USDA grant to aid grass-fed beef study

(05/25/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU AgCenter researchers have received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the production and marketing of grass-fed beef.

Guillermo Scaglia, who conducts beef cattle research at the AgCenter’s Iberia Research Station, is working with AgCenter economists to evaluate grass-fed beef breeds and ways to market and deliver the beef.

In the next three years, Scaglia will study four breeds of cattle – Angus, Brangus, Holstein and Pineywoods – fed solely on one year-round system of forages such as grasses. He will determine productivity, grazing behavior and meat quality studying characteristics such as tenderness and fat content.

This is a continuation of research Scaglia is doing on grass-fed beef. He spent several years evaluating different forage systems and has developed what seems to work best in the Gulf South. Now, he is looking at breed types.

“We will look at the type of carcasses and beef these breed types can produce,” Scaglia said.

He said grass-fed beef yields meat that is less fatty and has a different texture than grain-fed cattle.

The four breeds were chosen for different qualities. Angus is a popular breed of beef cattle, but can suffer from heat stress in Louisiana. Brangus combines characteristics of Brahman and Angus cattle and is well-suited to Louisiana’s climate.

Holstein is a typical dairy cattle, and Scaglia wants to evaluate how well they can produce beef in Louisiana conditions. Pineywoods is a heritage breed of cattle introduced to the Gulf coast region many years ago and is well adapted to the area’s heat and humidity.

“The Pineywood breed is small,” Scaglia said. “Coming out of ryegrass, one steer will weigh about 550 pounds while, for example, an Angus the same age, approximately 12-13 months, will weigh at or close to 1,000 pounds.”

A herd of Pineywoods will consume a lot less, so Scaglia said this and its adaptability may be a good option for a producer with a small operation. He said they should also produce smaller cuts of meat, which is what some restaurants and grocery stores are asking for.

Jeff Gillespie, one of the AgCenter economists working on the project, will delve further into what the market wants. The economist will study how strategic alliances can be formed between producers, restaurants and grocery stores.

“We want to see if there are efficient ways to get the beef to markets, which also allow farmers to work more efficiently,” Gillespie said.

Part of his plan is to study farm-to-market structures that the beef industry is already using.

“We plan to study the needs of grocery store and restaurant managers and see what they prefer and what agreements they might enter into,” Gillespie said.

Creating partnerships among farmers raising grass-fed beef could help establish a stable supply of meat, he said.

The grant will allow the researchers to hire three graduate students. Two students will work with the restaurant and grocery store side, and one will work on beef production.

The USDA awarded this grant to 10 universities to promote rural community development and economic growth.

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Steers that Guillermo Scaglia, LSU AgCenter researcher, used in a previous study on grass-fed beef. (Photo by Guillermo Scaglia, LSU AgCenter)

5/25/2016 6:32:31 PM
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