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PhD Eating quality of beef produced in low-input grassland systems. How to predict it?
Deadline for applications
Date of publication


Details on the type of contract
PhD contract
Duration of contract
36 months

1770 euros (gross salary), 1423 euros (net salary)


Name of unit of assignment
UMR1213 UMRH Unité Mixte de Recherche sur les Herbivores
Address of unit of assignment
Website of unit of assignment
Region of assignment
Auvergne Rhône-Alpes


Working environment

UMR1213 Herbivores is a joint research unit associating Inra and VetAgro Sup. It contributes to the design of sustainable farming systems for herbivores that seek to reconcile production efficiency, product quality and socio-economic viability with environmental protection and valuation, and animal welfare. UMR1213 Herbivores assesses both on-farm practices and predominant and alternative systems of herbivore farming, and proposes innovative techniques with high environmental value. To achieve this aim, UMR1213 Herbivores analyses and integrates the underlying biological mechanisms, and establishes laws for animal responses with approaches ranging from high-throughput techniques to modelling and decision support tools for various stakeholders (producers, consumers, citizens, and policy-makers).


The Unit is divided into 5 research teams including PERAQ team (“Farming Practices, Robustness, Adaptation and products Quality”). PERAQ objectives are:

-          To phenotype and quantify the adaptive responses of animals when experiencing changing and limiting environments during their production cycle and over their lifetime, with a focus on nutritional challenges. PERAQ identifies productive, physiological, and metabolic indicators with a view to characterize the overall robustness of the animal. Such an assessment is to be used for phenotyping animals for selection purposes, and for improving farming practices.

-          To study how the diversity of individuals within a herd contributes to maintain the performances and the robustness of the herd when facing disturbances of diverse natures, intensities and durations. The ultimate goal is to identify, determine and elaborate farming practices that can increase animal and herd robustness.

-          To analyze, predict and evaluate the effects of farming practices and their combination or organization in time on the performance of animals and herds, and the overall quality of their products. PERAQ takes into account the interactions between genetics and technological processes. The overall quality of products is addressed by combining nutritional, sensorial, technological and sanitary aspects of milk and dairy products, carcass and meat, at animal and herd levels. The ultimate goal is to authenticate the conditions of production and to develop indicators and innovative tools for the prediction of product qualities.

This project aims to deliver robust carcass grading for prediction of beef eating quality for the first time in France, especially in the case of low-input grassland livestock systems, in order to contribute to a scientific model for the prediction of beef eating quality that could be implemented in the future as a commercial grading model in Europe.

To achieve this, we have designed two innovative organic experimental systems based on grass feeding, either following crossbreeding of an hardy breed with an early maturing breed or with a combination of cattle and sheep in the same pastures. Beef will be sampled from these animals. Then, consumer tests will be performed according to the MSA (Meat Standards Australia) protocol: untrained consumers will score two cuts (internal flank plate and topside [adductor femoris]) for tenderness, juiciness, flavour liking and overall liking. They will also assign a quality rating to each sample: ‘unsatisfactory’ (2*), ‘satisfactory everyday quality’ (3*), ‘better than everyday quality’ (4*) or ‘premium quality’ (5*). Optimum equations will be determined to predict the quality class (2*, 3*, 4* or 5*) from the measured traits (tenderness, juiciness, flavour liking and overall liking) (Legrand et al., 2013 Animal, 7, 524–529 and 2017, Innovations Agronomiques, 55, 171-182). In addition, sensory attributes will be also evaluated by test panels to assess correspondence between tenderness, flavor and juiciness by trained panelists and untrained consumers. Finally, muscle biochemical traits (e.g. intramuscular fat level, muscle fiber types, and characteristics of the connective tissue) will be measured to determine their contribution to beef eating quality in the specific case of low-input grassland livestock systems.

Furthermore, depending on the skills and the background of the student, genetic markers associated with the variability of beef eating quality will be identified for all phenotypes directly measured or predicted using the MSA grading scheme. One major output will be used to demonstrate the ability of MSA in selecting reproductive animals of high eating quality potential and thus to be used in the future in livestock genetics breeding programs.

Training and skills required

Engineer or master (or equivalent) in Animal Sciences or in Food Sciences

The PhD candidate should have a strong background in animal science and in meat science. Knowledge and experience in molecular biology will be greatly appreciated.

The PhD should have worked a few months in a research laboratory at least for his Master degree.

The PhD candidate should be fluent in French and English, and able to interact with different scientists and partners (including farmers, butchers from slaughterhouses, and private beef companies). Therefore, a great autonomy of the candidate will be appreciated. Finally, the PhD candidate should also have skills and experience in statistics.


Jean-François HOCQUETTE