Canadian Poultry Magazine

DNA is the latest weapon for food safety

David Manly   

Features Genetics Research Alberta Biosecurity poultry Poultry Research Production Protection Research University of Guelph

Apr. 5, 2012 – Recent research out of Alberta on food safety and traceability has the potential to have large impacts on Canadian beef, as well as poultry and other meat packaging and preparation industries. Not only will this research help improve food safety recalls, but it will also help researchers keep better track of animals.

The project, done in co-operation with the University of Alberta, IdentiGEN North America and the University of Guelph, used DNA analysis to analyze samples taking from ground beef. By isolating individual muscle fibres within the beef, the scientists were able to identify individual cattle that made up the mosaic final product.

A total of six batches were studied in the project. Scientists took 10 samples from each batch, and extracted DNA from 100 muscle fibers in each sample, meaning they analyzed 6,000 muscle fibers for the project.


The uses for this new technology can allow for more targeted recalls, as well as piece of mind to consumers, which could find out exactly where their meat came from.

Graham Plastow, the CEO of Livestock Gentec and part of the research team, said that this type of research has potential beyond just the beef industry.

One the largest ways this technology can help says Plastow, is by aiding in the verification process of what is contained within a specific product, in addition to helping eliminating potential pathogen risks, increasing awareness of health risks and re-inforcing the public brand.

“DNA is DNA,” he said, “whether it is in cattle, humans or chickens. Most techniques are transferrable between species, but it ultimately comes down to the question the researchers are looking at.”

“With a bit on ingenuity, you can make it work.”

Most of the funding for the $375,000 project was provided through Genome Alberta and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). Further research on the DNA traceability project and other livestock genome research, is available on the Livestock News and Views blog at

About Genome Alberta

Genome Alberta is a publicly funded organization that initiates, funds, and manages genomics research and partnerships. Genome Alberta is based in Calgary but leads projects around the province and participates in a variety of projects across the country. It is one of Canada’s six Genome Centres and work closely with these centres to advance the science and application of genomics, metabolomics, and many other related ‘omics’.

For the latest in life science news visit our GenOmics application at or visit us on the web at

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