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Health benefits of beef brisket discussed

Ground beef produced from brisket contains high levels of oleic acid, which increases levels of good cholesterol in people.

Texas barbecue is famous for beef brisket, and as a bonus for barbecue fans, it has many healthful traits, said Dr. Stephen Smith, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist.

Ground beef produced from the brisket contains high levels of oleic acid, which increases levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, in people, Smith told beef producers at the recent 62nd Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course held at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

That’s good news, because the popularity of barbecue as well as overall ground beef consumption continues to increase annually.

“Brisket has higher oleic acid than the flank or plate (cuts), which are the trims typically used to produce ground beef. The fat in brisket also has a low melting point; that’s why the brisket is so juicy. ... The brisket has become one of the preferred trims to produce ground beef,” said Smith, a professor in the department of animal science at Texas A&M. “Americans consume over 50% of their beef as ground beef. They use it in many recipes, not just to make hamburgers. Also, more than 25% of the beef carcass is used to produce ground beef, which improves the sustainability of beef production.”

A series of studies summarizing Smith’s work soon will be submitted to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. This encompasses research looking at ground beef intake and plasma risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes in men and women. Recently, he co-authored a research article on marbling for the association, which is available at http://bit.ly/1EwH8x6.

“The primary goal of my research program is to evaluate methods to increase the marbling and healthfulness of beef,” Smith said. “My universe revolves around oleic acid. It’s the most abundant fatty acid in beef. It’s also most abundant in canola oil and olive oil. When cattle are fed high-concentrate diets for a long period, the meat becomes high in oleic acid and other monounsaturated fats. Oleic acid is very high in Japanese Black cattle such as American Wagyu beef.”

Smith said Wagyu beef is known for its high marbling and monounsaturated fat. The animals produce a highly marbled product, and the more marbling, the healthier its fat composition, Smith said.

“Also, if you are producing ground beef from grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef, the grass-fed beef will have distinctly different flavors,” he said.

In studies conducted at Texas A&M, Smith said results have shown that HDL always increases in men and women who consume ground beef that's high in oleic acid, such as grain-fed beef from Angus, Wagyu or Akaushi cattle. In the tests conducted at Texas A&M, Smith said participants consumed five beef patties per week for five or six weeks.

“Ground beef is not going to kill you,” he said. “When you take the fat out of beef, it reduces (the bad cholesterol) but also reduces HDL,” he said. “Our studies have shown that fat is a very important component of beef.”

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