Enhancing healthfulness and demand of Upper Midwestern, locally produced beef

Project Overview

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


  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: feed rations, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational, livestock breeding, meat product quality/safety
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Production Systems: holistic management

    Proposal abstract:

    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 from proposal:

    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

    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.