Feeding vitamin E to cattle has benefits

It’s a common shopper’s complaint. You buy a cut of beef at the supermarket and when you unwrap it, the meat is dark and discoloured.
Or you leave a roast out on the counter too long and get the same result.
There’s nothing wrong with the meat. It’s just oxidized—the same way some vegetables and fruits will darken when exposed to the air after peeling.
Beef colour is due to several forms of myoglobin, a protein which gives the purplish-red pigment seen in freshly-cut meat.
After meat has been exposed to the air, a molecule of water in the myoglobin replaces a molecule of oxygen, resulting in a reddish-brown pigmentation.
How to keep the meat from turning colour? Enter vitamin E.
Studies by Agriculture Canada show supplementing cattle rations with vitamin E stabilizes myoglobin in muscle tissue, delays oxidation, and leaves the beef bright and cherry red for up to twice as long as usual.
Further research at the University of Wisconsin indicates meat colour can be improved by giving steers 500 I.U. of supplemental vitamin E for up to 120 days before slaughter at 1,350 pounds.
The study suggests U.S. retailers could improve their receipts by 3.6 percent by extending the shelf life of beef cuts. This translates into a financial gain to the American beef industry of $792 million.
The cost benefit ratio to the packing, wholesale, and retail market would be 10.5:1.
So if the benefits of feeding vitamin E are so significant, why aren’t more cattle producers doing it? Dr. Gordon Greer, Agriculture Canada’s head of research at Lacombe, Alta., offers two reasons.
First, vitamin E is one of the more expensive feed supplements for cattle. Second, producers are paid on the basis of carcass yield and grade at the packing plant, not meat quality at the supermarket.
If that were to change, feedlot operators could be visiting health food stores—and not for themselves.
< *c>Dates to remember
•June 9—Pasture Night, Emo research station, 7 p.m.; and
•June 10—Farm pasture tour, begins 10 a.m.

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