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Kansas company launching ALA-enhanced ground beef

By Hank Schultz , 01-Nov-2012
Last updated on 01-Nov-2012 at 15:32 GMT

A Kansas company has taken the next step in omega-3s fortification by developing a way to boost the levels of n-3 fatty acids in beef.

The company, NBO3 Technologies, based in Manhattan, Kan., is days away from a regional first product to market, GreatO Premium Ground Beef, with a nationwide launch set for 2013.

NBO3 Technologies boosts the ALA omega-3 level in their meat products by improving the feed fed to the cattle.  It’s a feeding protocol that has been under development for almost a decade in conjunction with Kansas State University.

Start at the cow's front end

NBO3's feeding protocol starts with the company’s proprietary feed, which delivers a diet naturally rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids derived from flax seeds and other natural whole grains.  The company says the protocol puts weight on the cattle on more efficiently and the cattle stay healthier, requiring little to no antibiotics (therapeutic or sub-therapeutic) versus traditional commodity beef.

“It’s exciting to have a product that is the first of its type,” Bill O’Neill, vice president of sales for NBO3, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“I’m an omega-3s believer, and I think that it’s great that we can provide it in products that are highly used, like beef.”

Flax is a source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is converted by the body into DHA and EPA, although at very low rates.  There is much more scientific evidence of the health benefits of DHA and EPA, sourced from fish, algae, krill or other marine invertebrates. But even though ALA is not an efficient way to deliver DHA and EPA, many scientific authorities agree that ALA consumption is important in its own right.

Three times more ALA than grass fed beef

And NBO3’s feeding techniques do greatly enhance the ALA content of their beef versus their competitors.  They deliver a high enough level consistently enough that they have received USDA approval to put an omega-3 content claim on the label.

Beef produced through conventional feed yard operations contains almost no ALA, O’Neill said.  Grass fed beef contains more, up to 70 mg per 3 oz. serving, but that result can vary, as it is highly dependant on the quality of the grass.  NBO3’s beef makes a label claim of 200 mg of ALA per serving.

The better feed and extra care inherent in the protocol raises costs, but the company is sensitive to its price point and wants to focus on getting the beef’s omega-3 benefits into the hands of as many consumers as possible, said chief executive Todd Hansen.

“It is going to have a price premium, but that is relative to the commodity beef price,” he said.  “We certainly don’t view it as a ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ positioning. We are focused on scale.”

Full product range planned

In addition to the ground beef, NBO3 has plans to bring to market other beef products, as well as chick, pork products (including bacon) and milk, butter and cream all with boosted ALA levels. The company says it has a ‘farm-to-fork’ supply chain in place composed of exclusive and selected manufacturers for the production of the proprietary feed; a network of regional dairies, calf ranches, growers and feed yards to supply animals to the process; regional packers and processors to harvest and manufacture products that will be marketed regionally; and, finally, grocers and restaurateurs to deliver the product to the consumer. 

“It’s always great to hear about new products, especially ones that take nutrition into consideration,” said Shalene McNeill, PhD, executive director of nutrition research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “People love beef and they want to feel good about eating it and it has a lot of nutritional benefits to offer.”

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