Background: Consuming moderate amounts of lean red meat as part of a balanced diet valuably contributes to intakes of essential nutrients. In this study, we merged phenotypic and genotypic information to characterize the variation in lipid profile and sensory parameters and to represent the diversity among 15 cattle populations. Correlations between fat content, organoleptic characteristics and lipid profiles were also investigated.
Methods: A sample of 436 largely unrelated purebred bulls belonging to 15 breeds and reared under comparable management conditions was analyzed. Phenotypic data -including fatness score, fat percentage, individual fatty acids (FA) profiles and sensory panel tests- and genotypic information from 11 polymorphisms was used.
Results: The correlation coefficients between muscle total lipid measurements and absolute vs. relative amounts of polyunsaturated FA (PUFA) were in opposite directions. Increasing carcass fat leads to an increasing amount of FAs in triglycerides, but at the same time the relative amount of PUFAs is decreasing, which is in concordance with the negative correlation obtained here between the percentage of PUFA and fat measurements, as well as the weaker correlation between total phospholipids and total lipid muscle content compared with neutral lipids. Concerning organoleptic characteristics, a negative correlation between flavour scores and the percentage of total PUFA, particularly to n-6 fraction, was found. The correlation between juiciness and texture is higher than with flavour scores. The distribution of SNPs plotted by principal components analysis (PCA) mainly reflects their known trait associations, although influenced by their specific breed allele frequencies.
Conclusions: The results presented here help to understand the phenotypic and genotypic background underlying variations in FA composition and sensory parameters between breeds. The wide range of traits and breeds studied, along with the genotypic information on polymorphisms previously associated with different lipid traits, provide a broad characterization of beef meat, which allows giving a better response to the variety of consumers’ preferences. Also, the development and implementation of low-density SNP panels with predictive value for economically important traits, such as those summarized here, may be used to improve production efficiency and meat quality in the beef industry.