A research team led by Dr Raluca Mateescu of Oklahoma State University mapped the genes associated with mineral concentrations in beef and found that producers could increase iron content through careful breeding.
The researchers evaluated 2,285 Angus-sired cattle, genotyping the animals for 50,000 markers spread across all 30 chromosome pairs. They then evaluated meat samples for nutrition content, which helped them identify the genes associated with iron concentration.
They also evaluated the heriditability of mineral concentration by looking at five generations of cattle, and found that iron had moderate hereditability, so could be successfully selected.
“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.
However, the researchers did point out that selecting cattle for high iron concentration could take time and would be more difficult than selecting a trait like growth performance. Garrick said that more research would be needed before selection for iron concentration could become a reality.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 14% of infants and 9% of women under 49 have an iron deficiency. Iron from meat products is easier to absorb than iron from plant sources.