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Grass farmed beef is the cornerstone of the New Zealand meat industry. But do we really understand the benefits we get from the meat when it is raised in this way?


New research from the Riddet Institute suggests that there are differences in meat quality regarding health and digestion, depending on how the animal is bred. A research team led by Dr. Lovedeep Kaur and Dr. Mike Boland of Massey University’s Manawatū campus has compared grassland New Zealand beef to grain-ready beef and a plant-based alternative. They found differences in the fat content of beef, which could potentially lead to better health outcomes.

The team examined how the human digestive system responds to the various food compositions and how the nourishing proteins and lipids (fats) are released for the body to use. This was completed using laboratory-based or “in vitro” digestive simulators. This experiment mimics how a human digests food in the stomach and beyond.

The researchers found the protein from both the pastures and grain-ready cuts of beef digested in a similar way, whereas significant differences were observed for fat or lipid digestion. Digestion of meat from animals grown on pastures released greater levels of good fats compared to those generally considered “bad” fats.

Credit: Massey University

Meat digested from grass-grown New Zealand beef showed greater total amounts of free long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and lower amounts of free, long-chain saturated fatty acids (SFAs) than meat from grain-produced cattle. The role of long-chain SFAs in increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and, conversely, that omega-3 PUFAs play health benefits is well established in food research.

Dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 PUFAs has been recommended in dietary guidelines worldwide (UN-Food & Agriculture Organization, United States Department of Health, as well as dietary advice from the Department of Health, Health Navigator and Nutrition Foundation) as these fatty acids have been reported to to promote lowering of total cholesterol and fat in the bloodstream in people with elevated blood cholesterol. This suggests potential health benefits of eating beef with grass. The plant-based alternative tested in this study had no long-chain omega-3 PUFAs.

Dr. Kaur says the research highlighted that meat protein is generally easily digestible, and meat with higher digestibility is better for your body. Since plant proteins are generally known to be less digestible than meat proteins, the plant-based meat substitute showed relatively lower protein digestibility. Differences in processing and other non-protein ingredients may also be responsible for the observed differences in protein digestibility, she says.

“Researchers generally agree that higher release rates for amino acids [protein building blocks] during the digestion of meat leads to beneficial effects in muscles, such as maintenance or increase in muscle mass. This is especially important for the elderly in dealing with sarcopia [muscle wasting] and for athletes who want to increase muscle mass, for example. What was interesting to see in our research was that although the protein composition of an animal is largely determined by its genetics, and the samples we tested contained highly digestible proteins, the composition of the fat in an animal, in particular the long-chain PUFAs, largely influenced by what it has eaten, ”says Dr. Kaur.


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Provided by Massey University

Citation: New study highlights differences in New Zealand beef (2021, October 7) retrieved October 8, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-10-highlights-differences-zealand-beef.html

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