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Beef Eating Quality Index launched

The world’s first national multi-breed genomic evaluation for sensory-based meat eating quality was launched at the Meat Technology Ireland centre, Ashtown, Dublin today, Thursday 24 September.

The goal of genetic evaluations is to identify, as accurately as possible, genetically elite animals. These animals are often chosen as parents of the next generation in the pursuit of genetic gain. Accurate genetic evaluations are predicated on large databases of performance, ancestry and DNA information. One of the main objectives of the Meat Technology Ireland research programme was to generate such a database of informative and genetically diverse animals for meat eating quality, optimised for the generation of accurate national genomic evaluations pertinent to the Irish cattle population. Sensory data collected on over 6,000 cattle, which began in November 2016, now resides within the database making it the largest such database globally used for genetic evaluations.

Donagh Berry, Teagasc Geneticist said at the launch that “Ireland boasts a unique selling point of safe, nutritious and responsibly-produced beef, but are under constant threat from ever-aggressive competitors. We must continually innovate, and delivering year-on-year improvement in meat eating quality will become our new point of differentiation”.

Andrew Cromie, Technical Director at the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) summarised the delivery of national genomic evaluations for meat eating quality as a “Significant occasion realised through strong collaboration between the meat industry, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation and Teagasc in the delivery of the world’s first national multi-breed genomic evaluation for sensory-based meat eating quality”. Combined with the long-standing national database of animal performance and DNA information housed at the ICBF, the addition of meat eating quality genetic evaluations to the suite of traits already evaluated propels Ireland to the fore for balanced breeding programmes in cattle.

John Colreavy, Director of Meat Technology Ireland (MTI) explained that MTI is an Enterprise Ireland, industry-led initiative that builds a strategic research and innovation base in beef and sheepmeat processing in Ireland. The MTI industry-led consortium is unique in the northern hemisphere and represents an opportunity that will have global impact addressing improvements for Irish beef and sheepmeat processing such as todays index launch. This unique collaboration between the world’s fifth largest beef and sheepmeat processors and the custodians of the world’s largest animal-genetics breeding database presents a unique opportunity to address fundamental issues such as sustainable beef production, that face the industry not just in Ireland but globally. The launch of the Meat Eating Quality index means that meat eating quality of the Irish national herd will systematically improve through genetic improvement without sacrificing important breeding traits. This will ensure that consumers of Irish beef around the world can expect the very best dining experience.      

Philip Carroll, Chairman of Meat Industry Ireland (MII) welcomed the launch of this beef eating quality index, adding “this is an important milestone in the development of the Meat Technology Ireland initiative. The index will be essential in delivering continuous improvement over time in terms of meat eating quality. Given the challenges currently facing the wider sector, this initiative will be important in helping exporters continue to secure the best export outlets possible for our beef. We congratulate all the MTI partners, both industry and academia, on the launch of this new index”.