Texas A&M research could produce Œfaultlessı beef

VAN, Texas (AP) ‹ The Aggies are at work on the perfect cow.

Texas A&M University is one of a handful of major labs conducting bovine genetic research that ultimately could create faultless beef filets.

Researchers at the school are using Brahman and Angus cattle to identify genes associated with beef quality, genetics Professor Jerry Taylor said.

The work is similar to research done on human genes. But instead of the diseases commonly targeted in people, these geneticists are focusing on bovine traits such as coat color and marbling.

Working with families of cattle produced at a ranch in Angleton, Taylor said scientists in the four-year-old program are using the DNA from about 500 cattle to construct genetic maps.

ŒŒWe take the map information on each animal, and it allows us to go into each chromosome and work out exactly the genetic architecture,ıı he said.

The scientists have built maps for about half the cattle chromosomes, using more than 20 markers that identify the areas where certain genes are found. The markers let them estimate the position on the chromosome where the gene actually resides, Taylor said.

The scientists have identified the regions where lie genes responsible for determining whether a cow will have horns; whether it will be black or another color; how fast it will grow; where in the body it will deposit fat, which determines marbling; how tender it will be; and the amount of cholesterol and saturated vs. unsaturated fatty acids in its tissue, Taylor said.

This general knowledge already has some practical applications. But A&M also just received a three-year grant to clone those small chromosomal regions and try to find the specific genes for the characteristics, which would let them be used with complete reliability.

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