Clemson University officials have announced the selection of animal science researcher Susan Duckett for the Ernest L. Corley Jr. Trustees Chair in the department of animal and veterinary sciences.

An animal science expert at the University of Georgia, Duckett's research focuses on livestock nutrition and meat quality. She is a nationally recognized scientist and author on the benefits of grass-fed cattle.

"We are very pleased that Susan Duckett will be joining Clemson University in January," said Calvin Schoulties, dean of Clemson's College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. "Her work on improving the health impacts in meat consumption and enhancing consumer appeal will help South Carolina's cattle industry. She is a perfect fit with Clemson's land-grant mission of research, education and economic development in service to our state."

Duckett grew up in northeast Iowa on a small farm, raising beef cattle and sheep. She received her B.S. in animal science from Iowa State University, M.S. in ruminant nutrition and Ph.D. in animal science from Oklahoma State University.

She was employed as an assistant professor in meat quality at University of Idaho from 1994 to 2000. In 2000, Duckett joined the faculty of the animal and dairy science department at the University of Georgia.

Ernest L. Corley, a 1949 dairy science graduate who became one of the top officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture always credited Clemson University with opening the door to his success. The Saluda native expressed his gratitude in 2000 by funding the Ernest L. Corley Jr. Trustees Chair in bovine livestock production. The endowment is expected to total $1.5 million when it is fully funded.

"Corley's gift represents a vital contribution to the college," said Schoulties. "It allows us to recruit an outstanding faculty member who enriches the lives of our students and livelihoods of our farmers. We are extremely grateful to him for his generosity and confidence in Clemson's commitment to the agricultural community."

Duckett, who is looking forward to coming to Clemson, said, "The college and department of animal and veterinary sciences have well-earned reputations, and I am honored to be part of it. I hope my work can play a part in Clemson's mission to serve the economy and people of South Carolina."

Duckett's research activities examine the factors affecting fresh meat quality, yield and taste. Researchers in three states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture say Appalachian forage-finished beef is ideal for nutrition-conscious consumers. U.S. beef cattle typically grow up grazing grass or other forages. But they "finish," or gain their last 400 pounds or so, eating corn or other grains in feedlots.

In a three-year research project, cattle were raised on forages in Virginia and West Virginia. The meat was then sent to Duckett's lab to be analyzed. Duckett compared the forage-finished beef with grain-finished beef in quality, composition, tenderness, palatability, juiciness, flavors, fat coloring and marbling. She found the fat content of the forage-finished steaks to be 40 percent lower than that of grain-finished steaks. It also had higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acid and a better ratio of omega-6-to-omega-3. Forage-finished beef was higher in fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin E and beta carotene and had double concentrations of conjugated linoleic acid, a cancer-fighting compound in products like milk, ice cream, butter, beef and lamb.

"It all comes down to the fact that forage contains a lot of these things," Duckett said. "And when the animals consume this diet, they're able to deposit these valuable phytochemicals into the meat."

Farmers in Argentina raise forage-finished cattle and sell their beef for premium prices in specialty markets. They also supply U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and health food stores.

"Appalachian beef could capture some of this market and increase the net income of the farmers in this area," Duckett said.