Research Uncovers DNA Mutations Responsible for the Quality of Beef

COLOMBIA - Although 80 per cent of the quality of beef is thought to be the result of environmental factors, the National University of Colombia has made inroads into understanding the underlying genetic elements that directly relate to variation in colour quality, water retention and tenderness of beef.
calendar icon 5 July 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

This is according to  Ariza Fernando Botero, a professor in the Department of Animal Production at the UN in Bogota. 

He explains the goal was to identify the genes responsible for the "characteristics of tenderness, colour and water retention capacity".

These qualities are a key “determinant of palatability and tenderness of meat” states Professor Arizo.

Once the genes are detected, the researchers led by Professor Ariza, identify the cattle carrying the favourable genes for use in animal breeding programs.

"We are trying to identify if the meat is better in a pure breed type or one crossing, whether Zebu or European type," he explains.


The process begins with DNA sampling. "We compared the genes identified with the international databases that contains information about which ones promote a certain effect on the property that interests us, i.e. colour, maturity , tenderness or another.”

Once the genes are recognised they are stored in a library. The researchers then make use of structural genomics. This allows individual genes to be sequenced, and their biochemical function to be determined by comparing its DNA sequence with those whose function is known and recorded in the database.

Although genetics affects the characteristics and quality of the beef, Professor Ariza states that the environment contributes to 80 per cent of the changes and mutations that relate to quality and taste of the meat product.

Therefore, Professor Arizo advises to consider hereditary factors such as sex, age and temperament in addition to the environmental: diet, use of growth promoters, stress management and health. Most importantly those factors occurring post-mortem should not be over-looked, particularly with regard to muscle temperature at onset of rigor mortis, which directly affects the cooling phases or ripening period.

In summary Professor Arizo believes genomics will play a crucial role in improving the breeds, to help identify desirable and undesirable genes, “but in the short-term it is simple complementary to recording performance and selecting based on pedigree.”

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