New meat product can be taste-tested at Central District Field Days

Massey University is inviting the public to taste-test a potential new beef product developed from dairy-origin cattle at Central District Field Days in Feilding. 

Wharerata Function Centre’s executive chef Sean Kereama will be preparing samples for the public to taste at Massey’s stand in the Agriculture Pavilion between 10am and 2pm each day.

Developed as part of a Massey-pilot study, New Generation Beef is a new class of red meat that takes surplus calves from the dairy industry and grows them to one year of age. The concept provides an avenue for the under-utilised resource of calves from the dairy industry to produce high quality red-meat. Continue reading

Right food at the right time is key to restoring our body clock and gut health

Eating correctly  is a strategy to control the harmful effects of poor sleep, a common problem in modern society, Plant & Food Research says in a press release to announce the publication of a paper by a research team which includes one of its scientists.

The paper, “Potential Role for the Gut Microbiota in Modulating Host Circadian Rhythms and Metabolic Health”, is published in Microorganisms (

Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Shanthi Parkar and her research colleagues at University of Amsterdam and University of Auckland examined evidence associating gut microbiota (the microorganism community in our gut) with factors that impact our circadian rhythm. Continue reading

Gut bacteria adapting to New Zealanders’ love of fruit and veg

The discovery of the first gut bacterium that specialises in breaking down a hard-to-digest substance found in plants suggests that the human gut microbiome is evolving to accommodate our consumption of fibre-rich foods.

Plant & Food Research scientists, in collaboration with New Zealand and international research partners, discovered a new human gut bacterium, Monoglobus pectinilyticus, the first specialist bacterium for pectin degradation and utilisation.

Pectin is a plant’s natural barrier to protect against bacterial attacks. It is also a primary source of dietary fibre for humans. This structurally complex carbohydrate is not a palatable food source for most bacteria as it is not high in energy. Continue reading

New nutrient management guidelines for vegetables released

A new best practice manual developed in collaboration with Plant & Food Research, Vegetable Research & Innovation (VR&I) Board and the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand (FANZ) will help commercial vegetable growers and consultants make well-informed nutrient management decisions both financially and environmentally.

Guidelines in “Nutrient Management for Vegetable Crops in New Zealand” are drawn from published and unpublished research from the past three decades in New Zealand and overseas, providing industry with recommendations on the nutrient requirements of major vegetable crops grown nationally.

Crops covered in the guidelines include beans, beetroot, brassicas, carrots, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet corn and process tomatoes.

This book builds on the last comprehensive summary, “Nutrient Requirements of Horticultural Crops”, released in 1986 by Clarke et al. The new guidelines have been developed to help growers get the best out of their crops and money spent on nutrients, while addressing growing concerns about the environmental impacts of intensive production practices.

The book, along with a companion volume that offers more detail and references, provides a scientific basis for good management of nutrients.

The new guidelines were written collaboratively by Plant & Food Research Principal Scientist Dr Jeff Reid and Jeff Morton, from MortonAg, with support from a working group consisting of Plant & Food Research scientists and experts from the major fertiliser companies and industry groups.

Major funders include the VR&I Board and FANZ. The project was also supported by the Plant & Food Research Strategic Science Investment Fund. A series of follow-up extension events are being planned for the regions where vegetable production is a major land use.

Electronic versions of the book and companion volume are available via the DoI website:

* Nutrient management for vegetable crops in New Zealand (
* Nutrient management for vegetable crops in NZ – recommendations and supporting information (

Source: Plant and Food Research

NZ wheat is being studied to find health effects of its gluten content

Plant and Food Research principal scientist Nigel Larsen is trying to find out why many non-Coeliac gluten-sensitive New Zealanders can eat wheat-based foods overseas but not in this country.

His work is the subject of an article in the Bay of Plenty Times, which reported on the case of a Waihi woman who grew up eating baguettes in France – it was a staple food in her household.

When she moved to New Zealand in 2011, she found herself feeling bloated, having a sore stomach, bowel issues, mood swings and becoming lethargic.

Three months later she cut out bread and wheat products like pizza, pasta and pastries and the symptoms stopped.

But when she goes home or travels to other parts of Europe, or even the United States, she can dig in to all the gluten-filled food she can’t usually eat and feels fine. She can even make her own food using T55 flour imported from France with no problem.

She’s not alone and Nigel Larsen is trying to find out why so many non-Coeliac gluten-sensitive Kiwis eat wheat-based foods overseas without experiencing the gut-wrenching pain they feel at home.

“It is an issue which seems to be real but we don’t know why,” he said. “So far it’s a mystery to us as to why we hear stories like that because that’s one of the things that prompted us to start doing research on the issue.

“There’s all sorts of things that could be different. It could be the wheat varieties, it could be the way we grow our wheat, it could be the way we process our wheat – who knows. It’s just something we don’t understand and we’re trying to get to the bottom of.”

Plant and Food Research has teamed up with the Baking Industry Association of New Zealand to fund research into where the differences could be and why wheat seemed to have such a huge affect on many Kiwis.

Larsen had already looked into the way dough was mixed in New Zealand but did not find an answer there.

He had started studying proteins called amylase-trypsin inhibitors which were present in wheat. Their function in grains was to stop insects from eating them and there had been research suggesting they may cause inflammation. But, there was nothing to indicate the levels in New Zealand were any higher than overseas, he said.

Larsen was also looking into the proteins that aggravated Coeliac disease and how they could breed new wheat varieties with lower levels as well as which sourdoughs lowered the gluten levels of bread.

The yeast and bacteria in a sourdough starter worked together to digest the gluten proteins meaning the gut did not have to work as hard to get rid of them.

But not all sourdoughs are the same, Larsen found. San Francisco sourdough – for example – is better for those intolerant to gluten.

Baking Industry Association of New Zealand president Kevin Gilbert said the rising process in bread could also play a part, but this would not explain the difference when eating pastas and pastries .

When bread rises, a fermentation process is taking place where enzymes begin to break down and convert proteins like gluten. The longer bread is fermented, the more the proteins are broken down and the easier it becomes for the gut to process.

In the 1960s, a new process of bread making was developed called chorelywood. It allowed bakers to go from flour to a loaf of bread bagged in about three hours. The traditional style of bread-making involved anywhere from three to 60 hours of fermenting alone, Mr Gilbert said.

That was part of the reason many artisan breads, which were more common in Europe, were easier to stomach than loaves of sliced bread from the supermarket, he said.

While all wheat contained the same proteins, different grades of flour were used in Europe and had a different protein ratio whereas New Zealand flour usually only came in one grade.

Traditional Italian pasta was also usually made from durum flour rather than wheat flour, he said.

Professor of Nutrition at the Liggins Institute David Cameron-Smith agreed that some types of flour had less gluten and when those low-gluten flours were used to make bread in the traditional style they had less impact on those sensitive to gluten.

He believed part of the problem was that we had become reliant on high gluten strains of wheat that allowed bread to rise and become soft in a very short period of time.

Tucking into beef could be good for your health – but not the planet’s

As the barbeque season gets into full swing, New Zealand researchers are investigating whether certain kinds of red meat could actually protect against heart disease.

Researchers have recruited men aged 35-55 willing to eat free meat three times a week for eight weeks in the name of science, according to a press statement from the Liggins Institute.

Participants are supplied with either grass-fed Wagyu beef, grain-finished beef or soy-based meat alternative (they can’t choose which).

The study is looking at how the complex lipids (fats) in high quality, unprocessed red meat affect heart health, using the vegetarian protein group as a control. It follows earlier evidence that eating Wagyu beef in moderation may help protect against heart disease. Continue reading

Leader of world’s best agri-food university visiting New Zealand

The Riddet Institute will host the President of the world’s leading Agri-Food University, Professor Louise O. Fresco, during her visit to New Zealand this  week.

Professor Fresco, from Wageningen University and Research, is in this country from December 3-7.  She will meet with thought leaders, primary industries and key research partners.

The Riddet Institute will be hosting a summit at Te Papa in Wellington on Thursday where Professor Fresco will be the keynote speaker.  The summit will address the challenges of food production and nutrition that must be tackled to sustainably feed an ever-growing world population.   It will also address the impact of this on the New Zealand economy and primary industries.

Professor Fresco and other strategic leaders in the areas of food economics, research and production will speak on this theme from a global perspective and the implications for New Zealand as a food producing nation.

Riddet Institute director and Massey University Distinguished Professor Harjinder Singh says the visit is a highlight of the year.

“We are extremely proud and honoured to host Professor Fresco. This visit is another important milestone in the continuing relationship between Wageningen University, the Riddet Institute and Massey University,” says Professor Singh.

The Riddet Institute and Massey University have a special relationship with Wageningen University, a collaboration that goes back over 30 years. Over that shared history, there have been many collaborative projects, along with staff and student exchanges.

During her visit, Professor Fresco will spend time at Massey University, where she will meet with the University leadership team, as well as key academics.

Wageningen University is celebrating its centenary this year and during this visit special events will be held to commemorate the anniversary.  Massey University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas and Professor Fresco, will plant a special UniversiTREE to symbolise the continuing relationship between Wageningen University and Massey’s Manawatū campus. The iplanting will form part of a “virtual forest” of trees that Wageningen has planted with other collaborating institutions around the world this year.

There will also be events where the Wageningen delegation meets past and present academic, post-doctoral and postgraduate staff including a special event at the Netherlands’ Embassy in Wellington on Friday, December 7.

Professor Fresco, a high-profile leader in the Agri-Food sector globally,  is a highly recognised academic, has her own TV programme, has written several best-selling books on her research and has given many lectures on the subject of feeding the world, including a TED Talk. She has a long academic career at both Wageningen and Amsterdam Universities, with extensive involvement in policy and development programmes.

Professor Fresco is a member of eight Scientific Academies and for 10 years was Assistant-Director General at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN. She has also served on the boards of companies including Rabobank and Unilever.

This week she also will meet with a variety of industry and government representatives including Dr Megan Woods (Minister for Research, Science & Innovation), David Parker (Minister for Economic Development), the Global Women Showcase Dinner in Auckland and a public lecture at the Beehive hosted by Damien O’Connor (Minister for Agriculture, Trade and Export Growth, Biosecurity & Food Safety).

Source:  Riddet Institute