Beef-Cattle-Research-CenterRoxana Hegeman writes for the Associated Press that researchers at Kansas State University, inspired by the notion that eating more omega-3 fatty acids could decrease their risk of heart disease, are exploring whether the steaks and hamburgers from cattle fattened on algae can pass on those healthy fats.

Health-conscious consumers might be persuaded to eat more beef if it was fortified with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids naturally found in salmon and walnuts, according to the researchers and some ranchers who are feeding cattle marine algae as a wholesome dinner choice.

Kansas State researcher Dr. Jim Drouillard is faculty coordinator for the Beef Cattle Research Center.

Kansas State researcher Dr. Jim Drouillard is faculty coordinator for the Beef Cattle Research Center.

Algae contains the omega-3 type fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Nutrition experts say people should consume at least 250 mg per day of both because of their protective effects on the heart; DHA is also associated with infant brain development.

Ground beef from cattle that eat grass, a natural source of omega-3s, contains about 20 to 30 mg in a 5-ounce serving. That increases to at least 200 mg per 5-ounce serving when cattle are fed algae rations, Kansas State researcher Jim Drouillard said.

Cost comes into play when making omega-3 fortified beef more widely available. Researchers are examining whether algae is an economically feasible feed, given that commercial sources are scarce. Beef produced from cattle that eat algae contains more of the EPA and DHA fatty acids than cattle fed only flaxseed, according to Dr. MrDrouillard.