The Science of Breeding and Raising Cattle

As the article "Farmers to Benefit From World Biotech Revolution," Feb. 18, correctly notes, gene mapping is not new to breeders. The cattle industry has been pursuing research in this area to identify the genetic traits that influence the production of leaner beef. However, it is only one weapon in the industry's "war on fat."

The beef industry's "war on fat" includes other high-tech tools, such as ultrasound technology, that will evaluate carcass composition and sophisticated new computer software that will help retailers provide leaner beef at a better value to consumers. The "war" will lead to leaner cattle and 20 percent less trimmable fat while maintaining beef's taste quality by 1995.

Significant advances toward this goal are already visible, as most cattle and beef carcasses contain more lean meat and less fat than in former years. In just five years, the beef industry has reduced fat in retail cuts by 27 percent and 1991 saw the introduction and success of new low-fat ground beef products.

As a result of the "war on fat" effort, the beef industry will not only satisfy demands for leaner meat, but also make today's beef even more economical for consumers by increasing and lowering production costs.

While gene mapping may seem far removed from the cattle we see grazing contently in pastures in the US, it actually will play a significant role, along with other "war on fat" components, in bringing leaner beef to market. Gary Wilson, Washington, Director, Research and Food Policy National Cattlemen's Association

The article "Desert Tortoise vs. Grazing Cattle," Feb. 12, correctly states that "cattle trample the soil, affecting its ability to hold moisture for vegetation." But in the context of the article the meaning is that cattle decrease the soil's moisture-holding ability. Actually, the opposite is the case.

In desert areas where the soil's crust is particularly hard due to long intervals of sun without rain, cattle's hooves perform the service of tilling. Without it, rain will run off faster and evaporate more quickly; less moisture will enter the earth, and fewer seeds will germinate. There will be less vegetation and more erosion. E. B. Severin, Alpine, Texas

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