A DNA Test Can Predict How Good Beef Will Taste

One cow looks much like another, but some provide meltingly tender meat while others are as tough as old boots. Fortunately, a team of researchers has devised a series of DNA tests that can predict how good beef will taste by the time it hits your plate.

Usually the meat industry takes a bit of a punt on which cows will provides the tastiest steak. Sure, concepts like marbling and hanging method are decent indicators, but a team of researchers from the National Agronomic Research Institute in Theix, France, think they can do better.

That's why they analyzed 3,000 genes involved in muscle biology in order to pick out ones that have an impact on meat qualities like tenderness, flavor and juiciness. Then, having selected genes they thought were important, the team developed a DNA chip which analyzes gene activity in beef samples and can spot fundamental differences in their makeup.

They pitted the chip against a panel of expert tasters and it seems to work well. In fact it was in full agreement, and they found that the genes the device analyzed accounted for up to 40 percent of the variability in tenderness between different samples. The results are published in BMC Veterinary Research.

Of course, the researchers aren't happy yet: the team only uses a handful of genetic markers at the moment, and the test only works with certain breeds of cow. Still, the theory's there, so before too long you might be buying beef based on genetic ranking, not hanging time. [BMC Vetinary Research via Science Daily]

Image by Max Frank under Creative Commons license