The world’s first national multi-breed genomic evaluation for sensory-based meat eating quality was launched at the Meat Technology Ireland centre, Ashtown, Dublin, today (Thursday, September 24).

The goal of genetic evaluations is to identify, as accurately as possible, genetically elite animals.

These animals are often chosen as parents of the next generation in the pursuit of genetic gain. Accurate genetic evaluations are predicated on large databases of performance, ancestry and DNA information.

One of the main objectives of the Meat Technology Ireland research programme was to generate such a database of informative and genetically diverse animals for meat eating quality, optimised for the generation of accurate national genomic evaluations pertinent to the Irish cattle population.

Sensory data collected on over 6,000 cattle, which began in November 2016, now resides within the database making it the largest such database globally used for genetic evaluations.

At the launch, Donagh Berry, Teagasc geneticist, said: “Ireland boasts a unique selling point of safe, nutritious and responsibly-produced beef, but are under constant threat from ever-aggressive competitors.

“We must continually innovate, and delivering year-on-year improvement in meat eating quality will become our new point of differentiation,” he added.

Andrew Cromie, technical director at the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), described the launch as a “significant occasion” in the delivery of “the world’s first national multi-breed genomic evaluation for sensory-based meat eating quality”.

The addition of meat eating quality genetic evaluations to the suite of traits already evaluated “propels Ireland to the fore for balanced breeding programmes in cattle”, the director claimed.

John Colreavy, director of Meat Technology Ireland (MTI), explained that MTI is an Enterprise Ireland, industry-led initiative that builds a strategic research and innovation base in beef and sheepmeat processing in Ireland.

Philip Carroll, chairman of Meat Industry Ireland (MII), welcomed the launch of this beef eating quality index, adding “this is an important milestone in the development of the MTI initiative”.

The index will be essential in delivering continuous improvement over time in terms of meat eating quality.

“Given the challenges currently facing the wider sector, this initiative will be important in helping exporters continue to secure the best export outlets possible for our beef.”