The transgenic cattle produced beef with about 5 times the normal level of omega- 3 fatty acids.
Unfortunately, 11 of the 14 cattle died before the age of
4 months from inflammation and hemorrhagic septicemia,
a bacterial disease of cattle. According to the researchers,
the abnormalities were probably due to imperfections in the
procedure for somatic cell nuclear transfer. The transferred
somatic cell nucleus may not have been completely repro-grammed by the egg cell cytoplasm, and genes may have been
inadvertently turned on or off during the procedure. “There
is much to learn about the best scientific techniques and the
best husbandry required to make beef a rich animal source
of omega- 3 oils for human nutrition, but we have taken the
first step,” Cheng told Food Navigator ( http://tinyurl.com/
If researchers could establish a breed of cattle that pro-
duces omega-3-rich beef, this could be a more direct and, over
the long term, cost-effective approach than feeding strate-
gies. However, Drouillard notes that consumer acceptance may
present a problem. “The people to whom omega-3-enriched
beef would appeal—in other words, the health-conscious
consumer, is not somebody that’s generally going to be really
open to the idea of anything that’s genetically modified,” says
Drouillard. “I’m not convinced we could make the same prog-
ress there as we could through feeding, and we wouldn’t have
the same kind of resistance with the feeding.”
Although each approach to omega- 3 beef has unique
advantages and disadvantages, none can currently compete
with the high levels of omega-3s found in oily fish such as
salmon. However, Smith believes that as more foods such as
milk, eggs, and beef are fortified with omega-3s, the cumula-
tive level a person consumes throughout the day will approach
clinically meaningful values. “Harvard Medical School deter-
mined a couple years back that if a healthy older person
ingested a total of 400 milligrams of DHA and EPA from fish, it
extended their life expectancy 2. 2 years due to reduced car-
diovascular disease,” he says (Mozaffarian, D., et al., http://dx.
In contrast, the American Heart Association recently
issued a scientific advisory report concluding that omega- 3
fish oil supplements likely do not prevent cardiovascular disease in healthy adults, although they may reduce the risk of
death from cardiovascular disease in those who have already
experienced a heart attack or heart failure (Siscovick, D., et
al., https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000482, 2017).
“There are two things that may be going on here,” says Smith.
“Number one, people who eat fish may have healthier diets
in general. And number two, there are a dozen key ingredients in fish other than omega-3s, but when people purify fish
oil, they usually remove these ingredients.” Smith notes that
Omega3Beef has the same source of omega-3s and other
ingredients that fish do: algae. “We traced these other beneficial fatty acids, like palmitoleic acid, right through into our beef
to make sure that they were there,” he says.
Only time will tell if omega-3-fortified beef is a hit with
consumers. According to Drouillard, because of regulatory hur-
dles in the United States and elsewhere, the biggest challenge
lies in even making consumers aware of omega-3-fortified beef.
“The USDA [US Department of Agriculture] prohibits compa-
nies from putting anything on beef labels that identifies them as
having higher amounts of omega- 3 fatty acids,” he says. “So we
have a major regulatory limitation today on labeling that puts
these beef companies at a huge disadvantage.” Drouillard notes
that fish, because its labeling is regulated by the FDA instead of
the USDA, is not subject to the same omega- 3 labeling limita-
tions. “On beef, you can have a line on the label that says it has x
grams of omega- 3 content, but there’s no way to alert the con-
sumer that the product was intentionally modified to be more
healthful or contain more omega-3s,” says Drouillard. “In my
opinion, that’s been the largest impediment to progress.”
Olio is produced by Inform’s associate editor, Laura Cassiday. She
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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