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The Beef That’s (Almost) as Healthy as Salmon

The latest food and health breakthrough: Fortified beef.

Millions of Americans take fish oil supplements because there are so many ways the human body benefits from omega-3 fatty acids (like boosting our memory and eye health), but we don’t get enough from food sources. Sure, there’s salmon, nuts, and seeds, but consumers run into problems with allergies and taste preferences. As a solution, researchers at Kansas State University have looked into the potential of enhancing beef with omega-3 fatty acids. 

U.S. consumers eat, on average, four times as much beef (63 pounds) as they do fish (16 pounds), according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so this would definitely fill some holes in our diets, but how exactly would the process work?

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Study author Sean Fox says the fortification of omega-3 fatty acids in beef would occur in the cattle feeding process. Ingredients high in omega-3s would be added to the animals' food. Fox and K-State animal scientists found that adding an algae extract to cattles' diets enhanced levels of EPA and DHA (two different types of omega-3s found in salmon and other fatty fish) in the beef product. This is particularly good news because when researchers added flaxseed to cattle feed in the past, they were only able to enhance ALA (the most common omega-3), which is still good, but not as good for us as EPA and DHA, according to Fox. 

We already drink orange juice fortified with calcium and cereal fortified with various vitamins and minerals, so it begs the question—well, a few questions—is it a big deal to fortify steaks? And would you be willing to pay more money for the enhanced meat? 

Fox conducted a survey on consumers across the country to gauge their interest and response to this enhanced beef product and looked to determine what consumers would be willing to pay for it compared to other beef products.

They found consumers had an increased preference for grass-fed beef over the omega-3 enhanced beef, but there was still a marked increased in demand for the omega-3 enhanced product. People were also willing to pay a premium for it—about $1.85 more a pound for enriched steak and $0.79 a pound more for enriched ground beef.  

Salmon will still reign king, providing 10 times the amount of omega-3s than enriched beef products—at least 2,000 mg in a 5-ounce serving, NBC reports, but this fortified beef may bring more nutrients into our diet—not by making us drastically change our diets, but by enhancing the food we already eat the most of. 

Researchers haven't yet announced when the omega-3 enhanced beef will come to market, but we'll stay tuned. 

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