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Cattle, Steaks, Straw, and WSU

Posted by | September 13, 2006

It’s a Fact

There are 13,000 ranchers and cattlemen in Washington, and receipts from Washington cattle sales exceeded $540,000,000 in 2004. That figure does not take into account the multiplier effect to the state’s economy from businesses supporting the beef industry.

On Solid Ground is a weekly, electronic newsletter for the friends and stakeholders of the Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), WSU Extension and the WSU Agricultural Research Center.

Genetic Link to Juicy Steaks

Breeding beef cattle to get the flavorful, juicy steaks consumers crave may have just gotten easier. Scientists in Washington State University’s Animal Sciences Department have identified genetic links to marbling and subcutaneous fat depth in beef cattle. These findings potentially will enable producers to tailor production so that they can earn premium prices for products that people will pay for.

The research is beginning to look at genetic components of fatty acid composition, which may be related to the health attributes of beef. This includes increasing the presence of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. Monounsaturated fatty acids tend to decrease LDL cholesterol, the form of cholesterol in the blood which can cause formation of plaques on the inners walls of arteries that serve the heart and brain. Fatty acids can also have an impact on palatability, the lean-to-fat ratio in animals and processing characteristics of beef.

For more information about lead scientist Zhihua Jiang, visit

Turning Wheat Straw Residue into Revenue

A byproduct of growing wheat is straw. Each year the Pacific Northwest produces more than four million tons of wheat straw. With stringent regulations limiting field burning, it just makes sense to find a way of turning this residue into revenue. One of the obstacles to making straw-based composites competitive is the cost of bonding agents. To date, the only adhesive that effectively bonds straw is three times more expensive than the aminoplastic resins that are typically used in the wood-based composite industry.

As a result, economical production of straw composites is a challenge. Scientists in Environmental Engineering are investigating various treatments to activate the straw surface for bonding with the more economical aminoplastic resins. Looking at different refining strategies, the scientists have made strawboards with good mechanical properties. They continue to work on improving the composite’s swelling properties.

For more information, visit

World Class Rankings for WSU

Washington State University ranked 24th in the world over the last decade in terms of how the agricultural science generated by WSU researchers is used by other scientists, according to the latest issue of Science Watch newsletter, which tracks trends and performance in basic research. During the same period, Barry Swanson, a WSU food scientist, was the world’s 22nd most cited author in agricultural sciences, according to the newsletter.

“This data illustrates the world-class research conducted by WSU faculty such as Barry Swanson and its impact around the globe,” said James Petersen, vice provost of research at Washington State University. “Seminal research conducted at WSU changes the direction of science and improves lives of individuals around the world. This information illustrates that WSU truly is one of the world’s great land-grant research universities.”

WSU was the 13th highest ranked U.S. university on the Science Watch top 25 list, which includes universities and national research agencies in Finland, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Spain, France, Australia and the United States.

Swanson is best known for his work in the control of microbial contaminants in food, fat substitutes and vegetable processing. He joined the WSU faculty in 1973, and during his career, he has received numerous awards and honors, including twice being named Nally’s Fine Foods outstanding researcher of the year.

In 2002, Swanson was elected a fellow in the Society for Food Science and Technology, Institute of Food Technologists. He currently serves as editor of the Journal of Food Procession and Preservation.

For further information, see