SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — An agriculture entrepreneur is asking health-conscious consumers to put their money where their heart is.
Don Smith, founder of Omega3Beef, is seeking online investments of $200 from individual consumers nationwide.
Money would be used to fund a more than $800,000 Colorado State University research project. The study’s goal is to obtain Food and Drug Administration approval for meat from beef cattle that are fed algae, a high-source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, improve eyesight and prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure.
“This is the evolution of the beef industry,” Smith said. “Right now, you can only get omega-3s in fish or fish oil pills. This is a new market. Nobody thought this could be done. The beauty is that meat lovers can eat more beef and be healthy.”
Other types of omega-3 foods are available including pork. Hannaford Supermarkets, for example, offers customers omega-3 eggs. However, this is the first attempt at gaining commercial acceptance for beef.
“It’s very interesting,” said Eileen Lindemann, a Hannaford store dietitian in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Smith, currently of Aspen, Colo., got the idea for omega-3 beef seven years ago when discussing ways to improve beef’s nutritional qualities with animal science professors from Cornell University and Oklahoma State University, at his Oklahoma ranch.
Small-scale research at Colorado State and Oklahoma State universities has produced positive results, said Shawn Archibeque, Colorado State associate professor of animal sciences.
Don Smith’s project would see about 280 head of cattle fed algae for three to four months of finishing before processing. The study will cost at least $800,000, perhaps more, primarily for animals priced at $1,500 to $2,000 each, Archibeque said.
“That’s the largest cost with these types of research projects,” he said. “Plus, they eat a lot of food and there’s lab analysis and university overhead.”
Archibeque said all the logistics are in place and that the study can move forward once Smith raises the money needed through “crowd-funding.”
When research is completed, Archibeque will prepare a report seeking algae-fed beef’s approval by the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. If the FDA accepts it, all consumers who donated to the study will be shipped a complimentary 10-pound package of Omega3Beef steaks and “HeartBurgers” from cattle used in the study.
“The animal will be providing a healthier food for the human,” said Kevin Pond, a Cornell graduate, now head of Colorado State’s animal sciences department.
Smith said that beef consumption has declined about 25 percent during the past 20 years as health-conscious consumers have turned to chicken instead of red meat. He hopes to reverse that trend with an algae-based supplement called OmegaFeed, which he would sell to feedlots that supply large-scale beef retailers such as Kroger supermarkets and Sonic restaurants.
That is his primary business objective. He is not an Omega3Beef rancher.
Smith said he plans to buy algae for OmegaFeed from a South Carolina firm that raises it.
Once the research is completed and approved, he hopes to introduce Omega3Beef products to select markets to test consumer demand. He would like to see it introduced to the general public in 2015.
“It will increase the cost of beef 23 cents per pound,” he said, adding that retailers would likely pass this cost along at the rate of about seven cents per burger.
“Each retailer keeps its supply chain intact, but orders the beef from cattle that have been fed the algae supplement,” he said.
Archibeque, of Colorado State, said there’s no evidence to suggest that algae negatively affects beef’s flavor. One of his Colorado State colleagues is working separately on this side of the project, he said.
As of April 29, according to www.omegabeef.com, $394,000 has been raised to date, only 40 percent of the total $974,000 goal.