British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Human and Clinical Nutrition

Red meat from animals offered a grass diet increases plasma and platelet n-3 PUFA in healthy consumers

A. J. McAfeea1, E. M. McSorleya1 c1, G. J. Cuskellya2, A. M. Fearona3, B. W. Mossa3, J. A. M. Beattiea3, J. M. W. Wallacea1, M. P. Bonhama1 and J. J. Straina1

a1 School of Biomedical Sciences, Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, University of Ulster, Cromore Road, Coleraine BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland

a2 School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Agri-Food and Land Use, Queens University, Belfast BT9 5AG, Northern Ireland

a3 Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Belfast BT9 5PX, Northern Ireland


Red meat from grass-fed animals, compared with concentrate-fed animals, contains increased concentrations of long-chain (LC) n-3 PUFA. However, the effects of red meat consumption from grass-fed animals on consumer blood concentrations of LC n-3 PUFA are unknown. The aim of the present study was to compare the effects on plasma and platelet LC n-3 PUFA status of consuming red meat produced from either grass-fed animals or concentrate-fed animals. A randomised, double-blinded, dietary intervention study was carried out for 4 weeks on healthy subjects who replaced their habitual red meat intake with three portions per week of red meat (beef and lamb) from animals offered a finishing diet of either grass or concentrate (n 20 consumers). Plasma and platelet fatty acid composition, dietary intake, blood pressure, and serum lipids and lipoproteins were analysed at baseline and post-intervention. Dietary intakes of total n-3 PUFA, as well as plasma and platelet concentrations of LC n-3 PUFA, were significantly higher in those subjects who consumed red meat from grass-fed animals compared with those who consumed red meat from concentrate-fed animals (P < 0·05). No significant differences in concentrations of serum cholesterol, TAG or blood pressure were observed between groups. Consuming red meat from grass-fed animals compared with concentrate-fed animals as part of the habitual diet can significantly increase consumer plasma and platelet LC n-3 PUFA status. As a result, red meat from grass-fed animals may contribute to dietary intakes of LC n-3 PUFA in populations where red meat is habitually consumed.

(Received October 12 2009)

(Revised July 05 2010)

(Accepted July 06 2010)

(Online publication September 01 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr E. M. McSorley, fax +44 2870 324375, email


Abbreviations: ALA, α-linolenic acid; DPA, docosapentaenoic acid; FAME, fatty acid methyl esters; LC, long chain