The company plans to introduce a prototype blood test this summer in its feedlots to screen young cattle for their genetic potential to be tender and flavorful.
"We are trying to predict eating satisfaction," said Albert Paszek, a livestock geneticist who runs the company's genomics efforts.
Cargill, one of the nation's largest cattle feeding and slaughterhouse operators, carried out its now two-year-old project with genetics company Metamorphix Inc., of Savage, Md. Metamorphix geneticists used a map of the cow genome to compare genetic markers from more than 3,000 cattle against traits such as how fast they gain weight.
The study involved over 14 million genetic tests, said Sue DeNise, Metamorphix's lead geneticist.
The tests will let Cargill decide which animals to fatten and kill quickly. They also could lead to new brands of steaks and other cuts on supermarket shelves that guarantee good results.