August 2019

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Sustainability starts in the microbiome
Part 1: Cows and climate change

When Canada’s beef industry says its priority objective is to be sustainable, what does that mean, specifically? Tim McAllister, Principal Research Scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, Alberta, walks us through an answer that's more complicated than you think. Find out more here and view this supportive infographic from the Beef Cattle Research Council.

We're not all going to be vegetarians!

Plant-based burgers are taking off in a surprising way but that doesn't mean they're going to take over the world. Prof Wendy Umberger, Dr Lenka Malek, both from the University of Adelaide, and Gentec-associated researcher Ellen Goddard found that, in spite of evolving attitudes, most Canadians and Australians (high meat-consuming countries) aren't ready to go meatless. Find out the details here.

Global pasture area for meat production slashed by 140 million hectares since 2000

Despite the loss of pasture, beef and milk production have increased 13% and 32%. That's partly because animals are more efficient (see Tim McAllister's article above) and stocking densities are higher but other factors are involved as well. Read a summary of the Breakthrough Institute's report here.

Lab-grown food: more than just meat

  • Tim Horton's new eggless omelette made from
    mung bean protein isolate is being tested in southern Ontario.
  • Lab-grown sushi is still in its infancy but is hyped to reduce the production strain on wild and farmed salmon, and the environmental degradation often associated with them.
  • Perfect Day Inc., a California-based startup, has recreated the proteins found in conventional cow’s milk without the use of animals. The company is moving forward with production of yoghurt and cheese.
  • Bean-free coffee could be waking you up in the morning--but not tomorrow. This is still very much in the works.

How now, old cow!

Since the mad cow disease epidemic in 2003, it's been exceptionally hard to find meat from older animals for health and safety reasons. A whole generation of people has grown up not knowing the subtle flavours at the intersection of age and tenderness... until now. Steak from older cows is a growing trend around the world. Learn more here.

Genetic "fingerprint" makes meat traceable

Is that steak you just bought really organic, even though it says so on the label? We have well-developed systems for tracing animals from farm to slaughter but systems from slaughter to consumer less well organized and lower tech. Now, the Genomic Meat Sourcing service offered by Eurofins allows meat to be traced from the originating farm all the way to the grocery store using genetic "fingerprinting" to identify individual animals. Read more here.

Genotypes... phenotypes... alleles...

The vocabulary in genetics can get confusing. In this article, the writer explains the differences very neatly and with easy-to-understand examples.

Can gene editing make us live longer?

The creators of Code of the Wild brought global attention to the secret work of Dr. Jiankui He, who first gene-edited human babies in an attempt to make them immune to HIV. They filmed for 18 months in United States and China documenting the scientists and biohackers involved in editing humans. View the trailer above, and find out more here.

“Smoke detector” for genetically-engineered organisms

Researchers are developing a tool that can detect the presence of gene-edited organisms in a sample with a simple yes/no response. Read more here.

Study will test CRISPR gene editing inside the body for first time

An experimental treatment will use gene editing technology to splice in a healthy version of a missing gene in blind children as a cure to their condition. Read more here.


September 10-12. Canada's Outdoor Farm Show. Woodstock, ON
September 10-13. SPACE - International Exhibition for Animal Production 2019. Bruz, France
September 14-17. Allen D. Leman Swine Conference, Saint Paul River Centre, MN, USA
September 19. Dairy Cattle Improvement Industry Forum, Montreal QC
September 27-29. Annual World Beef Expo. Milwaulkee, WI, USA

October 1-5. World Dairy Expo – Madison, WI, USA
October 8. Canadian Agricultural Safety Association annual conference. Ottawa, ON
October 19-21. Leman China Swine Conference. Zhengzhou, China
October 23-23. 129th World Food Science & Food Technology congress. Toronto, ON
October 27-19. Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference – East. Niagara Falls, ON

The lighter side: The pig war

The most curious international conflict between Canada and the US involved a pig, a bullish army officer, and disputed border in BC's Georgia Strait. Catch up on your history and geography all in one go right here.
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