Is This a Good Investment?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in a September 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) projects featured in this column are funded by the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off. When the checkoff increased a few years ago, the BCRC’s budget rose from around 15 cents to 67 cents per head marketed. This allowed us to start some new research programs. Now that we’re a few years in I can update you on how they’re going.

One is our “Proof of Concept” program. Research is complicated and costly, so we have independent scientists review each research proposal to make sure it is scientifically sound and likely to achieve its goal before investing your dollars into it. Sometimes the reviewers say, “This is an interesting project, but it’s really costly, and it all hinges on an untested idea. It’d be better if they had some preliminary evidence that this new idea is worth pursuing, before funding a costly, full-scale project.”

In 2018 the BCRC started funding Proof of Concept projects to gather these preliminary results and help decide whether these new ideas are worth scaling up into full-scale research trials. Here’s what two of the first Proof of Concept projects told us.
intercropping corn and high-protein forages for better beef cattle nutrition
Exploring corn intercropping strategies to increase protein and profitability of beef cattle grazing:
Corn’s high yields and energy content make it a popular wintering grazing crop for some Western Canadian producers. However, it’s low protein content may make it unsuitable for younger, growing cattle. Seeding corn together with high protein forages may be a way around this challenge.

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Nutritional Qualities of Beef

It’s important to understand how what we eat impacts our health and daily life but it can be hard to sift through the volume of information – and disinformation – that is out there. The BCRC has updated a web page that focuses on facts about beef nutrition. We also encourage you to check out www.thinkbeef.ca, which contains current Canadian beef nutritional information.

Beef is increasingly being portrayed as an optional protein however beef contains a total package of nutrients that are essential at every life stage. Beef contains essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc, selenium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, phosphorus, pantothenate, magnesium, and potassium. It is impossible to get this combination of nutrients, in a single, dense package, from plant-based foods. In fact, a recent Canadian study demonstrates that gram-for-gram, beef is more nutrient dense and more economical than many other protein foods.

Dietary Patterns

Canadian diets are changing and not necessarily for the better. Nutritional guidelines are largely based on whole ingredients and home-cooked foods, however today, more foods than ever are processed, packaged, and eaten with minimal home-preparation. On average, Canadians are consuming nearly half of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods, which are often high in sodium, fat, calories, and sugar. Meanwhile, only five per cent of their calories are consumed from nutrient-rich red meat, such as beef. Continue reading