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DNA traceability technique to add value to meat

DNA traceability technique to add value to meat

9 October 2006

The latest developments in DNA traceability will help New Zealand sell its top quality meat to discerning international consumers at a considerable premium, say AgResearch scientists.

Part of a large delegation representing AgResearch at the Horizons in Livestock Sciences conference starting on the Gold Coast in Australia Today, Helen Mathias will present research undertaken in collaboration with colleagues Grant Shackell and Ken Dodds, into DNA traceability for meat.

The presentation will outline a new method of traceability whereby meat products made from more than one animal, such as patties, can indicate precisely which animals they originate from.

Under the method DNA samples are collected from all of the animals contributing to each batch of meat patties. DNA is extracted from each sample and profiled using microsatellites. When confirmation of the batch of origin is required, sub samples from a test patty are dismantled into individual meat fibres. The DNA is then extracted from several of those fibres and profiled using the same microsatellites.

The DNA profiles from the patty samples are compared with DNA profiles from all possible batches of the contributing animals. By matching some of the DNA profiles from the patty to the DNA profiles of a subset of the contributing animals, the batch of origin is established.

“Some DNA traceability systems for individual meat cuts currently exist but tracing compound products that contain meat from more than one animal has up until now been difficult,” says Helen Mathias.

Grant Shackell says the use of DNA traceability tools will be routine management practice on the farm of the future.

“Consumers and governmental regulatory regimes will increasingly demand better food safety, improved animal welfare and information regarding the authenticity of foodstuffs derived from animals. DNA traceability technology allows us to comply with these demands.”

Current traceability techniques that don’t involve DNA use visual identifiers, such as tags, that are removed at slaughter when carcasses are dismantled into prime cuts or pre-packaged individual cuts.

“Even in systems that are designed specifically to track product derived from individual animals, up to 10 per cent may still be mislabelled. This problem increases several-fold in the manufacture of ground meat. DNA can prove identity for meat traceability, brand protection, fraud detection and non-label species contamination,” says Grant Shackell.

“New Zealand meat is already well placed at the top end of the market. DNA traceability techniques give us the opportunity to maintain our position, charge a premium and add value for discerning international consumers.

“Branding is particularly important for New Zealand. In most offshore markets we already have a strong brand presence as a supplier of premium meat products. Through DNA traceability we can back this up with real information that will be compelling for buyers the world over,” he says.

ENDS

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