Monday, December 5, 2011

Why you could one day be picking your meat by its DNA

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 9:30 AM

One day these numbers might stand for genomes.
  • International Styles
  • One day these numbers might stand for genomes.
It's a little bit of CSI meets CSA, but in the future, you could be picking your ground beef based on its genes. The Lawrence-Journal World has the story of Lawrence-based IdentiGEN, a company that has figured out how to use DNA to allow restaurants and food processors (and theoretically consumers) to track cattle from where they were raised to the plate on which they're served as a hamburger.

As to whether this is technological progress or a sign that the market is demanding a radical intervention in our food-production system depends on your views of how a cow becomes a steak. Regardless, knowing more about what you eat is never a negative, particularly if it serves to improve food safety or help track the source of a bacterial outbreak faster.

Still the idea that genetic markers could replace breed names as a signifier of quality is a little bit jarring. Imagine a future where you point your cell phone at a bar code on a shrink-wrapped package of hamburger and discover that not only did your cow live on a farm in Montana but it also had blue eyes. In some respects, that's closer to the world wherein you once knew the name of the Kansas farmer who fed 128 people and you, rather than just driving by his wooden sign on Interstate 70.

Would you want to know the DNA of your burger?

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