LUBBOCK, Texas — Brad Johnson, a professor in the Meat Science and Muscle Biology in the Dept. of Animal & Food Sciences at Texas Tech Univ., recently received a $239,693 USDA grant to make beef healthier through different marbling factors.

Johnson and other researchers are looking to find out whether intramuscular adipose tissue, or marbling, can be promoted without increasing back fat in beef cows or subcutaneous adipose tissue. 

The grant is sponsored by the US Dept. of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service and the Texas AgriLife Research.

“This research would improve the sustainability of beef production worldwide if we can find novel ways to improve marbling without increasing the obesity or adiposity of the cattle,” Johnson said.

In the press release, Johnson pointed to activating a key receptor, the G-coupled protein receptor (GPR43), which is significant in marbling but not as much in the back fat.

Research by Johnson and colleagues have found that oleic acid, a fatty acid that has been shown to have positive effect on human health such as controlling cholesterol and reducing cardiovascular issues, strongly affects GPR43 activation. In his hypothesis, Johnson said the acid could be critical to activating GPR43, which could increase marbling without the fat.

During the research, Johnson will test it using laboratory cell culture models and cattle during different stages of growth. The Texas Tech lab can grow both marbling and back fat cells.