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sector_ico_Agrifood_trans Agrifood

Evaluation of Pacific Coastal Seaweeds and Hydroponic Fodder as Feed Additives to Produce Premium Authentic Japanese Style Beef

  • Project Leaders: John Church, Bill Vanderkooi
  • Institutions: Thompson Rivers University (TRU)
  • Budget: $372600
  • Program/Competition: GeneSolve
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2021
  • Status: Active

This project will take a genomic-based evidence approach looking at changes in cattle rumen microbiome to evaluate effectiveness of specific diets in the production of high-quality Japanese-style Wagyu beef. The goal is to produce Wagyu beef with high nutritional value (i.e. elevated omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acid) and sustainably through reduced cattle methane emissions. 

Wagyu is an emerging new opportunity for BC beef producers in the high-end beef market. Ranchers have tried bringing in Wagyu animals to Canada, but they have largely failed. This may be related to difficulties imitating the traditional Japanese production system for Wagyu, which utilizes a selective mixture of grains, forage (e.g. pasture, hay or silage), and feed additives to achieve the distinct flavour and marbling appearance that is revered globally.  

BC beef cattle are mainly raised on forages then finished on a high-energy grain diet until they reach their optimum weight. To economically produce Wagyu beef in BC, different finishing diets need to be carefully studied.  A forage-based diet followed by a conventional cereal grain-based feedlot finishing diet will be compared to Hydrogreen’s hydroponically produce grass ration supplemented with Whey developed by Bill Vanderkooi at Bakerview Ecodairy in collaboration with Dr. Church from Thomson Rivers University.  In addition, the Team will further investigate the environmental, performance and health benefits of supplementing macroalgae (or seaweeds) into finishing diets.  Several different BC coastal marine microalgae, which are not commonly used in western beef production, will be tested as feed additives. The goal is to identify the ideal feed ration for finishing Wagyu steers and reproduce the characteristic marbling of Wagyu beef.  Careful quantification of key animal metrics will ensure the best finishing diet and macroalgae are selected for Wagyu production. If successful, there will be opportunity for others in the industry to emulate these methods in the future to capture price premiums and create a new high-end beef production system for ranchers in BC.