Would a "Heat-Resistant" Cow Mean Better Beef?

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Researchers are developing a climate change-ready cross between Angus and Brahman breeds.

The key to good beef, you might think, is the quality of the cut—or, barring that, even a good marinade. But University of Florida scientists have another idea. They believe climate—and more importantly, climate tolerance—plays a large part in how tasty a cow's meat can become, and so, they're trying to create a "heat-resistant" breed of beef cattle.

According to one of the lead researchers, associate professor Raluca Mateescu, more than half of the world's cattle (and about 40 percent of cows in the U.S.) live in hot and humid environments. Think: Texas alone has some 11 million heads of cattle. And there, the average temperature is 97 degrees in August. In Brazil, where more than 200 million cattle are raised, temperatures can reach 98 degrees in January.

That's hot for anyone (or any animal), and especially for those creatures who spend their days grazing in open fields without much shade. So, the scientists are aiming to develop a new breed that bears a "superior ability to adapt to hot living conditions."

That new kind of cow would be a cross between the Angus and Brahman breeds—a heat-tolerant "Brangus" cow, if you will. The scientists will study each breed's DNA and isolate the regions that regulate body temperature. And they've got a three-year grant—and $733,000—to come up with the DNA sequence for the brand-new breed.

The new "heat-resistant" cow would be able to better handle heat stress, they say, and because of that, their meat would be of better quality than our current cows.

"This offers a powerful new approach to address the challenges of climate change and develop climate-smart productive cattle for a ... hotter world," Mateescu said.

These University of Florida scientists are hardly the only ones trying to help our food supply survive climate change. A recent report showed that our coffee could soon taste worse if something isn't done to help beans adapt to the heat. Even our wheat yields could seriously reduce thanks to the Earth's rising temperatures.

Of course, once you've got your better-tasting beef all ground up and portioned into patties, just make sure you don't ruin it on the grill.

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