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Consumers get what consumers want?

Gentec researcher Ellen Goddard writes that "antibiotic-free" means different things to different people. Find out here and here how that relates to their willingness to buy meat products.

However... consumers don't know enough about what animals get growth hormones to make educated choices at the grocery store--and may be paying an unnecessary price. Read more here.

And now that GM salmon have quietly been approved for retail sale in Canada, Ellen turns her attention to how consumers might react to the lack of mandatory labelling in their purchasing choices. Read her blog here.

Annual Field Day highlights the Kinsella Research Project

The Kinsella Research Project aims to demonstrate the value of genomic predictors (gEPDs) to select animals for the next generation of breeding stock. It is one of the features of the forthcoming Field Day.

Afternoon tours on July 20 will feature cow / calf pens of the Angus and Charolais herds along with the presentation of some of the 10 years of data collected before and as part of their participation in the Project. The same stop will also include commercial cow / calf pairs of the Kinsella Composite herd. These will be displayed alongside RFI data on the cow (as both a heifer and as a cow) and on data from its first calf as well as initial data on its second calf. As the Kinsella project progresses, it also aims to examine how genomic predictors can be used to sort animals on the basis of carcass quality, allowing for more efficient and sustainable management based on genetics at the feedlot as well.
This project and the ability to select for efficient cattle will provide critical benefits to the public and for the livestock industry. Since feed can account for more than 70% of producer costs, reducing the amount of feed per animal (and also grain and water consumption, land utilization, greenhouse gas and manure production) increases the sustainability of beef production for the producer and the planet.

Date: July 20
Location: Roy Berg Kinsella Research Station
Registration: $30 / person
Sign up: here
More information: here

Laser beams and breathalyzers: Not your grandfather's farm machinery

Gentec-associated researcher John Basarab talks to the CBC about how the latest technology is reducing the livestock industry's carbon footprint. Read more about John's work on methane emissions here and here.

Genomics: key to surviving climate change

Genome Canada CEO, Marc Lepage, provides clear, real-world examples of how genomics can help us understand, adapt and act to mitigate climate change. Read the article here.

In this article, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization makes a plea to maintain the world's dwindling number of livestock breeds--many of which have traits that could be very useful in future.

A healthy microbiome could reduce dependence on antibiotics

Gentec-associated researcher, Ben Willing, explains how pathogens don't do well in a healthy gut. Read more here.

"Grolar" bear possibly discovered in Nunavut

The internet lit up with news of a possible grizzly/polar bear hybrid being shot in Nunavut in late May. Although the hybrid has not been yet confirmed by DNA, the results could be of interest to Corey Davis a researcher at the University of Alberta that has been working with Delta Genomics to map out the extent of grizzly/polar bear hybridization in wild populations. We look forward to seeing the results of their study.

Events calendar

June 1 McDonald's Sustainable Beef Pilot Wrap Up Conference, Calgary, AB 
June 3 Livestock Handling Systems Tour, Fairview, AB 
June 8 University of Alberta's Calf Conference, Edmonton, AB 
June 15-16 Alberta Pork Congress Tradeshow, Red Deer, AB
June 16-17 UCVM Beef Cattle Conference, Calgary, AB
June 17-19 Porkapalooza BBQ Festival 2016, Edmonton, AB
May-July Cooking Classes with Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse, Edmonton, AB

Our broken food supply system

We waste nearly half the global food production in distribution and storage or in stores and our homes. Just as genomics can identify animals that are more feed-efficient and produce fewer greenhouse gases, if we were smarter about reducing waste, we might not need to worry so much about feeding our growing population or the effects of climate change. Read more here.

Realigning production, distribution and storage would address a host of factors that make how we currently feed the world unsustainable. Read more here.

This article focuses on the bigger picture of the future of food supply and what it might look like. One of the most insightful lay articles we've seen!

Earls restaurant, the "Certified Humane" brand and the ensuing maelstrom

Earls Kitchen + Bar restaurant chain made the headlines several times recently for becoming the first restaurant chain in North America to serve 100% Certified Humane Beef, for the outrage that ensued after it became clear that Alberta beef wasn't part of the equation, and for the company's subsequent promise to source whatever it could within the province that still meets its quality criteria (note that the quotes come mostly from Gentec associates) after some intervention and clarification (scroll down).

BIXSco's technology could provide one solution. Hubert Lau (who spoke at Gentec's 2015 conference) explains how here.

Reading between the lines: What does "Certified Humane" really mean?

What is "ethical"? What is not? What is "certified humane"? What is "humane" anyway? Is "antibiotic-free" exactly that--or not? Are we being manipulated by clever marketing? This article exposes some of the issues we may not think about when we try to buy the "right" product.

Whole Foods and the Global Alliance Partnership are trying a different approach to animal welfare. Read more here.

Video: antimicrobial resistance

Dr. Reynold Bergen (member of Gentec's Management Advisory Board) provides a fact-filled background to the use of antibiotics in livestock production. View it here (remember to scroll down).

Look, Ma, no horns!

Most cattle naturally have horns but, for their own safety and that of the humans around them, they are dehorned--a painful process that many consumers are taking issue with. Breeding polled (genetically hornless) cattle takes years, and producers would like a solution soonish. Genome editing (we've written about this before) may have that solution. Read more here.

"This is one instance where we have an opportunity to learn from our mistakes," says Gentec CEO Graham Plastow. "We should ask what consumers think about a given technology before going ahead with it."

The lighter side

Occasionally, The Globe and Mail's Report on Business cartoons focus their scathing wit on agriculture. Feel free to wince at No. 4, 54 and 91 in particular (and we challenge you to not pause over all the others while you're there).

Technology and the genome

Fifteen years ago, you could get your genome sequenced if you had a spare $3 billion. Today, the same thing will cost you $1,000. However, today's issue is not the sequencing, it's the information/analysis it provides--or not. Read more here and last month's article on this.

Gentec CEO Graham Plastow says, "Our goal is to help make sense of all of this data in livestock, and turn it into information that industry can use to improve sustainable production."

Care requirements may increase in US organic production

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service proposes to amend organic livestock and poultry production requirements by adding provisions for livestock handling and transport for slaughter and poultry living conditions; and expanding and clarifying requirements on health care practices and living conditions. Read a summary here.

DNA testing reduces food fraud in the seafood sector

Fish is one of the most likely food products to be switched (intentionally or not) for a cheaper one, leading to mistrust and deception. The Marine Stewardship Council’s Chain of Custody Standard is changing that with the use of DNA. Read more here.
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