August 14, 2019

Plant Secondary Compounds in Livestock Systems to Produce Functional Foods Symposium Recap

Plant Secondary Compounds in Livestock Systems to Produce Functional Foods Symposium Recap

By Dan Quadros and Travis Whitney

Texas A&M AgriLife Research

This year ASAS innovated one more time bringing a complete new and multifaceted event involving different areas of animal science and human nutrition to discuss the benefits and challenges of using plant secondary compounds (PSC) in ruminant production systems.Specifically how they can affect animal nutrition, health and the quality of final products was discussed because no significant effort had been made to synergize fragmented research programs and industry efforts.

On July 11th, researchers from national and international institutions united at the Austin Convention Center during the 2019 ASAS-CSAS Annual Meeting to discuss the broad effects of PSC on animal production and how they can be used to develop functional foods. Also, the group discussed the creation of the American Consortium for Plant Secondary Compounds in Livestock Production Systems.

Opening the event, Juan Villalba, from the Utah State University, introduced the speakers, discussed the theme of each presentation, and explained how they were inextricably connected.

Then, Travis Whitney, from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, emphasized the many facets of PSC on livestock production systems and the opportunities to use them to produce functional foods. He stated: “condensed tannins and terpenoids are not toxic.” According to him, the regulatory concerns and research bias are barriers that need to be overcome.

Next, Min Byeng, from the USDA-ARS, brought an in-depth overview of PSC on ruminant nutrition. He said we could manipulate rumen microbiology by using condensed tannins in the diets. In the right concentration, they can improve the weight gain, reduce methane emissions, which is a significant public concern, and control parasites naturally, with no negative impacts on the animal liver. However, he alerted that there are differences in responses among ruminant species when these substances are increased in the diets (i.e., goats are more tolerant than other species). The challenge now is to discover the correct concentration that can bring benefits without reducing feed intake.

Eric Bailey, from the University of Missouri, highlighted practical opportunities for PSC on natural beef cattle production systems, in which no antibiotics or growth promoters are allowed. The natural beef demand is increasing considerably, mainly using grass-fed and forage-fed programs. These compounds can also be used to control bloat when the cattle graze high-quality plants. To include them in the diets, alternative forage plants or extracts as supplements can be both utilized.

Following Rachel Christensen, from the USDA-ARS, talked about the benefits to included PSC (e.g., polyphenols and essential oils) direct on dairy products (i.e., increasing antioxidant properties and shelf life) and also in the cows’ diets. Using forages containing these compounds can increase feed efficiency, keep the milk production, and improve the concentration of protein, non-saturated fatty acids, and omega-3 in the milk.

According to Kayley Wall and Chris Kerth, from Texas A&M University, condensed dietary tannins can reduce meat skatole and pastoral off-flavor aroma. The concentration of these substances in the diets matters, but no adverse effects on flavor were proved. Saponins and essential oils can extend shelf life, and new experiments have addressed the manipulation of fatty acids composition and reduction of overall cholesterol in meat.

Stephen Talcott, from Texas A&M University, brought to the audience the effects of PSC from the human health standpoint. Tannins have many benefits for human health, and although the response depends on the individual person, there are remarkable changes in the intestinal microbiome. Reduce obesity, a major issue of our modern society can be achieved with the help of these substances. More than that, they have anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce tumor growth.

Finally, Dan Quadros, from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, closed the event releasing a pathway forward in this field that is “The American Consortium for Plant Secondary Compounds in Livestock Production Systems”. The international, multi-institutional, and interdisciplinary consortium was created for gathering researchers, getting funding, and creating an effective channel of communication linking research-industry-extension-general public.