Introduction to the challenge addressed.

Development of beef with enhanced levels n-3 fatty acids (or more commonly called omega 3 fatty acids) could provide an opportunity to add value to beef in terms of nutritional quality. So it's interesting to see if we can change the fatty acid composition of beef, while taking into account the costs and labour on the farm, as well as the quality of carcasses and meat requested by buyers.

 Description of the Good Practice

The first step on the breeder was to look for available local feed and ensure diet balance, while avoiding adding too much labour, and ensuring a high quality of meat.

A French farmer located in Normandie who owns 119 hectares of lands and raises poultry and suckler cattle added into the diet of his animals more grass (grazed), flaxseed and feeds rich in omega 3.

The omega 3 content of the meat of the extruded flax lots was globally multiplied by 3 compared to the "Control" (control batches had less grass and no flax) batches to be at the same level as that of the animals finished with grass. On the other hand, the proportion of the 'Flattened flax' lots was about 30 % lower than that of the 'Extruded flax' lots. Omega 3 in the feed of animals did transfer to the meat.

 Impact on farm performance.

For the farmer, the first impact was on the meat quality: The use of flaxseed in the feed of his animals ensures a very satisfactory fattening state, increasing the value of the product. It favourably modifies the composition of fats in the direction of accentuating the "taste" of the meat. In addition, this contribution of flaxseed will allow the improvement of the tenderness of the meat.

It also improved the farmer skills, first agronomically, as the possibility to grow the crops depends on the soil, region, climate and technical skills, and the diets had to be redonned to ensure balance. Second, his skills were improved financially, since he had to make sure the investments in more expensive feeds were balanced by the selling price and productivity, and had to think with a production cost approach.

Lastly, with a daily consumption of flaxseed, the animal will benefit from better digestion. In addition to improving intestinal transit, this feed ingredient participate in the cleansing of the intestine by getting rid of all the toxins and waste products that are there. It allows an impact to the environment, not only with the use of flaxseed and pasture (that captures carbon), but directly on the cattle, since by replacing part of the diet with omega-3 fats from flaxseed, cattle emit up to 40% less methane.

 Farmer comment

This Good Practice originated from a cow-calf producer and beef finisher : “For a better nutritional quality of meats, flaxseed is an alternative to grazing when there is no more grass, and allowed me to rethink the way I work”

Further information

The effects of feeding flaxseed to beef cows given forage based diets on fatty acids of longissimus thoracis muscle and backfat - ScienceDirect