Our industry leading Conception to Consumption (C2C) project is a three-year programme, funded by Innovate UK. Working with our suppliers, in collaboration with Breedr and Scotland’s Rural University College (SRUC) the objective of the project is to research and assess how the farm efficiency, consistency, and meat-eating quality of the beef we produce can be improved, to enhance the long-term sustainability of the beef supply chain.
Inspire sustainable farming to foster better animal health and welfare, enhance meat quality and restore biodiversity, soil health and water quality.
Meat quality is a key focus of the project, beginning with genetic influence through sire selection. Analysis of beef quality is completed at SRUC through a wide range of techniques, including traditional laboratory assessments, state-of-the-art non-invasive techniques, as well as real steak tasting at agricultural shows throughout the UK. This is providing a deeper understanding of meat quality attributes across a wide breadth of the supply chain.
Using the Breedr platform to bring livestock information, ‘on farm’ performance data and meat-eating quality together, supports informed decision-making, smarter selection and improved beef production. The Breedr phone app was developed to help farmers with free and easy data analysis. Farmers can scan electronic ear tags and weights from digital scales, sync movements to the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), record medicine use, breeding and fertility information, and analyse that data to improve efficiencies. Breeding reports enable farmers to choose the best genetics for continuous improvement and the app features a growth predictor which enables farmers to plan finishing dates, giving processors greater visibility of forward beef supplies.
C2C will collect a range of data throughout the lifetime of the animal from conception to consumption which will help to develop a new wave of genetic tools across the supply chain. Good quality animal data must be obtained in sufficient volumes, so we can separate the genetic effects from environmental effects. This will be supplemented with information from pedigree records and through national databases such as BCMS. 12,000 genotypes from six different breed groups are being collected and these groups have been chosen to represent the breed makeup of the UK beef industry including native and continental cattle as well as dairy-bred animals.
Analysing the genetic influences on animal performance and meat quality on this scale is unique within the industry and offers us great potential to uncover new knowledge of genetic and non-genetic drivers of animal performance. The DNA profile from our test animals is combined with performance and pedigree information to estimate their genetic merit – commonly known as genomic selection.
After completing the research on this project, we will use the results to link DNA profiles for other animals at a young age to assess what combinations of genes they have inherited for each trait. This will become a genetic predictor of its potential future performance. The more quality information that is recorded for this reference population of C2C animals, the better the predictions of future generations will be.