Nutrient content of South African red meat and the effect of age and production system
Feeding systems, slaughter age and other production techniques notably influence the nutrient content of red meat. The modernization of the different South African production systems since the previous nutrient composition studies, justifies the necessity to update existing knowledge on the nutritional profile of South African produced beef. In addition, a need was identified to extrapolate the effect of the two different feeding systems (extensive and intensive) on this nutritional profile. Results indicate that the total lipid content of marketable young carcasses (age A, fat code 2) has decreased over time, in line with global health and nutrition trends for leaner foods. With the majority of beef from these young carcasses being produced on intensive grain-based feeding systems, South Africa has a unique advantage in terms of total lipid content of such grain-fed produce. Internationally, grain-fed red meat is in most cases higher in total and saturated fat content compared to grass-fed counterparts, while in South African the opposite was observed. In addition to total fat content, the role of various lipid fractions in human health has often been associated with specific produce positioning and marketing. South African grass-fed beef is significantly higher in healthy omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, irrespective of degree of fat trimming. From a human nutrition perspective, it should be kept in mind that the total amount of omega 3 fatty acids per edible portion of beef produced in either production system is low in comparison to human dietary recommendations.
Keywords: Beef, fatty acids, grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef, physical composition