Nutritional value of suckler beef from temperate pasture systems

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Lee, M. R. F., McAuliffe, G., Tweed, J. K. S., Griffith, B. A., Morgan, S., Rivero, M. J., Harris, P., Takahashi, T. and Cardenas, L. M. 2021. Nutritional value of suckler beef from temperate pasture systems. Animal. 15 (7), p. 100257.

AuthorsLee, M. R. F., McAuliffe, G., Tweed, J. K. S., Griffith, B. A., Morgan, S., Rivero, M. J., Harris, P., Takahashi, T. and Cardenas, L. M.

The role of beef in human diets has been questioned over the last few decades, due largely to its typically high mass-based carbon footprint. However, recent advancements in sustainability literature challenge this paradigm based on the new theory that climate impacts of food commodities should be measured relative to their overall nutritional value rather than their nominal mass. This shift has opened a new opportunity for the global beef industry, and especially for pasture-based systems that can avoid food-feed competition for land and other resources, as beef is a nutritionally dense food. Nonetheless, the sector’s true capability to supply a wide range of nutrients for humans, consistently across multiple systems under multiple weather patterns, has not been well-documented. Using whole-system datasets from the North Wyke Farm Platform in the South West of England, we investigated the nutritional value of beef produced from the three most common pasture systems in temperate regions: permanent pasture (PP), grass and white clover (GWC) and a short-term monoculture grass ley (MG). Beef produced from these three pasture systems was analysed for key nutrients (fatty acids, minerals and vitamin E) over three production cycles (2015-2017) to determine potential differences between systems. Fatty acid, mineral and vitamin E profiles of the pasture and silage fed to each group were also assessed, with subtle differences between pastures reported. For beef, subtle differences were also observed between systems, with GWC having higher omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) concentrations than PP and MG. However, the overall nutritional quality of beef was found to be largely comparable across all systems, suggesting that temperate pasture-based beef can be classified as a single commodity in future sustainability assessments, regardless of specific sward types. A 100 g serving of temperate pasture-based beef was found to be a high source (>20% recommended daily intake: RDI) of protein, monounsaturated 40 fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, vitamins - B2, B3, B12 and minerals – Fe, P, Zn; a good source (10-19% RDI) of vitamin – B6 and mineral – K; and a complementary source (5 – 9% RDI) of omega-3 PUFA, vitamin – B9 and minerals – Cu, Mg, Se. The nutritional value of a food item should be used in defining its environmental cost (e.g. carbon footprint) to make fair comparisons across different food groups (e.g. protein sources). Here we showed that pasture-based beef had a nutrient indexed carbon footprint of between 0.19 – 0.23 Kg CO2eq / 1% RDI of key nutrients.

KeywordsRed meat; Fatty acids; Grassland; Nutritional quality; Sustainability assessment
Year of Publication2021
Journal citation15 (7), p. 100257
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 2 (WP2) - Adaptive management systems for improved efficiency and nutritional quality
The North Wyke Farm Platform- National Capability [2017-22]
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online02 Jun 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted20 Apr 2021
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)

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