Cows to face DNA testing to find tastiest beef


By Rory Reynolds

THE producers of Scotland’s most famous beef are to carry out genetic tests in an attempt to rear a ‘superstud’ bull.

The Aberdeen Angus Society has turned to science in an attempt to speed up the length of time it takes to produce top-quality beef.

The society has commissioned the help of two pharmaceutical giants to test a method that could help farmers identify the bulls that produce the leanest calves using DNA.

Experts at Pfizer and Merial are to examine livestock samples, which could also lead to bulls with any physical defects being filtered out.

Ron McHattie, spokesman for the Aberdeen Angus Society, said that DNA testing would mean that the time is takes to produce lean, top quality beef could be rapidly speeded up.

He said: “Our success as a pedigree breed of society depends on us taking as many steps as possible to make sure any genetic defect is screened out and any improved physical performance is bred in.


“This additional scientific management information will allow the breeding selection process to be more refined – before it was more muck and magic, with a bit of luck thrown in.”

Around 100 bulls used for artificial insemination are to be tested to see how ‘genomic data’ compares with ‘estimated breeding value’.

Nick Munce, business development manager at Merial UK, said: “Our DNA test results will give meat producers the ability to selectively breed cattle that will produce more tender cuts of beef.

“We are seeking to let our customers explore the important areas that we can identify, such as marbling and “rib-eye” area for beef producers, and diary form, milk production traits and cheese production for dairy producers.”

Deanna Leven at Pfizer Animal Genetics added that the process was no intended to produce a ‘superbull’, but was more “about identifying what genetics the animal already has and giving farmers information about traits that would otherwise have been very difficult to measure”.


The programme, which will also involve discussions with retailers and wholesalers, is to report back later this year, and could be rolled out across Scotland if successful.

However, Andy McGowan, head of marketing at Quality Meat Scotland, said that there is more to the quality of beef than the genetics of various animals.

He said the most significant factor is what is done to the steak in the pan.