Enhancing the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content of beef is important in view of the generally saturated nature of fatty acids in ruminant meats and the negative effect this can have on human health. This study examined the effects of different sources of dietary n-3 PUFA on the performance of steers and the fatty acid composition of m. longissimus thoracis muscle and associated subcutaneous adipose tissue. Animals were fed ad libitum on grass silage plus one of four concentrates (60:40 forage:concentrate on a DM basis) containing differing sources of lipid: Megalac (16:0), lightly bruised whole linseed (18:3n-3), fish oil (20:5n-3 and 22:6n-3) and a mixture of linseed and fish oil (1:1, on an oil basis). Diets were formulated so that total dietary oil intake was 6 %, approximately half of which was from the experimental test oil. Linseed feeding not only increased the levels of 18:3n-3 in muscle phospholipid from 9·5 to 19 mg/100 g muscle but also enhanced the synthesis of 20:5n-3, the level of which increased from 10 to 15 mg/100 g muscle. Linseed also increased the proportion of 18:3n-3 in muscle neutral lipid and in adipose tissue lipids by a factor of 1·64 and 1·75 respectively. Fish oil feeding doubled the proportion of 20:5n-3 and 22:6n-3 in muscle phospholipids. The proportion of 18:1 trans in muscle neutral lipid was higher on the n-3 PUFA diets than the control diet, 0·04 and 0·02 respectively. Despite the implied modification to rumen metabolism, lipid source did not affect feed intake, growth rate, cold carcass weight or carcass fatness, but carcass conformation score was higher on fish oil treatments (P<0·05). However, total muscle fatty acid content was not different between treatments and ranged from 3·5–4·3 % of tissue weight. The increase in n-3 PUFA in the meat produced by feeding linseed or fish oil lowered the n-6:n-3 ratio but had little effect on the P:S ratio.
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