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Could antioxidant supplementation to beef cattle improve meat quality?

“Feeding primary antioxidant combination selenium yeast Alkosel and vegetal SOD Melofeed to finishing beef bulls helps improve meat quality”, this is the main conclusion of a recent trial performed at the Universidad Politéchnia de Madrid, in Spain, confirming previous trial with selenium yeast.

What is meat quality and how is it assessed?

Today, meat quality is a key criteria of choice for consumers, processors, and retailers. Meat quality is defined by three types of parameters:

  • Composition: lean to fat ratio, meat percentage, intramuscular fat, marbling, protein, and muscle area
  • Physical/functional criteria: water holding capacity, isometric tension, muscle fiber shortening, pH, and cooking loss
  • Palatability, or organoleptic criteria: appearance (color), juiciness, tenderness, odor and flavor

New data: Antioxidant combination improves meat quality

A trial was conducted by the department of Animal Production from Universidad Politécnica of Madrid, in Spain, on Angus bulls in finishing period. The animals were supplemented for 52 days with a combination of antioxidant sources ALKOSEL (selenium-enriched yeast) and MELOFEED (Melon juice concentrate, rich in SOD).

Meat quality parameters were measured on beef chops after over 12 days of maturation. Meat color was assessed with spectrocolorimeter and tenderness with the Warner-Braztler method, which measures the firmness of the muscle (inversely proportional to tenderness).

Results indicate that the tone of the meat color (Figure 1) and tenderness (Figure 2) were significantly improved with the antioxidant supplementation (P<0.1).

Figure 1: Effect of antioxidants supplementation to finishing Angus beef cattle on meat color tone after 12 days of maturation * P<0.1 (Universidad Politécnica of Madrid, internal results).

Figure 2 : Effect of antioxidants supplementation to finishing Angus beef cattle on meat firmness, representative of tenderness after 12 days of maturation * P<0.1 (Universidad Politécnica of Madrid, internal results).

These results further confirm previous data from Padova University (Cozzi et al., 2011) on Charolais beef, showing that Selenium yeast supplementation (ALKOSEL), improved meat processing and organoleptic qualities. In this trial, Charolais beef were supplemented during the finishing period (140 days), and meat quality was evaluated after 5 and 10 days of maturation, showing in both cases:

  • A reduction of meat drip loss during maturation, offering better yield for the slaughterhouse
  • Improved meat tenderness
  • Enhanced meat aspect (lightness)

How to explain the effects of dietary antioxidants?

Meat quality can be influenced by various factors, such as the genetic, and farm and animal management practices up to slaughtering, including animal nutrition.

Oxidative stress can be important in highly productive animals and triggered by different factors such as heat stress, transportation, vaccination, mixing of the animals etc. In this context, antioxidant supplementation is important, first of all for optimal health and fertility, especially in high producing animals, but also for meat quality.

Some studies have demonstrated that meat shelf-life and quality can be improved by natural antioxidants, added in the pre-slaughter stages of animal diets, as illustrated by both trials.

How does an improved antioxidant status can favor meat quality?

  1. By slowing down lipid oxidation: flavor and color are retained
  2. By protecting the endogenous enzymes responsible for meat maturation (proteases) and thus meat tenderness.

 

Figure 3: Various factors are linked to oxidative stress.

Figure 3: Various factors are linked to oxidative stress.

 

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