Chancellor- Texas A&M University system
Moore/Connally bldg., 7th Floor
College Station, Texas 77840
I recently read your comments in Drovers magazine article titled “Cloned calves carcass results unwrapped’ regarding carcass results from progeny of cloned Prime, Yield Grade 1 animals at WTAMU. As an alumni, former faculty member of the A&M system and proud supporter of the beef industry I want to share my thoughts regarding healthy and high quality meat.
First and foremost, I applaud the system for supporting research to create and promote high quality beef. Higher marbled beef with less trim fat around the outside is healthier for the consumer, but considerably tough to produce. The project in the aforementioned article is one approach to trying to identify genetics that can produce such beef on a large scale. Recent data have shown the demand from naturally produced high quality beef is strong and growing.
Secondly, I’d like to share with you a breed of cattle that has been producing superior results to the WTAMU project for almost a decade. Akaushi (pronounced Aka-ooshi) is a Wagyu breed (i.e., Japanese origin) of cattle brought to the U.S. in the middle 90’s and currently branded beef programs offer Akaushi beef for many consumers annually. Data also collected by Dr. Ty Lawrence from WTAMU on ~3,900 head of Akaushi-sired halfblood carcasses averaged 35% Prime, 63% Choice and an average yield grade of 2.8. They gained weight comparable to the WTAMU cattle in a non-hormonal implant feeding scheme. This is just a small sample of halfbloods that have superior carcass results than the approximate 10 head from mating cloned Prime, Yield Grade 1’s together.
Dr. Stephen Smith, Regents Professor in the Dept. of Animal Sciences, has done extensive research on fatty acid composition in beef. Dr. Smith and his team have found that Akaushi and other Wagyu beef contain a higher concentration of monounsaturated fat relative to saturated fat, which the American Heart Association notes can lead to lower cholesterol, the prevention of coronary heart disease, and weight loss. It is a significant source of oleic acid – the compound in olive oil that the USDA touts as “good for the heart”. Akaushi beef naturally contains intense marbling. It is generally recognized that fat is responsible for the palatability of beef, but it is actually the monounsaturated fat that is responsible for the flavor. The marbling in Akaushi beef contains a much higher percentage of monounsaturated fat than any other non-Wagyu beef in the United States.
Third, I’d like to share how we can produce this superior beef. It’s very easy actually. Producers can simply purchase bulls of this breed to cross with their existing cow herd for the same cost as Angus or Charolais bulls. No cloning or extreme high investment needed. Currently, there are about 500 head of Akaushi bulls sold per year and ~30,000 head of Akaushi-sired crossbred calves purchased back into branded beef programs.
The people of this great state rely on TAMU system findings as a basis for future production. I feel this is a breed for the future within our beef and cattle industries. The domestic and international demands for these genetics are strong.
Finally, I want to commend you and the BOR for keeping up to date on projects such as these and keeping agriculture as a high priority. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting yourself and the BOR at a breakfast in the MSC five years ago as a young Faculty Senator from TAMU-Commerce. I hope to see you again soon around campus. I’d be glad to bring you some Akaushi steaks to try. Locally, a steak from Christopher’s World Grille or a burger at Blackwater Draw Brewing Co. in College Station are two places I would recommend trying Akaushi beef.
Aaron J. Cooper, Ph.D.
Class of ‘05