natalie howes

Finding her niche

Things happen for a reason, at least for PhD candidate Natalie Howes, when she reflects back on what her life would be like if she got into veterinary school.

Only 30 out of the 300 first-year students at Massey University were selected.

However, after various stints on farms, participating in breeding groups, and attending agricultural shows, Natalie realised she didn’t need to be a veterinarian in order to fulfil her passion for beef cattle.

“The only reason I wanted to be a vet was really only to work with beef cattle. I had no interest in veterinary practice for small animals or even other large animals,” she says.

She completed a BSc(Hons) degree in agriculture and animal sciences at Massey, after which she worked for PGG Wrightson for two years.

Her newfound interest in meat science, after a project with NZ AngusPure, has seen her undertake a PhD with AbacusBio. And she’s enjoying every moment of it.

Her PhD looks at how fatty acids such as omega 3 in plants are metabolised by lambs and deposited in meat.

“There is an increased demand, especially among health-conscious consumers, for high health red meat products,” Natalie remarks.

“Modern consumers are becoming more intelligent and aware of what foods can do to their health, and that leads to increased pressure on food producers to develop nutritious products.”

By understanding the mechanisms of omega 3 metabolism and how the fatty acids are deposited in meat, the next step is to utilise this knowledge and apply it into developing a high health lamb product through factors such as feed system changes or genetics.

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Photo credits to NZX Agri