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An overview of the nutritional value of beef and lamb meat from South America

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The southern region of South America, a subtropical and temperate zone, is an important region for the production of beef and lamb meat, which is mainly produced in extensive pasture-based systems. Because of its content in highly valuable nutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, fatty acids, and vitamins, meat is a unique and necessary food for the human diet in order to secure a long and healthy life, without nutritional deficiencies. Beef and lamb production systems based on temperate or tropical grasslands show interesting and, in some cases, a differential content in minerals, fatty acids and vitamins. This review deals with the distinctive aspects of the nutritional quality of beef and lamb meat produced in this region in terms of nutritional composition and the bioavailability of key nutrients related to its contribution for a healthy diet for all ages.
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An overview of the nutritional value of beef and lamb meat from
South America
M.C. Cabrera
Depto. Producción Animal & Pasturas, Laboratorio Nutrición& Calidad de Alimentos, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de la República,Garzón 809,Montevideo, Uruguay
Fisiología & Nutrición, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Calle Igúa4225, Montevideo, Uruguay
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 14 April 2014
Received in revised form 20 June 2014
Accepted 21 June 2014
Available online xxxx
Nutritional value
South America
The southern region of South America, a subtropical and temperate zone, is an important region for the produc-
tion of beef and lamb meat, which is mainlyproduced in extensive pasture-basedsystems. Because of its content
in highly valuable nutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium,fatty acids, and vitamins, meat is a unique and necessary
food for the human diet in order to secure a long and healthylife, without nutritional deciencies. Beef and lamb
production systems based on temperate or tropicalgrasslands show interesting and, in some cases, a differential
content in minerals, fatty acids and vitamins. This review deals with the distinctive aspects of the nutritional
quality of beef and lamb meatproduced inthis regionin terms of nutritional composition and the bioavailability
of key nutrients relatedto its contribution for a healthy diet for all ages.
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Beef and lamb meat is a major source of high quality dietary proteins
for human metabolic processes due to its constituent amino acids.In ad-
dition, the peptides derivate during the digestion process in human
were found to possess known biological functions as well as potential
health-promoting functions (Bauchart et al., 2007; Chibuike & Ashton,
2013). This meat is also rich in microminerals such as iron, selenium,
zinc, copper and manganese. All of them are essential, because of their
role in key metabolism pathways and in the antioxidative enzymatic
system. As for the lipid content in meat, fat provides indispensable
dietary energy and essential nutrients such as essential fatty acids and
fat-soluble vitamins. The lipid content of meatcontributes to its cooking
characteristics, palatability and overall organoleptic properties (Wood
et al., 2008). However, the cholesterol levels and saturated fatty acid
composition determine the grade of acceptance of meat by consumers,
and condition its nutritional value in accordance with the usual dietary
recommendations (United States Department of Agriculture,
Agricultural Marketing Service, 2007; Vannice & Rasmussen, 2014).
Meat from beef or lamb also offers additional nutritional advantages,
particularly a high content in B vitamins, especially B12, B2, PP and
B6. Vitamins provided by red meat constitute the main contribution to
the dietary requirements for all ages (Bourre, 2006).
The content of most of these nutrients present in beef meat can be
modied by the production system, muscle type, breed or age at slaugh-
ter of the animals (Ammerman, Loaiza, Blue, Gamble, & Martin, 1974;
Cabrera, Ramos, Saadoun, & Brito, 2010; Duckett, Wagner, Yates,
Dolezal, & May, 1993; Realini, Duckett, Brito, Dalla Rizza, & De Mattos,
2004). A good example could be the fatty acid composition when
meat from grain-nished animals is compared to pasture-nished ani-
mals (Realini et al., 2004). Furthermore, the geographic site of rearing
(Hintze, Lardy, Marchello, & Finley, 2001, 2002) and feeding practices
(Purchas & Busboom, 2005) have an impact on the level content of
the minerals, vitamins andfatty acids. The best example could be the se-
lenium, when comparing the beef meat from America to that
from Europe and Australia (Williamson, Foster, Stanner, & Buttriss,
South America is an important region for the production of beef and
lamb meat, which is mainly produced in extensive pasture-based sys-
tems. This region of the world produces and exports food that is highly
valuable for health and that has distinctive characteristics depending on
the use of temperate or tropical grasslands (Cabrera et al., 2010; De la
Fuente et al., 2009; del Campo et al., 2008; Oliver et al., 2006; Realini
et al., 2004, 2009). The current review summarizes the nutritional char-
acteristics of beef and lamb meat produced in subtropical and temper-
ate regions of South America from studies conducted in pasture-based
production systems. Updated data about the nutritional composition
of key nutrients, such as minerals, fatty acids and vitamins in meat
produced in different countries of the region will be discussed in
relation to the contribution of essential nutrients for a healthy diet for
all ages.
Meat Science xxx (2014) xxxxxx
Corresponding authorat: Depto. ProducciónAnimal & Pasturas, Laboratorio Nutrición
& Calidad de Alimentos, Facultad de Agronomía, Garzón 809, Montevideo, Uruguay.
E-mail address: (M.C. Cabrera).
MESC-06477; No of Pages 10
0309-1740 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Meat Science
journal homepage:
Please citethis article as: Cabrera,M.C., & Saadoun, A., An overview of the nutritionalvalue of beef and lamb meat from South America, Meat Sci-
ence (2014),
2. Minerals
Meat can be dened as a food that is low in calcium and high in K,
P, Na, Zn and Fe. Meanwhile the Se, Cu and I contents can vary ac-
cording to the pasture quality. Today, mineral deciencies in humans
are common worldwide and there are numerous pieces of evidence
which suggest that these deciencies may play a negative role in
children's development, pregnancy and elderly health (Black, 2003;
Failla, 2003; Grantham-McGregor & Ani, 2001; Hambridge & Krebs,
2007). Furthermore, minerals such as Se, Cu, Zn, Fe, and Mn are key
to the enzymatic system which counteracts the free radicals in the
organism (Black, 2003).
The consumption of meat can be an effective way to respond
qualitatively and quantitatively to the mineral requirements of
human nutrition. Beef or lamb meat can be used in a varied diet in
order to counteract the mineral deciencies in human diet.
There is an increasing need to valorize meat produced on pas-
tures in South America in the international meat market. Achieving
this will be useful both for regional farmers as well as for con-
sumers around the world (Oliver et al., 2006). As a consequence,
in recent years we have witnessed an increase of information gen-
erated about the mineral composition of meat (Cabrera et al., 2010;
Farfan & Samman, 2003; Giuffrida-Mendoza, Arenas de Moreno,
Uzcátegui-Bracho, Rincón-Villalobos, & Huerta-Leidenz, 2007;
Huerta-Leidenz, Arenas de Moreno, Moron-Fuenmayor, &
Uzcátegui-Bracho, 2003; Ramos, Cabrera, & Saadoun, 2012). Like-
wise, generating information related to the bioaccessibility of
trace minerals in meat, which is obtained from pasture nished an-
imals, is essential in order to ascertain their nutritional efcienc y in
maintaining and improving human health (Ramos et al., 2012).
2.1. Iron
Meat is a major source of total iron and hemeiron, which consist pri-
marily of myoglobin and hemoglobin, a protein essential for respiratory
process and tissue oxygenation (Benito & Miller, 1998; Cabrera et al.,
2010; Santaella, Martínez, Ros, & Periago, 1997). However, iron de-
ciency, which causes anemia, is prevalent worldwide, particularly in
women, and is linked to apathy, depression and rapid fatigue during
exercising (Bourre, 2006). Likewise, anemia causes low productivity
and lower well-being in adults (Haas & Brownlie, 2001).Iron concentra-
tions in the umbilical artery are critical during the development of the
fetus, and are strongly related to the child's IQ (O'Brien, Zavaleta,
Abrams, & Cauleld, 2003). Infantile anemia, with its associated iron
deciency, is linked to a disturbance of the development of cognitive
functions (Grantham-McGregor & Ani, 2001). In addition, iron de-
ciency is found in children with attention-decit and hyperactivity
disorder (Konofal, Lecendreux, Arnulf, & Mouren, 2004). In France,
the SU.VI.MAX study (Hercberg et al., 2004) showed that 93% of
women of childbearing age ingest less iron than is advised by the
RDA, 56.2% consume less than two-thirds of the suggested amounts
(Galan et al., 1998), 23% have totally depleted iron reserves, and
4.4% have a sufciently severe decit that can lead to iron deciency
anemia, with the well-known accompanying difculties and pathol-
ogies. As for South America, in Argentina, a national health and
nutrition survey conducted in 2005 (Argentina, 2007; Koga et al.,
2008) reported the following anemia rates: 16.5% in children aged
672 months, 18.7% in non-pregnant women aged 1049 years and
30.5% in pregnant women. In Uruguay, the estimated population suf-
fering anemia was 16.9% in non-pregnant women and 27.1% in preg-
nant women aged 1549 years (PAHO, 2009).
In consequence, beef and lamb meat could help reduce this impor-
tant worldwide human health concern. Data from Cabrera et al.
(2010) showed interesting values of iron found in seven cuts (Fig.1)ob-
tained from Hereford and Braford steers fed pasture (1.7 to 4.6 mg/100
g fresh meat). In that investigation, the iron content of the Longissimus
dorsi m. showed values between 3.7 and 3.8 mg/ 100 g fresh meat.
Meat from Creole and Crebu animals (Creole crossbred with Zebu), pro-
duced on grass in Argentina, showed 2.0 to 2.8 mg of iron/100 g fresh
meat from the Longissimus dorsi m. (Farfan & Samman, 2003). A recent
report from Brazil (de Freitas et al., 2014) showed lower values in
meat from Longissimus dorsi m. in Hereford and Braford steers
(1.11.52 mg/100 g fresh meat). The different results obtained in
the two countries (Brazil vs. Uruguay), both with pasture-
nished animals, similar genotype and age, and adequate levels of
iron soil (Gonçalves, Meurer, Bortolon, & Gonçalves, 2011), could
be explained by differences in iron forms due to soil alkalinity
(Lindsay, 1995; Nunes, Novais, Silva, Gebrim, & São José, 2004).
Indeed, iron content in soils with a pH N6 is scarcely available for
grasses (Lindsay, 1995; Prado, 2008). Also, the level of iron
*Actual values of Se, Cu and Mn were multiplicated by factor 10 to improve visualization.
Fig. 1. Composition of Fe, Zn, Se, Cu and Mn of seven meat cuts from Hereford and
Braford steers fed on pasture. Bars are means (n = 1015). For clarity, error
bars and signications were omitted in this gure. T = tenderloin. E = eye of
rump. S = striploin. ER = eye round. TT = tri-tip. RR = rib eye roll. RP = 3 rib
plate-ank on.
Reproduced from Cabrera et al. (2010) with the authorization of Elsevier.
2M.C. Cabrera, A. Saadoun / Meat Science xxx (2014) xxxxxx
Please citethis article as: Cabrera,M.C., & Saadoun, A., An overview of the nutritionalvalue of beef and lamb meat from South America, Meat Sci-
ence (2014),
contained in a type of pasture and its bioavailability during diges-
tion (Horvath, 1972) could affect the nal content in tissues.
For heme iron, the most bioaccessible form of iron present in meat,
the investigation reported by Ramos et al. (2012) showed a range of
values between 2.4 and 3.3 mg/100 g of fresh meat in Hereford and
2.0 and 2.6 mg/100 g in Braford. In another investigation, Cabrera,
Pereiro, and Saadoun (2013) showed in Aberdeen Angus steers, a
range of values between 2.1 and 2.2 mg/100 g of fresh meat. No more
data are available in scientic literature from South America to compare.
In fact, much work remains to be done in this aspect.
When aged meat was evaluated, there was no effect on the muscles'
iron content (Ramos et al., 2012). Thus, the iron loss after aging for
14 days, as conducted in Uruguay, is negligible. However, aging reduced
the heme iron content (Fig. 3) in muscles studied by Ramos et al.
(2012). No more data about the effect of aging on the heme iron content
in meat could be sourced in the literature. The aging is a process which
consists in the refrigeration of vacuum treated meat between 1 and 2 °C
for 14 days, sometimes more. The aging is carried out in order to en-
hance the meat's tenderness.
To our knowledge, in South America, only Ramos et al. (2012) studied
the bioaccessibility of iron present in meat in fresh and aged meat. The
bioaccessibility of iron in three muscles of Hereford and Braford breeds
showed values between 60 and 70%. No breed, muscle or aging main ef-
fects were observed. It is interesting to note that the bioaccesibility of
iron does not seem to be affected by aging, as commonly used in Uruguay.
In lamb meat (Ile de Franceand Ideal mixed) from animals raised on
pasture of Cynodon dactylon in Brazil, it was found that the iron content
was signicantly higher in adults (3.7 mg/100 g fresh meat) than in
young animals (2.90 mg/100 g fresh meat). Also, signicant differences
were observed in iron from different cuts, leg-chump and shank on,
shoulder oyster cut or short loin (1.91, 2.81 and 2.96 mg/100 g fresh
meat, respectively) as reported by Pinheiro, Sobrinho, de Souza, and
Yamamoto (2007).Hoke, Buege, Ellefson, and Maly (1999) also found
that different lamb cuts or muscles have different contents of iron.
The values found in lamb meat by Pinheiro et al. (2007) in Brazil are
slightly higher than those from Van Heerden, Schonfeldt, Kruger, and
Smit (2007) in South Africa (0.99 mg iron/100 g of fresh loin,
0.75 mg/100 g fresh shoulder and 1.14 mg/100 g fresh leg), but similar
to values from Australia and New Zealand, as summarized by Van
Heerden et al. (2007). Gender, age, muscle type, site of rearing, feeding
practices and processing are proposed as probable factors responsible
for the differences in the content of iron in lamb meat (Pannier et al.,
2014). It is likely that gender and/or pasture type and/or soil type are
inuencingthe iron contentin the Brazilian studies. Despite these vari-
ations in the total iron content,lamb meat could be included in a healthy
diet as an important source of iron.
No data about the effect of aging and bioaccessibility on iron in lamb
meat were available in the scienticliterature.
2.2. Selenium
Selenium is an essential trace element for humans. Through its in-
corporation into selenoproteins, it plays a key role in maintaining health
(Zeng, Botnen, & Johnson, 2008), while an insufciency predisposes to
diseases associated with oxidative stress and reduces the immunefunc-
tion and resistance to some viral infections (Darnton-Hill, 2008; Wang
& Fu, 2012). Selenium plays a crucial role at the catalytic site of multiple
selenoproteins such as the cellular glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px)
and thioredoxin reductases (Zeng et al., 2008). While the former cata-
lyzes the reduction of hydroperoxides and hydrogen peroxide by
mg/kg wet tissue
Fresh meat
Aged meat
mg/kg wet tissue
Iron content Iron bioaccesibility
Main effect:Breed ++; Muscle +++; Ageing NS Main effect:Breed NS; Muscle NS; Ageing NS
Fig. 2. Iron content and bioaccesibility in three muscles of Hereford and Brafordsteers. Bars are means ± SEM (n = 12). Symbol* when included at the top of the bars shows, within the
same breed and muscle, signicant difference between fresh and aged meat(pb0.05). The letters were included in the gure, only if signicant differences (pb0.05) were detected.
Different uppercase letters show signicant differences between muscles for aged meat. Main effects: ++ = pb0.01; +++ = pb0.001; NS = not signicant. PM = m. Psoas major;
GM = m. Gluteus medius;LD=m.Longissimus dorsi.
Reproduced from Ramos et al. (2012) with the authorization of Elsevier.
3M.C. Cabrera, A. Saadoun / Meat Science xxx (2014) xxxxxx
Please citethis article as: Cabrera,M.C., & Saadoun, A., An overview of the nutritionalvalue of beef and lamb meat from South America, Meat Sci-
ence (2014),
reduced glutathione, the latter catalyzes the NADPH-dependent reduc-
tion of the redox protein thioredoxin, and both functions act to protect
cells from oxidative damage (Wang & Fu, 2012). It was suggested that
selenium might also be anticarcinogenic and that it can prevent CVD,
while a low selenium intake has been associated with an increased
risk of cancer and could even inuence the risk of CVD (Zeng, 2009).
Low intakes of selenium have been reported in France and Germany
(Mensink et al., 2013). It has also been acknowledged that intakes of se-
lenium in the UK have been decreasing over the past 20 years (SACN,
2013). The most probable cause of this decrease seems to be related to
the fact that the European wheat has replaced selenium-rich wheat
from Canada and USA (BNF, 2002; Mensink et al., 2013).
Meat is a valuable source of selenium, since it can contribute to a
large proportion of the RDA. Nonetheless, selenium in meat is primarily
determined by its geographical origin (Hintze et al., 2001, 2002). It has
been clearly determined that meat from America is much more concen-
trated in selenium than meat fromEurope (Franke, Gremaud, Hadorn, &
Kreuzer, 2005). Beef meat from South America contains remarkable
amounts of selenium, as shown by Cabrera et al. (2010),Cabrera,
Ramos, and Saadoun (2013)an d Ramos et al. (2012). The selenium con-
tents in meat from pasture fed steers in Uruguay ranged between 0.42
and 1.20 mg/kg wet tissue in Hereford breed and between 0.49 and
1.3 mg/kg in Braford breed in a study including seven cuts (Cabrera
et al., 2010). In a more recent comparative investigation conducted in
Uruguay, meat from pasture fed Aberdeen Angus steers contained
more selenium than steers fed only concentrate-based diet (Cabrera et
al., 2013a; Cabrera et al., 2013b). These ndings are contrary to those
from Gatellier, Mercier, and Renerre (2004), which could be attributed
to the fact that the selenium content in grains in France, grains which
are probably acquired outside of France, is higher than the selenium in
french grasses (Hintze et al., 2001). It's likely that the differences in
the selenium concentrations of meat result from a combination of dif-
ferent production practices, concentrate diet and availability of trace
mineralized salt, as well as the geographic origin of grains used for the
intensive diets and region of rearing. Also, the selenium content and
species of both plant and animal foodstuffs depend on environmental
conditions, in particular, the quantity and species of selenium to
which the animal/plant is exposed (Whanger 2002). Grant and
Sheppard (1983) have found that Lucerna accumulated more Se than
the other species of pastures in New Zealand. Also, Mikkelsen, Page
and Bingham (1989) report that factors such as botanical species, sele-
nium species, soil chemical and physical factors such as pH, soil texture,
organic matter content, and the presence of ions such as SO
also inuence the Se uptake by plants. In spite of the fact that
grass species could inuence the level of selenium in meat there are
only a few reports that reveal more about the natural sources of seleni-
um on pasture production systems.
There is limited data on the forms of selenium in animal food-
stuffs, but it appears that the major forms are selenomethionine
and selenocysteine, which are incorporated nonspecically into
muscle protein (Bierla et al., 2008). For this reason, selenium in
beef meat has a high bioavailability (Hawkes, Alkan, & Oehler,
2003) and, in that sense, it is the most important source of selenium
in the human diet, with the exception of the Brazilian nuts.
In a work conducted in Uruguay (Ramos et al., 2012), selenium bio-
accessibility, determined with an in vitro model simulating the diges-
tion for an adult, ranged between 75 and 91% in three fresh muscles
from Hereford and Braford steers. No moredata are available in scientif-
ic literature from South America to compare. Wen et al. (1997) deter-
mined in beef a bioavailability of 80% for beef and 58% for lamb meat.
Animals grazing the plains of Dakota with high soil Se concentrations
may contain Se primarily as selenium methionine, and this form has
been found to have a high bioavailability of Se (Finley, 2000).
Ramos et al. (2012) reported also that the selenium content signi-
cantly decreases after 14 days of aging in meat from the Hereford breed.
This effect was not observed in theBraford breed (Fig. 2). The modica-
tion in selenium retention provoked by aging is a factor to consider
since this process could negatively affect the selenium content in
some muscles, particularly inthe Hereford breed. No report which com-
pares selenium content and bioaccessibility in beef meat, before and
after aging, could be found in the literature. Since aging is currently
used in Uruguay, when meat has to be soldas refrigerated unprocessed
meat, this point regarding selenium has to be considered in future
In relation to lamb meat, no data about selenium content in meat
could be sourced in the scientic literature.
2.3. Zinc
An insufcient intake of zinc causes anemia, fatigue, poor growth,
rickets and impaired cognitive performance in humans (Murphy &
Allen, 2003). Zinc participates, among other things, in the perception
of taste (Chou, Chien, Huang, & Lu, 2001). A diet containing low zinc
impairs the extracellular superoxide dismutase (Davis, Milne, &
Nielsen, 2000). Zinc is involved in the activity of about 100 enzymes,
e.g. RNA polymerase, carbonic anhydrase, CuZn superoxide dismut-
ase, and angiotensin I converting enzyme. It is also present in Zn-
ngers associated with DNA (Goldhaber, 2003). Zinc deciency can
cause DNA damage linked to cancer risk and leads to systemic
inammation. In addition, immune system cells are also particularly
vulnerable to zinc deciencies.
A recent report estimated that 17.3% of the world's population is at
risk of inadequate zinc intake (Wessells & Brown, 2012). While zinc de-
ciency is common in developing countries (N25%) and is mainly
associated with malnutrition, moderate and middle deciencies are
common in developed countries (7.5%; Gibson, Heath, & Ferguson,
mg/kg wet tissue
50 Fresh meat
Aged meat
mg/kg wet tissue
Heme iron
Main eect: Breed +++; Muscle +++; Ageing +++
Fig. 3. Hemeiron content in threemuscles of Hereford and Brafordsteers fed pasture.Bars
are means ± SEM (n = 12). Symbol * when includedat the top of the bars shows, within
the samebreed and muscle, signicant difference betweenfresh and aged meat (pb0.05).
The letterswere included in the gure,only if signicantdifferences weredetected. Differ-
ent uppercase letters show signicant differences (pb0.05) between muscles for aged
meat. Main effects: +++ = pb0.001. PM = m. Psoas major;GM=m.Gluteus medius;
LD = m. Longissimus dorsi.
Reproduced from Ramos et al. (2012) with the authorization of Elsevier.
4M.C. Cabrera, A. Saadoun / Meat Science xxx (2014) xxxxxx
Please citethis article as: Cabrera,M.C., & Saadoun, A., An overview of the nutritionalvalue of beef and lamb meat from South America, Meat Sci-
ence (2014),
Beef meat is one of the richest sources of highly bioavailable zinc,
which could ensure adequate RDA levels. Studies conducted in
Uruguay (Cabrera et al., 2010) showed that Hereford as well as Braford
meat from animals that rear on pasture contains a slightly lower zinc
level (2.33.7 mg/100 g fresh meat), in comparison to other previously
published reports. The level observed in the present samples could be
explained by the reduced level of Zn in pasture in Uruguay (Morón &
Baethgen, 1998). Curiously, the rib plate ank on cut (not included in
the previous level range), typically used in South America (where it is
called asado), showed 7.0 mg/100 g fresh meat level of Zn in Hereford
and Braford breeds (Fig. 1). Similar results were reported by Rock
(2002). In the report of Lombardi-Boccia, Lanzi, and Aguzzi (2005),
the Zn levels in beef determined in different cuts purchased in the Ital-
ian market ranged from 3.94 to 4.75 mg/100 g fresh meat. In Brazil, de
Freitas et al. (2014) reported values of zinc contentin meat of Hereford
and Braford of 3.78 and 3.02 mg/100 g fresh meat, respectively.
The bioaccessibility of zinc in meat from Hereford and Braford steers
reared on pasture was 4050% (Ramos et al., 2012). That is in the same
order of the data for dialysability and bioavailability for zinc found by
Fairweather-Tait and Hurrell (1996).
The aging for 14 days did not modify either the zinc content or the
zinc bioaccessibility (Ramos et al., 2012).
No supplementary information could be sourced in the literature
neither in beef nor in lamb.
2.4. Copper and manganese
Copper and manganese play a key role in human superoxide dis-
mutase, which reduces one superoxide anion to hydrogen peroxide
and oxidizes a second superoxide anion in order to generate molec-
ular oxygen by means of either Cu or Mn present in the active site
of the cytosolic or mitochondrial enzyme, respectively (Fraga,
2005). An unbalanced copper and manganese metabolism homeo-
stasis, due to dietary deciency, could be linked to poor bone and
connective tissue development, nerve covering, and lower superox-
ide dismutase activity (Bayer et al., 2003).
Reports from Cabrera et al. (2010) showed that beef meat from Her-
eford and Braford steers has 0.020.11 mg/100 g fresh meat of copper.
Muscles from Braford breed have more copper than those from Here-
ford breed. These levels are lesser than those reported for meat from
Venezuela by Huerta-Leidenz et al. (2003) and Giuffrida-Mendoza
et al. (2007), and could be associated with Zebu-inuenced animals
reared in those countries. The genetic inuence of the Zebu breed, pres-
ent in the Braford steers (3/8 Bos indicus5/8 Bos taurus) may explain
the signicantly higher copper levels recorded in Braford in comparison
to Hereford cattle in the investigation of Cabrera et al. (2010).
Copper bioaccessibility in meat showed levels equal to or below 40%
for all muscles of the two breeds. After aging, copper bioaccessibility
showed an erratic response depending on the muscle (Cabrera et al.,
As for copper in lamb meat, unfortunately no supplementary data
was available for South America in the scientic literature.
There is limited information about manganese in beef meat from
South America in the scientic literature. Nonetheless, the studies con-
ducted by Cabrera et al. (2010) and Ramos et al. (2012) in Uruguay
showed that the content of manganese ranged between 0.05 and
0.5 mg/100 g fresh meat and was similar to those previously reported
by others.The bioaccessibility of manganese was apparently not affect-
ed by aging.
2.5. Contribution of meat to mineral intake
Just one 100 g-piece of meat from beef contributes notably to the
RDA of iron in humans. Furthermore, the chemical form of consumed
iron is of great importance to achieve its absorption and incorporation
into the organism. As explained before, the heme iron is the most
preferable chemical structure to consume this mineral in the diet
(Anderson, Fraser, & McLaren, 2009). The contribution of beef meat in
regard to the RDA at different ages was presented in Fig. 4.
Also, lamb meat is one of the richest sources of iron, and it can even
be considered a rich source of iron since it supplies 50% of the recom-
mended daily allowance for women over 50 years and men at all ages
(BNF, 2002; IMNA, 2009; Williamson et al., 2005).
A small amount of lamb meat (75 g/day) has been found to enhance
iron utilization in young women (Armah et al., 2008; IMNA, 2009)
whose RDA is highest than other categories (18 mg/day). Since lamb
is one of the few foods that contribute to heme iron intake, it has also
been recognized to enhance the absorption of non-heme iron from
plant foods; it is understood that this is the effect of an active compo-
nent in meat referred to as meat factor(Fairweather-Tait et al., 2005;
Williamson et al., 2005).
For selenium, the U.S. recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is
55 μg/day for adult men (Food and Nutrition Board, 2000), while the
minimum requirement for men has been estimated at 21 μg/day
(Levander, 1997). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
established an oral reference doseof 5 μg/kg body weight by day
(Poirier, 1994) and the National Academy of Sciences has set the maxi-
mum safe dietary intake at 400 μg/day (Food and Nutrition Board,
2000). In Fig. 4,Cabrera et al. (2010) reported the selenium contribution
of a fresh 100 g-piece of meat, which wascompared to the RDA for adult
males (1950 years), adult females (1950 years) and children
(48 years) as advised by IMNA (2009). For selenium, the seven meat
cuts studied (Cabrera et al., 2010) from Hereford and Braford breeds
cover the RDA in children. For adults, male and female, 6 of the7 studied
100 g of each meat cut (Fig. 4) cover the RDA in selenium (IMNA, 2009).
The zinc contribution of 100 g meat coming from seven cuts from
Hereford and Braford breeds supplies from 21% to 66% of the RDA to
adult males, from 29% to 91% to adult females and from 46% to 145%
to children (Fig. 4). It is noted that in the two breeds, rib plate ank
on cut shows the highest contribution in zinc to the RDA with levels of
66%, 91% and 145% for adult males, adult females and children, respec-
tively (Cabrera et al., 2010). This cut is largely consumed as grilled
meat and appreciated in South America, mainly in Uruguay, Argentina
and Southern Brazil. Considering the implications of a moderate to se-
vere zinc impairment in malnourished individuals (Hambridge &
Krebs, 2007; Zuo, Chen, Zhou, Li, & Mei, 2006), beef meat produced in
South America could be nutritionally adequate in order to counteract
a great part of the worldwide observed zinc deciency.
The contribution in copper of meat from Hereford and Braford pro-
duced in Uruguay (Fig. 4)isapproximately2224% of the RDA for chil-
dren (IMNA, 2009). Due to the important biological action of copper in
human health (Desai & Kaler, 2008; Zuo et al., 2006), beef meat remains
a good way tosupply, at least partially, the RDA forcopper in adult and
principally in children.
Beef meat is a poor sourceof manganese for humannutrition. A por-
tion of 100 g of meat from Hereford and Braford steers (Cabrera et al.,
2010) supplies, respectively, 0.17% and 2% to adult male, 0.22% and
2.6% to adult female, and 0.26% and3.2% to children of the adequate in-
take (IMNA, 2009).
3. Lipids in beef and lamb meat
Meat fat is a valuable and calorically dense macronutrient with a key
role in supplying essential nutrition and supporting healthy body
weight (Vannice & Rasmussen, 2014). Consumer's awareness of the ef-
fects of lipid nutrition on health has led to taking precautions against
high fat foods, such as red meat (Williamson et al., 2005). However,
other factors such as price, availability, culture and traditional eating
habits could be those that primarily determine meat consumption
(Fowler, 2004).
The nutritio nal value of meat fat, and its ability to in tegrate part of
a healthy diet, both depend on the individual fatty acids. Indeed,
5M.C. Cabrera, A. Saadoun / Meat Science xxx (2014) xxxxxx
Please citethis article as: Cabrera,M.C., & Saadoun, A., An overview of the nutritionalvalue of beef and lamb meat from South America, Meat Sci-
ence (2014),
according to latest research, fatty acids individually or grouped in
classes, namely saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA) and
polyunsaturated (PUFA) ones, are present in meat and their ratio is
emerging as a key factor in nutrition and health. For example, the
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) with a conrmed anticarcinogenic ac-
tivity, the stearic acid considered as neutral opposed to palmitic and
myristic acids, which are negatively considered in regard to cardio-
vascular diseases (CVD). Also the ratio of PUFA/SFA, n6/n3
PUFA, and the ratio of hypocholesterolemic/hypercholesterolemic
fatty acids (Higgs, 2000; Ulbright & Southgate, 1991) are important
parameters to evaluate the nutritional quality of meat fat in regard
to the prevention of coronary heart disea ses and anticarcinogenic ac-
tivity (Orellana et al., 2009; Saadoun, Alallon, & Cabrera, 2006;
Vannice & Rasmussen, 2014).
The predominant PUFAs in meat are linoleic acid (LA, n 6) and
α-linolenic acid (ALA, n3), which are known as essential fatty
acids because they cannot be synthetized by human tissues. A
lower ratio n6/n3 improves immunostimulant functions
and prevents CVD (Blasbalg, Hibbeln, Ramsden, Majchrzak, &
Rawlings, 2011). Meat also contains small amounts of a group of
promissory long-chain n3 PUFA eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),
docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
which have potential benets in relation to heart health, especially
for those who have already had a heart attack (Fink-Gremmels,
1993; Lauritzen, Hansen, Jorgensen, & Michaelsenm, 2001; Wood
et al., 1999). Findings from Roussell et al. (2012) showed that con-
sumption of 113153 g beef lean/day provides support for a heart-
healthy dietary pattern. New treatment paradigms for disease pre-
vention and healthy aging are being developed based on lean meat
beef consumption (Winett et al., 2014).
The International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids
(ISSFAL, 2004) recommends a healthy intake of ALA n3as0.7%of
ingested energy. For the cardiovascular health, ISSFAL (2004) recom-
mends a minimum of 500 mg/day of EPA + DHA. In pregnant women,
Fig. 4. Contribution of 100 g of fresh meat from Herefordand Braford meat cuts to the RDA for selenium, copper, zinc and iron. Bars for meat cuts are content of 100 g of meat in different
minerals.For clarity, error bars were omittedin this gure. Cut namesare according to theUruguayan meat book (INAC, 2006).T = Tenderloin.E = Eye of rump. S = Striploin. ER = Eye
round. TT = Tri-tip.RR = Rib eye roll. RP = 3 rib plate-ank on. Bars for RDA are nutritional recommendations for adult males (1950 years), females (1950 years) and children (4
8 years) from the Institute of the National Academies (IMNA, 2009).
Reproduced from Cabrera et al. (2010) with the authorization of Elsevier.
6M.C. Cabrera, A. Saadoun / Meat Science xxx (2014) xxxxxx
Please citethis article as: Cabrera,M.C., & Saadoun, A., An overview of the nutritionalvalue of beef and lamb meat from South America, Meat Sci-
ence (2014),
a DHA intake of 300 mg/day must be ensured (Koletzko, Cetin, &
Brenna, 2007). However, red meat cannot be considered as a source of
EPA, DPA and DHA because of its lower content in this kind of fatty
acid. ISSFAL (2004) also recommended an adequate intake (AI) of LA
at 2% energy. The AI for PUFA (18:2 n6, 18:3 n 3, DHA, EPA, DPA)
is around 7.3 g/day/2000 kcal of ingested energy for adults (ISSFAL,
2004). Meat produced on pastures has a minimum PUFA of around
200 mg/100 g fresh meat (with 2% meat total lipids) to 500 mg/100 g
fresh meat (with 5% meat total lipids). An amount of 100 g of meat is
considered an adequate source of PUFA according to Food Standards
Australia New Zealand (2004).
3.1. Fatty acid in beef meat produced in South America
Studies conducted in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay (Bressan
et al., 2011;Descalzo et al., 2005; Garcia, Pensel, et al., 2008; Latimori
et al., 2008; Montossi et al., 2008; Morales, Folch, Iraira, Teuber, &
Realini, 2012; Realini et al., 2004; Saadoun, Terevinto, & Cabrera,
2013; Schor et al., 2008) showed that meat from pasture based systems
has a lower content of IMF (1.63.6%) than meat from feedlot systems
(3.187.65%). Regardless of the implications to human health, the
fatty acid composition content in beef meat produced in South
America has received increasing attention as summarized below.
Realini et al. (2004) showed that pasture-fed cattle had higher concen-
trations of linoleic (C18:2), linolenic (C18:3), eicosapentaenoic (C20:5,
EPA), and docosapentaenoic (C22:5, DPA) acids than concentrate-fed
cattle. Other studies in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have alsoshowed
differences in meat's fatty acid composition from pasture and grain-fed
animals and higher polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations was
observed in pasture fed groups (De la Fuente et al., 2009; Descalzo
et al., 2005; Garcia et al., 2008; Realini et al., 2004; Padre et al., 2006)
compared to grain nished animals. Increase in n3 PUFA, and specif-
ically C18:3n3andC20:3n3, results in a greater total ratio of n3
fatty acids with higher values for pasture-fed than feedlot steers
(Pordomingo, García, & Volpi Lagreca, 2012; Realini et al., 2004).
Saadoun et al. (2013) in Uruguay compared lipid composition of meat
lipids in Hereford and Braford steers raised on pastures. The comparison
showed that the Braford meat had a higher concentration of PUFA.
Furthermore, animals fed with pastures produced meat with a ratio
of n6andn3 fatty acids whose values were signicantly lower
(1.443.64) than those from grain nished systems (2.795.84)
(Descalzo et al., 2005; Garcia, Pensel et al., 2008; Padre et al., 2006;
Pordomingo et al., 2012; Realini et al., 2004). This is an interesting
attribute for this meat, since diets with high n6:n3 ratios have
been highlighted as risk factors in certain cancers and coronary heart
diseases(Simopolous, 2002). A value of 4/1 for a diet is generally recom-
mended for the n6:n3 ratio (Simopolous, 2002).
The proportion of CLA isomer c-9 t-11 C18:2, approximately 70% of
the total CLA isomers in meat from beef, is greater in meat from steers
fed pasture than in meat from steers fed concentrate. Studies from
South America showed that feeding cattle with pasture can double the
proportion of CLA detected in meat. Indeed, Realini et al. (2004) and
De la Fuente et al. (2009) report a level of CLA isomer c-9 t-11 C18:2
that is two times higher in animals fed pasture vs. animals fed concen-
trate (0.53% vs. 0.25% and 0.540.57% vs. 0.230.34%), respectively.
Morales et al. (2012) reported CLA levels of 0.88% vs. 0.7% in steers
raised on pasture vs. concentrate in Southern Chile. Also, Latimori
et al. (2008) from Argentine and Bressan et al. (2011) from Brazil
have found greater CLA content in IMF of pasture (0.67% and
0.490.64% respectively) vs. concentrate (0.28 and 0.44% respec-
tively) nished cattle.
3.2. Fatty acids in lamb meat produced in South America
The effect of grazing on lamb meat fatty acid composition will de-
pend on the forage species consumed (Lee, Evans, Nute, Richardson,
& Scollan, 2009), mainly when different forages are compared to red
clover. In Uruguay, lambs (Corriedale × Merino Dohne) fed pastures
based on Trifolium pratense (red clover) vs. lambs fed pasture
+groundcorn,signicantly had increased ALA, EPA and DHA, and
decreased level of palmitic acid in their meat (Brito et al., 2010). In
another investigation, Díaz et al. (2005) showed that the heavy
lamb produced in Uruguay (Corriedale lamb grain nished) have a
lower level of PUFA, and no differences in ALA and CLA, in compari-
son to the usual lamb pasture nished. Faria et al. (2012) found
that the crossbred Texel × Polwarth and Texel × Corriedale, nished
on pastures rich in white clover, in Brazil, produced meat with high
amounts of PUFA (N16%). It seems that in red clover-rich diets, the
fermentation and biohydrogenation in the rumen are different
from those obtained with perennial ryegrass, probably due to the in-
hibition of proteolysis and lipolysis by the red clover polyphenol ox-
idase (Lee, Partt, Scollan, & Minchin, 2007; Lee et al., 2004; Van
Ranst, Lee, & Fievez, 2010). This allows for a higher proportion of
ingested -linoleic acid to escape from the ruminal
biohydrogenation and to be incorporated in meat (Lee, Harris,
Dewhurst, Merry, & Scollan, 2003). These ndings could explain
the effect of white clover and red clover on the PUFA content in
lamb meat.
Lamb fatty acid composition is mainly inuenced by age, sex and
genotype (De Smet, Raes, & Demeyer, 2004; Faria et al., 2012). de
Oliveira et al. (2012) showed that lambs Santa Inés and crossbreed
Suffolk × Santa Inés have the best PUFA/SFA relation concerning
the human health index than Ile de France, Dorper × Santa Inés, Ile
de France × Santa Inés and Texel × Santa Inés.
In Merino lambs produced on pasture in the Patagonia (Argentina) as
reported by Garcia, Casal et al. (2008),signicant differences were ob-
served for muscles Longissimus dorsi,Semitendinosus,Semimembranosus,
Rectus femoris,Gluteus and Tensor fascia latea, for oleic acid, ALA, EPA,
PUFA, n6 fatty acids and n3fattyacids.
4. Vitamins
Red meat contains vitamins, in substantial amounts, which are re-
quired for general health and well-being (Williamson et al., 2005). Par-
ticularly, red meat contains a number of B vitamins: thiamin, riboavin,
pantothenic acid, folate, niacin, B6 and B12 (Chan, Brown, & Church,
1995). In fact, in the EU, red meat is considered as a rich source of vita-
min B12 since it supplies 50% of the requirement. Meat also contains vi-
tamins A, D, E and C (Bourre, 2011). Vitamin A contributes to the
stabilization of biological membranes, normal vision, bone growth,
reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation (Kraemer, Semba,
Eggersdorfer, & Schaumberg, 2012). Vitamin A and carotenoids
(among them β-carotene, provitamin A) participate with other
micronutrients (notably vitamins E, C, and selenium) in the protection
of tissues, in particular nervous tissues, from aggression of free radicals
or active formsof oxygen. Vitamin D is essential to the development and
maintenance of bone. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in
eight different isoforms with powerful antioxidant activity, the most
active being α-tocopherol. Antioxidants such as vitamin E protect cells
against the effects of free radicals. Vitamin C has a key role in the integ-
rity of bone and collagen.
The recommended intake of vitamin A is 300 μg/day (children
13 years) to a maximum of 1300 μg/day (lactating) expressed in RAE
(retinol acid equivalent) or 360015,600 μg expressed in β-carotenes.
The current recommended intake of vitamin A is 3000 to 5000 IU for
men and 2300 (900 μg/day) to 4000 IU (1500 μg/day) for women
(NIH, 2002). Since there is no RDA for β-carotene or other pro-vitamin
A carotenoids, the Institute of Medicine suggests consuming 3 mg of
β-carotene daily to maintain plasma β-carotene within the range asso-
ciated with a normal function and a lowered risk of chronic diseases
(NIH, 2002). The recommended intake for α-tocopherol is 6 mg/day
for children 13 yearsand 7 mg/dayfor children48 years. For vitamin
7M.C. Cabrera, A. Saadoun / Meat Science xxx (2014) xxxxxx
Please citethis article as: Cabrera,M.C., & Saadoun, A., An overview of the nutritionalvalue of beef and lamb meat from South America, Meat Sci-
ence (2014),
C, the RDA is 15 mg/dayand 120 mg/dayfor children13 years and lac-
tating women, respectively.
Meat is a valuable source of the previously described liposoluble vi-
tamins, such as E, D and carotenes (Descalzo et al., 2007; Insani et al.,
2008; Realini et al., 2004). Indeed, pasture based feeding systems
produced meat of Hereford breed with high levels of β-carotenes
(0.45 μg/g) in relation to those produced with concentrate (0.06 μg/g)
as presented in Table 1 (Descalzo et al., 2005; Insani et al., 2008). β-Car-
otene enrichment of meat could be due to the amount of β-carotenes
present in pastures (Daley, Abbott, Doyle, Nader, & Larson, 2010). The
incorporation of the β-carotenes in different muscles depends on the
breed, the diet and the muscle type (Descalzo et al., 2005). The factors
that account for the enrichment of meat in β-carotene are probably
associated to pasture type. Studies resembled by Aitken and Hankin
(1970) have shown that Lolium multiorum,Festuca pratensis and red
and white clover are rich in carotene content when grassed fresh. In
the temperate zones from South America, these grasses are commonly
used for pasture based production systems.
Also, α-tocopherol has been found in higher amounts in meat pro-
duced from animals fed with pasture compared to meat from animals
fed concentrate, without added vitamin E as supplement. This observa-
tion has been conrmed both in Uruguay (De la Fuente et al., 2009;
Realini et al., 2004) and in Argentina (Descalzo & Sancho, 2008;
Descalzo et al., 2005; Insani et al., 2008). According to these reports,
beef meat from South America produced on pasture is a good source
of β-carotenes (4578 μg/100 g), vitamin C (2500 μg/100 g) and α-
tocopherol (210460 μg/100 g). In spite of the fact that meat is the
most important source of vitamin B12, no information could be sourced
from investigations in the region.
5. Conclusion
Beef and lamb meat from grazing systems in the southern countries
of South America have valuable and essential nutrients necessary to a
healthy and complete diet. Minerals such as iron, heme iron, selenium
and zinc in bioavailable forms are largely present in meat, covering
the requirements for children, pregnant women and adolescents. Like-
wise, postmenopausal women and older men can benet from lean
meat in order to reduce the risk of associated degenerative and meta-
bolic diseases. Suchmeat has higher levels of CLA isomers and a relative-
ly high content of PUFA, linoleic acid (LA), and α-linolenic acid (ALA),
and a good n6/n3 ratio. Vitamins like E and carotenes are present
in relatively high levels in meat produced in South America on pastures.
Undoubtedly, the pasture system used in South Americahas a crucial ef-
fect on the accumulation of health related nutrients detected in meat
produced locally. Meat with these characteristics should be included
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Table 1
Content of β-carotenes (μg/g fresh meat), α-tocopherol (μg/g fresh meat) and ascorbic
acid (μg/g fresh meat) in beef meat produced with pastures (P) or concentrate (C) in
and Uruguay
Adapted from Daley et al. (2010),De la Fuente et al. (2009),Descalzo and Sancho (2008),
Descalzo et al. (2005),Insani et al. (2008) and Realini et al. (2004).
(μg/g fresh
(μg/g fresh
Ascorbic acid
(μg/g fresh
Insani et al. (2008)
0.74 0.17 2.1 0.8 ––
Descalzo et al. (2005)
0.45 0.06 4.6 2.2 25.30 15.92
Descalzo and Sancho (2008)
––3.08 1.50 ––
Realini et al. (2004)
. 3.91 2.92 ––
De la Fuente et al. (2009)
––3.75/4.07 0.75 ––
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Please citethis article as: Cabrera,M.C., & Saadoun, A., An overview of the nutritionalvalue of beef and lamb meat from South America, Meat Sci-
ence (2014),
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produced in Chile from different production systems. Chilean Journal of Agricultural
Morón, A., &