Beef steaks from cloned animals coming to you?

In 2012, West Texas A&M University (my Alma matter – Go BUFFS!) meat and agricultural science researchers started a beef cloning project to increase efficiency in the beef industry, specifically, meat quality.

image002“Most of that high quality beef that you would find in those white tablecloth, high-end dining experiences (has) a tremendous amount of waste fat that must be trimmed from the carcass,” said Dr. Ty Lawrence, professor of meat science and lead researcher on the project.
“Conversely, if you have a high-yielding carcass that is trim, it is most often low in marbling. What we’re trying to do is both at the same time. We want to be able to produce taste fat without that waste fat.”

Over five years ago, Lawrence was walking through a meat packing plant, and within 10 minutes, he found two carcasses that graded Prime, Yield Grade 1. This combination of quality grade and yield ranks as the best in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) beef evaluation system and only occurs in about .03 percent of all beef carcasses.
“You’ve kind of got to be standing in the right place at the right time and have your lightning rod up to get struck and see one of those,” Lawrence said. “That’s the ‘aha’ moment; that’s what gives you the impetus to call your boss at 11 o’clock at night.”
Lawrence called Dr. Dean Hawkins, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at WTAMU, and received the go-ahead to buy the steer and heifer carcasses and begin his research.

WTAMU researchers teamed up with ViaGen Cloning Technologies to clone a bull they named Alpha from the steer carcass. Three heifers were also cloned from the heifer carcass named Gamma 1, 2, and 3. The crossbreeding between Alpha and the Gammas resulted in 13 calves, nine bulls and four heifers. “Then, our research hypothesis: If we can create a male and a female from a clone and crossbreed those, we will simultaneously improve beef quality and yield,” Lawrence said. “We kept the two best bulls and sent seven of them [steers] to our research feedlot. The remaining two bulls and four heifers are under the good care of Dr. David Lust, associate professor of animal science at WTAMU at our Nance Ranch. They live there today.”

“The calves were raised by their mothers while grazing our native pastures, in the herd with our other commercial cattle,” Lust said. “They were weaned at a normal time and then fed at the WTAMU Research Feedlot for 185 days on a typical feedlot diet. They have been treated just like commercial cattle throughout the industry.”

The seven steers sent to the feedlot were finished out and then harvested. A USDA grading supervisor found that one of the seven achieved Prime grade, three graded High Choice, and three were Average Choice. For perspective, the meat grading industry average is Low Choice, with only about ~3% of all cattle grading Prime.

The steers averaged a 15-inch ribeye, which was a 9% increase from the average of a 13.7 inch ribeye. When adjusted for the steers’ smaller size and weight in comparison to the average animal, it became an 18% difference in size for the cloned steers. John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M system, said that, compared to industry averages, the steers produced 16% less seam fat, 45% more marbling, and 9% more ribeye poundage. Lawrence said that they gained just 2.9 pounds a day on feed, without any additional hormones. “We’re selecting for a genotypic trait, instead of a phenotypic trait like a lot of cloning projects have done,” says Landon Canterbury, manager of West Texas A&M University’s ranch.

“In and of itself, these individual traits of better marbling, better muscling and better yield are not that impressive on an individual basis,” Lawrence said. “What’s impressive about our cattle is that they all occurred simultaneously in the seven cattle. We’ve been able in seven animals, as a proof of concept, to shift the distribution to higher quality and higher yield simultaneously.”

WTAMU Assistant Professor of Animal Science Trent McEvers said this project contains the power to affect cattle producers through increasing efficiency for the beef industry.
“In my opinion, the way this is potentially going to shift the industry is that for every pound of feed that we feed an animal, if a higher proportion of that weight of feed is actually converted into muscle, then fat, that basically improves our utilization of energy,” McEvers said.

“In our college and across the university … our mission and goal is to provide a world-class education to the most valuable commodity, (and) we think, in Texas, that’s the young people,” Hawkins said. “Our second goal is to conduct cutting-edge research with applications that apply directly back to the producers that feed us every day.”

The next step for WTAMU is to compare the bull Alpha to top Artificial Insemination (AI) sires from the Angus, Simmental, and Charolais breeds. Additionally, 1,300 cows have been bred by Alpha, and the calves will be treated the same as any other calf while in the feedlot. It is important to remember that these calves are not cloned – they are the product of cloned animals.

It will be fascinating to see the results from all of these future offspring and the impact they will have on the beef and meat industries. It will be an amazing day when you can go into 10 different restaurants, and the steak you order in each one will be as tender, flavorful, and juicy as the previous one; gone will be the days of inconsistency between each steak! Below is a great video that sums up this project. It is a good day to be a WTAMU Alum.

This post was created from the following news sources:

The Canyon News: WT cloning research results significant progress for beef, cattle industry (Callie Shipley)

Drovers: Cloned calves carcass results unwrapped (Steve Cornett)

CattleNetwork: Cloned calves create ultimate steak (Tyne Morgan)


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90% reduction of Salmonella in meat – research update

deMello_Headshot_2015Dr. Amilton de Mello, University of Nevada Assistant Professor and Meat Scientist in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR) has been hard at work since he began his career at UNR under a year ago. Amilton completed his PhD at University of Nebraska, and I worked with Nebraska Extension. However, we didn’t meet until we both got to Nevada, so you can imagine that in addition to educational, programming, and research similarities we have the Huskers in common. It will be fun to see what future projects and collaboration we will work on.

Dr. de Mello and his graduate student recently presented some research at the annual American Meat Science Association (AMSA) Reciprocal Meat Conference (RMC) in Texas. I think they are doing great work that will of value to many, and will help ensure that in the U.S. we continue to have one of the safest food supplies in the world.

Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food illness in the U.S. The bacteria can cause fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. Unfortunately, in young children and the elderly, as well as those with weak immune systems (immunocompromised), it can be fatal. Annually, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports Salmonella is estimated to cause one million food illnesses, 19,000 hospitalizations, and 380 deaths in the U.S.

In the lab, the salmonella bacteria was inoculated on the refrigerated meat and poultry trim, the treatment bacteriophages (Myoviridae bacteriophages) were then applied, and the meat was ground. Bacteriophages are viruses which are commonly found in the environment, but they ONLY are harmful to specific  bacterial cells and are HARMLESS to humans, animals, and plants. The bacteriophages work by invading the cells of the bacteria and destroy them.

De Mellos says, “we were able to reduce salmonella by as much as 90% in ground poultry, ground pork, and ground beef. We’re excited to be able to show such good results, and hope this can be adopted by the meat industry to increase food safety.”

Isn’t new research great?! If you want to follow what Amilton is working on for Nevada meat producers check our his Facebook page Horizons – Nevada’s Meat Newsletter. Full and original article can be found at UNR’s NEVADAToday.

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Should you let your meat rest after cooking?

If you cook meat you are probably aware that you should let it rest, or sit, for a few minutes after cooking to let the juices (please do not call it blood, it is a protein water called myoglobin) reabsorb into the meat. Let’s dig into this topic more to see if there is any validity behind resting meat.

In theory, as meat is cooked the juice in the meat moves away from the surface (as the muscle fibers are shortening during cooking) to the center of the cut, when you flip the meat over, the juices move again, away from the heat during cooking. When you take your meat off the grill, all of those juices are still in the center of the meat. If you immediately cut into the meat all of the juices have no where to go, but out. However, if you let the meat set for three (minimum) to ten minutes, those juices have redistributed themselves throughout the meat, thus making your meat eating experience a more flavorful and juicy one.

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Yummm… steak

The rest time depends on the size of the meat. A roast should rest for 10-20 minutes before being carved, while steaks and chops only need three to five minutes. I found several rule of thumb guidelines for rest times: about one minute of rest time should be given for every 100 grams (about 1/4 pound) of meat, five minutes per inch of thickness, 10 minutes per pound, or half of the total cooking time. The Serious Eats Food Lab suggests the best way to measure length of rest time is by temperature. At an internal temperature of 120*F (49*C) the muscle fibers have relaxed and juices have been redistributed. Additionally, most cookbooks provide some guidance on rest times, those can be followed too.

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Six steaks of identical thickness, each cooked to 125*F. Each steak was sliced in half every 2.5 minutes and placed on a plate to show how much of the juices leaked out (Source: The Food Lab – J. Kenji Lopez-Alt)

It is suggested that while the meat is resting it should be kept in a warm place. Options may be loosely covering it with foil, placing it in a small space, like your microwave or oven. Do not cover it too tightly with foil as you will cause the meat to sweat and loose more liquid. Keep in mind, the more you cook your meat the dryer it will become as juices and fats are lost to cooking and evaporation. This may result in a less desirable eating experience too. If you are a serious meat smoker check out some great tips and suggestions at The Virtual Weber Bullet.

There can be some drawbacks of resting meat. One is that it can cool off and not be as hot as it would have been when it was fresh off the grill or out of the pan or oven. Another is the possibility of losing any rub crust, or that the crust becomes soft during this time instead of providing a more crunchy texture and robust taste. More importantly, when covered in foil, your meat can continue to cook, in turn taking your degree of doneness up a notch or two. Additionally, the fats change. When fresh off the grill or out of the pan or oven, the fat and collagen in the meat is hot and soft, when cool, the fats start to solidify again and may stick to the roof of your mouth. Finally, the skin on poultry may also get soft and rubbery instead of crispy.

lamb chops
Lamb chops on the grill

Several sources I have read said that you shouldn’t purposely wait the three to five minutes. By time everyone sits down, you build your plate, start eating, and have conversations, the three to five minutes has come and gone and your food is still hot. It was also suggested that meat juices on the serving tray/plate be poured over the meat and that you soak up the juices with each bite you cut off.

While there are some reasons or concerns with letting meat rest, there are also some benefits. The most important things to consider are, will resting the meat impact a key component of the flavor or texture? Or will it make the degree of doneness undesirable? Use your best judgement when it comes to letting your meat rest. Personally, I loosely cover it with foil while I put the finishing touches on the meal.

tri-tip
Barbecued tri-tip and fixings

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Life Update: Nebraska to Nevada

I cannot believe June is wrapping up! Where has the time gone? I have been terrible at blogging over the last few months, and for that I apologize. My calendar is freeing up, and I am going to get back in the routine. Until then, I thought I would give you an update on how the big move and career change from Nebraska to Nevada is going.

In case you need a refresher, I announced in The Book of Life: Closing and Opening Chapters that I had made the big decision to leave Nebraska Extension and head west to start a career with Nevada Extension. A main reason for making this drastic move was getting back close to the family ranch and my family here. It has been a lot of fun to celebrate holidays and special occasions with my family again. We have probably seen each other more in the last six months than we have in six years!

We (the Hubs, the cat, and I) left Nebraska mid-December(ish). We picked my Dad up in Denver on day 2, and made our way across Colorado and Utah. We continued to have great weather, so on day 3 we took Nevada’s loneliest highway (Highway 50) across Nevada. When you have a roadtrip of ~1,600 miles you hope it is uneventful, and it was. We were blessed by the travel Gods.

Our belongings and their transportation to Nevada weren’t so lucky. We knew when we planned the move that it could take our stuff three to ten days to arrive. Little did we know that storm after storm across the country would derail those plans. In the end it was about 20 days later when our stuff arrived. Since I had to start work in that time I had to buy a few pairs of slacks and blouses, and we camped out in the apartment for about a week. We were sure glad to see the movers arrive.

Once we got our stuff and got unpacked we hit the ground running. A long journey finally came to an end when the Hubs became an official American citizen. You can read more at My story: 10 Immigration tips when marrying a non-American. Almost six years to the date of when he arrived on his fiance visa, he was raising his right hand and swearing allegiance to the USA. It was a great day, and one that we have waited for for a long time.

Tony

Meanwhile, back at my office… My office manager retired about 10 days after I arrived and our part-time office assistant went on vacation. It was a little stressful to not only learn what I was supposed to do, but to also learn about our budget, how to pay bills, and the other 749 things these great ladies had been doing. Happily, we have since hired a new and fabulous Office Manager and our part-time office assistant is back. It feels great to have all of the pieces in place and to be moving forward again. I immediately partnered up with the Chamber of Commerce to offer Social Media classes to local businesses, and it has gone over very well.

At the ranch, there was another great lamb crop born. Even though we had several large snow storms our family was prepared to handle them and to provide the best care for all of the animals. Read more about how we Care for baby lambs in freezing temperatures. My Mom sold several lambs to the 4-H members, and they did a great job raising them and showed them in May at the Nevada Jr. Livestock Show.

This past spring was a busy one as my Dad had a knee replaced. Considering the extent of the surgery, his recovery has been great. Just weeks after the replacement he was driving the skidsteer again – hard to keep a good rancher down. And even more exciting, my nephew was born. My Mom and I have made several trips to go visit him and his parents, and we anxiously await for their visit here at the end of the summer. I think it is safe to say he has all of wrapped around his chubby little fingers.

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As for fun… Well the Hubs and I took advantage of the nice weather and took a long weekend to Death Valley Super Bloom… A photo journal. Neither of us had ever been there, and it was fantastic. We are already planning our next visit – when the cooler temperatures return. We are also less than 45 minutes from Lake Tahoe, so we have been enjoying that scenic beauty and all that the lake has to offer.

Death AValley Super Bloom

As far as Cali cat, she handled the drive like a champ. However, the entire moving experience traumatized her. My parents have two indoor cats that are not welcoming to other cats, so Cali stayed with my Grandpa until our stuff arrived and we got unpacked (about 3 weeks). He loved the company, but she was not happy with me at all. Once we brought her home it took another month for her to get settled in. She is finally back to her old self now and is not looking forward to moving any time soon.

While there was a lot of other things that happened in the last six months, these are some of the major highlights. I look forward to getting back into a regular blogging routine. As usual, it will be a mixture of current research findings and events, interesting ag stories, and introductions to the people who grow and raise our food.


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Would Removing Beef from the Diet Actually Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Happy Earth Day! Today is generally a day for us to be involved in doing something constructive for our community and our planet. It is also a time to reflect on the sustainability of the Earth and our resources.

The consumption of meat, specifically beef, gets a bad reputation for being perceived as a high emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG). This article share other sources of GHG. More importantly, it challenges you to think about food waste as a consumer, and the role you play in global concerns.

Facts About Beef

Ashley Broocks, Emily Andreini, Megan Rolf, Ph.D., and Sara Place, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff or the US Department of Agriculture. 

Many people have suggested that removing beef from the human diet could significantly lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In reality, completely removing beef from the diet would likely not result in huge declines in GHG emissions and would have negative implications for the sustainability of the U.S. food system.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), beef cattle production was responsible for 1.9 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2013. Comparing food production (essential for human life) to transportation and electricity (non-essential for human survival, but important to our modern lifestyles) is problematic. Electricity and transportation produce much of the GHG emissions in the…

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A summer in Seoul… Flashback Friday

I always start getting twitchy this time of year, I want to be traveling! Until my next international adventure I like to reminisce about some of the parts of the world I have been blessed to visit.

During the summer of 2008 I spent three months in Seoul, South Korea as an intern with the U.S. Meat Export Federation. It was a summer I will never forget! Not only did I travel alone, I was completely on my own for those three months in a country with unique customs and traditions, the food was like nothing I had ever experienced before, where English was not the first language, and where it was very humid (not my favorite climatic condition).

During my stay, there were  daily protests about American beef and negotiations of it reentering the South Korean market, and at one point (I learned after my internship) they had thought about sending me back to the USA, as they were concerned for my safety. Despite some of these challenges, I learned so much, worked with some great people, and saw first hand how emotional and sensitive beef export/import and BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (aka: Mad Cow Disease)) was to a country.

I kept a blog about my experience during that time. Occasionally, I read through some of the posts and chuckle about the stories I shared. Here are a couple that share specific details of the experience. (PS – during my time there I had the opportunity to be a tourist too, I will share some of those experiences in another post).

On June 30, 2008 I wrote:

Well half of 2008 is already over, how time flies. Speaking of things that fly – there were lots of very hard inanimate objects flying this weekend at the protests. The protests have taken a very violent turn as you may have seen on tv. As soon as it was announced that Korea was officially open for US beef imports, the riots have escalated to a new violent height. While police were able to deter protesters from gathering in City Hall, they pushed them to rally in front of my hotel. I was peacefully napping, and it was so loud it woke me up. So I saw things were getting crazy, with fire extinguishers and yelling. When I went downstairs to try to get some photos, the hotel persons would not let me go out. Ahh safety precautions, so after a trip to the roof, and back down I was able to get out and check things out. By that time things had died down to a dull roar. It has been estimated that over 150 police officers were hospitalized (as well as some protesters), some for critical conditions (and one guy had his skull bashed in), over the weekend. And do you know what their injuries were? Broken and bruised bones due to hits from hammers, pipes, rocks, and water bottles inflicted by the protesters!!! I have asked my co-workers why does this madness continue? Why are the police not enforcing stricter behaviors? Because in the 80’s when Korea was still becoming democratic, the police were very violent to the citizens who protested; pepper spray and violence were used quite often. So the police (and gov’t officials) vowed that pepper spray would never be used again. I guess you should never say “never”! I will never understand why the police can be used as punching bags, and the citizens boo hoo if they are hit back. Perhaps if these violent rallies continue more drastic measures will have to be taken.

This weekend, in an afternoon outing I went down to City Hall. Home of the protesters. I was amazed to see all the buses that have been destroyed thus far (over 100), were parked up and down the streets, they were lined up in front of the statue leading up to the Blue House (President Lee’s house). My co-worker said that the buses have been placed there to get people to realize what is happening; to see the damage that is being done. And in some way get them to stop protesting. I am doubtful it works.

Of the 5,300 metric tons of beef that has been in storage since October 2007 (after bones were found in a shipment) only 85 metric tons have passed quarantine inspection. Things are moving so slow because 1) the protesters are wreaking havoc at the ports where the beef is stored – they are causing road blocks and doing more rallying, 2) restaurant owners and retail stores are afraid to sell/advertise they have US beef because the citizens may boycott their store/restaurant. And like I have mentioned before, it is not good enough to have US beef in retail locations, label it, and let the people choose for themselves. Korean consumers do not trust even the retail food owners because they may be mislabeling the meat. So it opens a whole new can of worms. While the US has yet to implement a traceability or COOL program; these are issues we may face when we do. Or will Americans really care where their food is coming from?

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South Korean military: all S. Korean men and required to serve two years in the military. They can do it immediately after high school or after college. If they have poor vision, a disability, or anything else that would not let them be active they are given policy duty or an office jobs (as they are easier).

On July 10, 2008 I wrote:

Well it was official today. As of 5:00 a.m., July 10 (USA central time) beef is officially being slaughtered for Korea. So in a few short weeks US beef will be arriving here for consumption. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is. The good news is that the protests will only happen on the weekends from here on out. They have estimated that the month and half of protests have cost $2.5 billion in damages; which is in lost business, the ruined buses, hiring of extra police, restaurant and taxi business losses, etc., plus the grass at City Hall has to be replaced. And to top it off the founders of the Mad Cow group are holed up at a temple. I guess if they remain there, the police cannot come onto the temple grounds to arrest them, the only way it can happen is if the temple wants them to leave. President Lee has replaced 3 more of his cabinet in hope of trying to get public sentiment back to a reasonable level.

Burger King is under some fire now. In the US they released a statement saying that hamburgers were from cattle over 30 months of age. Well Burger King in Korea was telling people that their burgers were cattle under 30 months, so I guess the head office put their foot down, and now Korea Burger Kind has announced that yes, their burgers are from cattle over 30 months of age too. The good thing is that when we went there for lunch today, it was not busy at all.

Korean food
An example of Korean food: Military soup, Korean pancake (veggies, seafood, and egg batter), and a traditional Korean breakfast.

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Fire: Friend or Foe?

You may (or may not) have heard about the major wildfires that have burned thousands of grassland acres in Kansas and Oklahoma over the last week. Not only does this limit the grass available for livestock to graze, but it can displace wildlife that share the area, and it can threaten (or completely destroy) homes and structures as well as fencing and stored hay. However, fires can be beneficial too, as they remove old dead grass, weeds, and trees making room for new grass to grow. I thought I would share with you more about fires, and how they are used to manage agricultural land.

Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom recently blogged about The Fire the National Media Won’t Tell You About. Nicole talks about the size of the fire, animals impacted, and Mother Nature’s hand in it all. Since so many of the people impacted here lost pasture grass, hay in storage, fences, and more, donation and relief funds have been established to help these folks during this time.

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Burning a pasture. Photo courtesy of A Kansas Farm Mom (Nicole).
Also on Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom, you can follow Flat Aggie on a Prescribed Burn. Flat Aggie is sent on adventures, and classrooms can follow the adventures to learn more about how food is produced. In this example, you can learn what preparation goes into preparing for a burn.

The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, will occasionally have her husband – Marlboro Man, share information about their Oklahoma ranch. In the post Why We Burn Our Pastures, he talks about the benefits to burning a pasture, as well as what that means for the cattle who graze their pastures.

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Cedar trees (which are an undesired tree in pastures) being burnt. Photo courtesy of A Kansas Farm Mom (Nicole).
Over at Kids, Cows and Grass, Debbie shares Why do ranchers burn their pastures? Five beneficial reasons to put up with the smoke. Learn why burning is beneficial to wildlife as well as why there are less chemical applications after a fire.

While fires can certainly be devastating, they can also be beneficial, especially to grasslands and pastures. I hope these blog posts gave you some new insight into the process.

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New growth after the burn. Photo courtesy of A Kansas Farm Mom (Nicole).
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Death Valley Super Bloom… A photo journal

Rhyolite

Zabriskie Point

Death AValley Super Bloom

Sunset over Badwater

Artists Palette

Natural BridgeDevils Golf Course

Badwater Basin

Old Harmony Borax Works

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Golden Canyon

Charcoal Kilns

Flowers

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Bummer becomes a Mom…

A bummer (in the agricultural world) is an animal that doesn’t have a mom, so it is cared for and fed by humans. Just over two years ago my Mom had a bummer lamb that we called “BumBum”. I wrote about BumBum at No holiday ‘bummer” for this gal.

BumBum never got another sheep mom, so my parents fed her and cared for her until she was self-sufficient and could eat hay, grass, and grain. She grew well and became a nice little ewe. My Mom decided to keep her as a replacement ewe. In Bummer lamb to replacement ewe: Transformation Tuesday I shared that story.

I am happy to report that BumBum has recently become a mom! She loves her lamb and is doing a good job raising it. It has been fun to watch BumBum make this transition over the last two years.

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BumBum and her lamb heading out to the pasture.

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