supply of and demand for localized beef value chains. Building upon a 2012 USDA NCR-SARE R&E grant that developed a northwest Michigan grass-fed beef chain, this proposal seeks to address remaining challenges related to beef quality and product consistency, annual supply, the high cost of beef production and subsequently high retail price. In order to diversify the production systems, a natural grain-finished system will be investigated in the region, in addition to the established grass-fed system to compare carcass quality, beef sensory, and overall production performance and consistency. In both systems, we have introduced Akaushi (AK) beef genetics, a Red Wagyu that is known for high marbling. Our hypothesis is that these genetics will help the grass-fed cattle more consistently grade choice. Therefore, we have two different genetic combinations of cattle: AK X Red Angus (RA); (high fat) compared to RA (moderate fat) with in the grass- and grain-fed localized production systems. Investigation of these two systems allow for broader comparative research, including indicators of healthfulness in grass and grain-fed beef. We will investigate the impact of genetics and management on fatty acid profiles and secondary compound content (such as polyphenols) known for cardiovascular health benefits. We will also develop enterprise budgets for each beef production system researched. To ensure research findings are suitable to be integrated into the value chain, beef producers and consumers will be surveyed and will interact via focus groups for greater understanding of barriers and prospects in expanding local beef, including their perceptions on the two beef production systems. The project outcomes coalesce with the NCR-SARE broad-based outcomes of improving lives for people and sustaining our resource base in a profitable way. Although Michigan-focused, this value chain project is not geographically limited and is scalable to the entire North Central Region.

Project Objectives:

1. Determine impact of Akaushi genetics on grass and natural grain-fed beef performance, quality, consistency
2. Assess genetics and finishing strategy impact on beef healthfulness and sensory attributes
3. Generate enterprise budgets and producer decision tools
4. Determine participant attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, willingness to purchase grass or natural grain-fed beef Outcomes

Short-term: Increased understanding of producer and consumer attitudes toward beef finishing systems, economics and cost

Medium-term: Improvements in beef product consistency and healthfulness

Long-term: Increased local cattle supply marketed through value chain, affordable beef for consumers

Introduction:

A recent study from our laboratory indicates that grass finishing model is a considerable Carbon sink (Stanley et al., 2018). To further our work and align with NCR-SARE’s call for resilient agricultural systems, we systematically address challenges in the grass finishing models. We will research linkages of plant (pasture) biological diversity and beef healthfulness, economic sustainability, and social well-being.

Beef is a complex issue with respect to human health. Although beef has a tremendous balance of amino acids and important minerals and vitamins (Williamson et al., 2005), there is concern regarding its high level of saturated fat. Therefore, there is a need to improve beef healthfulness. Duckett et al., (2009) indicates the nutritional benefits of grass-fed beef are lower fat and higher omega 3 (n-3) fat content which has been shown to reduce coronary disease.  However, Van Elswyk and McNeil (2014) indicate that due to overall grass-fed beef carcass leanness, grain-fed beef has comparable concentrations of n:3 fatty acids but also a greater omega 6 (n:6)- n:3 ratio. While there is no daily reference value for the n-6:n-3 ratio, it is suggested that a healthy diet should be between 1:1-4:1 (Daley et al., 2010). Our hypothesis is that can we increase carcass fatness in grass-fed beef thereby increasing beef n:3 fatty acid content.

Importantly, we aim to link forage biodiversity to beef nutritive content, namely through the hypothesis of increasing important secondary compounds (polyphenols) in beef with forages that have high concentrations of secondary compounds. Little information is available comparing forage biodiversity to a feedlot ration for beef polyphenols. Forage legumes and grasses rich in polyphenols (as an example, tannins in trefoil) have gained interest in ruminant nutrition not only regarding meat quality issues but because of lowering enteric methane and other greenhouse gas emission and parasitic worm burdens (Girard et al., 2016). We believe forage biodiversity will result in increased beef polyphenol content. Important to health human, epidemiologic studies indicate high polyphenol intake is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer (Okarter & Liu, 2010; Vauzour et al., 2010).

Our laboratory has also worked to improve grass-fed beef quality grade. Our data indicate that in an 18-20 mo model, 35-40% of cattle grade choice.  Thus, we have introduced Red Wagyu (Akaushi) breeding to test if this increases the percent of cattle grading choice. We believe that using forages to encourage n:3 deposition, combined with the potential higher marbling of Akaushi will produce a nutritionally superior beef product.  This combined with the polyphenolic investigation provides a unique research framework and to our knowledge, not approached in the scientific literature.

For context, and to compare to the grass-finishing system, we will implement a non-GMO, natural-feedlot beef production system. This gives comparison to aspects of biodiversity on polyphenols and also to test the impact of genetics (Akaushi X Red Angus versus Red Angus) on carcass merit, fatty acid profiles, beef sensory dynamics and economics. Importantly, there may be economic benefits of implementing both production methods in an existing system.
Stonebarn’s report identified a need to increase and establish high-quality grass-fed beef to further differentiate domestic from imported grass-fed beef (Cheung et al., 2017).  Thus investigation into improving grass-fed beef quality and healthfulness is needed.  Secondly, our investigation into the impact of plant diversity, an important component of environmental sustainability on polyphenol content in forages and beef, is a novel approach to link forage biodiversity to beef nutrient density and ultimately human health. We will also assess the natural, grain-fed beef model for production and economic comparisons.

Research

Hypothesis:

We hypothesize that AK influenced cattle finishing in Grass will have the most beneficial fatty acid (FA) and polyphenolic profile. Additionally, we hypothesize the RA X AK cross can grade high choice to low prime on grass.

Ultimately, our hypothesis is that can we increase carcass fatness in grass-fed beef thereby increasing beef n:3 fatty acid content.

Materials and methods:

Sixty steers (30 Red Angus [RA] and 30 RA x Akaushi [AK] were assigned to one of two finishing system: a biodiverse mixed-species pasture forage (GRASS) or non-GMO, total mixed ration conventional feedlot (GRAIN) in 2019 and 2020. Each finishing system contained three replications with 5 RA and 5 AK. Animals had free access to mineral supplements and water.  Animals from GRASS used a rotational grazing system with one day grazing period. Forage production was measured bi-weekly in pre- and post-grazed sub-paddocks and forage quality was analyzed afterward. Animals from GRAIN were fed once daily (diet 20% hay and 80% concentrate). Body weight (BW) was recorded after a 12-hour fasting period at the onset of the trial and every 30 d thereafter to determine ADG. The animals were slaughtered on the same day under federal inspection and carcass data was collected 48 h postmortem.

Carcass and meat analysis: Two 2.54 cm-thick steaks were collected 48 h postmortem from each carcass and vacuum packaged. One steak was aged 14 d and frozen (−20°C) until evaluation for water holding capacity (WHC) and Warner Bratzler shear force (WBSF). The other steak, fresh and aged 14 d, was evaluated for instrumental color and cooked for consumer panelists (n = 105) evaluated flavor, texture and firmness, juiciness, and overall acceptability using a 9-point hedonic scale (1 = dislike extremely and 9 = like extremely). 

Forage and TMR nutritive composition have been analyzed.

Beef and forage fatty acids and phenolic compound quantification are being analyzed at Dr. Fenton’s laboratory. Meat samples were sent to the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for micronutrient analysis (macro and trace minerals, fat-soluble vitamins A and E). These analyses is in process right now. We are planning to have them run in the next month at the MSU Core facility in physiology. Due to COVID, some laboratories were shut down and we did not have the results yet.

Research results and discussion:

The results for both years were evaluated (Tables 1 and 2).

Both initial and final BW were significantly impacted by system (P < 0.01), but neither were impacted by breed. Initial and final BW were higher for GRAIN than for the GRASS system (P < 0.01). Final BW was also impacted by year; steers in YR2 had greater BW compared to YR1 (603.5 vs 579.9 kg, P < 0.01). Total gain was significantly impacted by system and year (P < 0.01) and the results mirrored those of final BW. There was a tendency (P = 0.09) for higher gain in RA than AK steers (134.6 vs 128.5, P = 0.09).  There were both system and year significant effects for average daily gain (ADG). Steers finished under the GRAIN system had higher ADG compared to those under the GRASS (1.26 vs 1.19 kg/d, P = 0.04), and ADG was greater in YR1 than YR2 (P < 0.01).

All carcass traits were impacted by system (P < 0.01). Steers in GRAIN had the highest values for all variables evaluated compared to those in GRASS. There was a breed effect for HCW (P = 0.06), dressing (P < 0.01), ribeye area (P = 0.06), and marbling score (P = 0.01), where AK steers had the greatest values (345.6 kg, 60.5%, 74.9 cm2, and 529 vs 337.4 kg, 59.1%, 72.1 cm2, and 494 for AK and RA, respectively). Year was significant for weight at slaughter (P < 0.01), HCW (P < 0.01), dressing (P = 0.01), and ribeye area (P = 0.08), with the greatest values observed in YR2.

Table 1. Mean (Confidence limit at 95%) of Performance and Carcass traits of beef cattle from two different genotypes finishing in grazing (GRASS) or feedlot (GRAIN).

Item

Breed

 

System

 

Year

RA

AK

 

GRASS

GRAIN

 

2019

2020

Growth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initial BW, kg

454.2 (445.6 – 462.9)

459.7 (451.1 – 468.4)

 

436.5 (428.7 – 444.2)

477.5 (467.8 – 487.2)

 

454.4 (446.7 – 462.2)

459.5 (449.9 – 469.2)

Final BW, kg

592.8 (581.9 – 603.6)

590.6 (579.8 – 601.5)

 

563.5 553.8 – 573.2)

619.9 (607.7 – 632.1)

 

579.9 (570.2 – 589.6)

603.5 (591.3 – 615.6)

Total gain, kg

134.6 (129.6 – 139.6)

128.5 (123.5 – 133.5)

 

119.4 (115.0 – 123.9)

143.7 (138.1 – 149.3)

 

120.5 (116.0 – 125.0)

142.6 (137.0 – 148.2)

ADG, kg d-1

1.25 (1.21 – 1.31)

1.20 (1.15 – 1.25)

 

1.19 (1.15 – 1.24)

1.26 (1.21 – 1.32)

 

1.28 (1.24 – 1.32)

1.18 (1.12 – 1.23)

Carcass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight at slaughter, kg

571.6 (561.3 – 582.0)

572.3 (561.7 – 582.9)

 

547.4 (538.2 – 556.7)

596.5 (584.6 – 608.4)

 

559.7 (550.5 – 569.0)

584.2 (572.3 – 596.1)

HCW, kg

337.4 (331.2 – 343.7)

345.7 (339.4 – 351.9)

 

314.9 (309.3 – 320.5)

368.2 (361.2 – 375.2)

 

333.2 (327.6 – 338.8)

349.9 (342.8 – 356.9)

Dressing, %

59.1 (58.7 – 59.4)

60.5 (60.1 – 60.9)

 

57.6 (57.3 – 57.9)

61.9 (61.5 – 62.4)

 

59.5 (59.1 – 59.8)

60.1 (59.7 – 60.5)

Backfat, mm

9.7 (8.9 – 10.7)

9.9 (9.0 – 10.9)

 

5.9 (5.5 – 6.4)

16.3 (14.7 – 18.1)

 

9.6 (8.8 – 10.4)

10.1 (9.1 – 11.2)

Ribeye, cm2

72.1 (70.2 – 74.0)

74.9 (73.0 – 76.8)

 

69.2 (67.5 – 70.9)

77.8 (75.7 – 80.0)

 

72.3 (70.6 – 74.0)

74.7 (72.6 – 76.9)

USDA YG

2.9 (2.8 – 3.0)

2.9 (2.7 – 3.0)

 

2.4 (2.3 – 2.5)

3.5 (3.3 – 3.6)

 

2.9 (2.8 – 3.1)

2.9 (2.7 – 3.0)

Marbling Score

494.5 (474.8 – 514.3)

529.2 (509.5 – 549.0)

 

404.5 (386.9 – 422.1)

619.2 (597.1 – 641.3)

 

519.2 (501.5 – 536.8)

504.6 (482.5 – 526.7)

Bold values indicate that the main effect was significant (p-value < 0.05). BW = body weight, ADG = average daily gain, HCW = Hot carcass weight, Marbling score: Choice- = 400–499, Choice0 = 500–599, Choice+ = 600–699

 

There was no difference in water holding capacity for breed (P > 0.05), but thawing loss was lower in GRAIN than GRASS (0.9 vs 1.1%, P = 0.03), and it was greater in YR2 than YR1 (1.2 vs 0.8%, P < 0.01). There were both system and year effects for shear force (WBSF), no difference for breed (P = 0.51). Beef from steers in GRASS had higher force than those from GRAIN (P < 0.01). Regarding the year effect on WBSF, YR2 presented higher values compared to YR1 (P < 0.01). Color variables were impacted by system and year (P < 0.01). L* and hue angle presented higher values while a*, b*, and chroma presented lower values in beef from GRAIN compared to GRASS. Regarding the year effect, L* had the highest value while all other variables had the lowest values in YR1. 

All sensory attributes were significantly impacted by system (P < 0.01), but no effects of breed were observed, except a tendency for juiciness (P = 0.06). The attributes were greater scored in GRAIN than GRASS beef. AK tended to be juicier than RA (5.8 vs 5.5).

Table 2. Mean (Confidence limit at 95%) of meat measurements and Consumer panelists’ scores for beef palatability attributes from two different genotypes finishing in grazing (GRASS) or feedlot (GRAIN).

Item

Breed

 

System

 

Year

RA

AK

 

GRASS

GRAIN

 

2019

2020

Water capacity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thawing loss, %

1.0 (0.9 – 1.1)

1.0 (0.9 – 1.0)

 

1.1 (1.0 – 1.2)

0.9 (0.8 – 1.0)

 

0.8 (0.8 – 0.9)

1.2 (1.1 – 1.4)

Cooking loss, %

22.7 (21.7 – 23.8)

23.2 (22.1 – 24.2)

 

22.4 (21.5 – 23.2)

23.6 (22.4 – 24.8)

 

22.4 (21.5 – 23.3)

23.5 (22.3 – 24.7)

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L*

33.2 (32.3 – 34.1)

33.6 (32.7 – 34.5)

 

29.4 (28.7 – 30.1)

37.9 (36.7 – 39.0)

 

36.0 (35.1 – 36.9)

30.9 (30.0 – 31.9)

a*

21.0 (20.4 – 21.7)

21.1 (20.5 – 21.8)

 

23.2 (22.5 – 23.8)

19.1 (18.5 – 19.8)

 

17.8 (17.3 – 18.3)

25.0 (24.1 – 25.9)

b*

21.1 (20.6 – 21.5)

21.0 (20.6 – 21.5)

 

21.5 (21.1 – 21.9)

20.6 (20.1 – 21.1)

 

17.3 (17.0 – 17.6)

25.6 (25.0 – 26.2)

Hue angle

44.9 (44.4 – 45.4)

44.8 (44.3 – 45.4)

 

42.8 (42.3 – 43.2)

47.1 (46.4 – 47.7)

 

44.1 (43.6 – 44.6)

45.7 (45.2 – 46.3)

Chroma

29.9 (29.2 – 30.6)

29.9 (29.1 – 30.6)

 

31.6 (31.0 – 32.3)

28.2 (27.4 – 29.0)

 

24.9 (24.3 – 25.4)

35.9 (34.9 – 36.9)

Shear force

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WBSF, kg

4.1 (3.8 – 4.3)

4.2 (4.0 – 4.5)

 

4.6 (4.4 – 4.8)

3.7 (3.5 – 4.0)

 

3.7 (3.5 – 3.9)

4.6 (4.3 – 5.0)

Sensory

   

 

   

 

   

Flavor

5.9 (5.6 – 6.1)

5.8 (5.6 – 6.1)

 

5.5 (5.3 – 5.7)

6.2 (6.0 – 6.5)

 

6.0 (5.7 – 6.3)

5.7 (5.4 – 6.0)

Juiciness

5.5 (5.3 – 5.8)

5.8 (5.6 – 6.1)

 

5.4 (5.1 – 5.6)

6.0 (5.7 – 6.2)

 

5.6 (5.3 – 5.9)

5.7 (5.4 – 6.0)

Texture

6.0 (5.8 – 6.3)

5.9 (5.7 – 6.1)

 

5.5 (5.3 – 5.7)

6.4 (6.2 – 6.7)

 

6.0 (5.7 – 6.2)

5.9 (5.7 – 6.2)

Overall acceptability

5.9 (5.6 – 6.1)

5.8 (5.6 – 6.0)

 

5.4 (5.1 – 5.6)

6.3 (6.1- 6.6)

 

6.0 (5.7 – 6.3)

5.7 (5.4 – 6.0)

Bold values indicate that the main effect was significant (p-value < 0.05). Hue angle = tan−1 (b*/a*), 2 Chroma = (a*2+b*2)1/2 (AMSA, 2012). WBSF = Warner Bratzler Shear Force. Panelists assigned steak attributes using 9-point scales (1 = dislike extremely; 9 = like extremely) for flavor, juiciness, texture/firmness, and overall acceptability.

 

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

While this is a research project, we aim to engage and involve producers. First, we will select a group of producers to serve as advisors for the project. Second, we have built in $5000 in travel for producer engagement visit for survey development, economic analysis and production data. Next, we will host education days for two years at the Upper Peninsula and Lake City Center, a MSU AgBioResearch Center in northern lower Michigan. We include producers and value chain participants in surveys and focus groups. Results will be presented through producer meetings and education days.  Data will be published in appropriate academic and outreach publications.  Additionally, a seminar will be conducted during the National Grassfed Exchange meetings.
 

Project Activities

Ongoing Research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 On-farm demonstrations
1 A gathering at Clare-Gladwin RESD Administration Building.

Participation Summary

50 Farmers
Education/outreach description:

On-farm demonstration:

Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center Field day – August 10, 2019

The Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center held a field day to highlight a wide range of research and education projects conducted at the center. The beef cattle feeding study was approached, and the data collected up to that moment were presented to local producers. The objective was to support and assist in the development of farmers in the Upper Peninsula.

Other Educational activities:

Exploring the possibility of a grass-fed and grain-fed beef producer co-op in Michigan: Beef producers who are interested in learning more about cooperatives were invited to attend a gathering with two guest speakers. The speakers shared the reasons for the success of farmer/rancher owned cooperatives that they are involved in. It is difficult to be successful on an island, those producers that are fortunate enough to belong to a group of like-minded individuals that bring different strengths to the table should be more successful than a person that tries to go at it alone.

We invited speakers from Both Country Natural Beef and Desert Mountain Grass-Fed Beef, which are suppliers for Whole Foods among others. The guest speakers for the evening were:

  • Stacy Davies, Country Natural Beef
  • Bob Howard, Desert Mountain Grass-Fed Beef
  • Jason Rowntree, Associate Professor, Animal Science at Michigan State University

The gathering took place on Friday January 24th. The evening had formal presentations, round table discussion and supper. It was held at the Clare-Gladwin RESD conference room located at 4041 E. Mannsiding Rd., Clare, MI 48617.

Learning Outcomes

Key areas taught:

    Project Outcomes

    Key practices changed:
      1 Grant applied for that built upon this project
      1 Grant received that built upon this project
      5 New working collaborations
      Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.