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Up To Half of Angus Beef Fails New DNA Identification Test Developed by ViaGen, Inc.

AUSTIN, Texas -- A pair of new DNA tests revealed that eight to 50 percent of retail beef carrying a label with the name "Angus" does not meet the USDA criteria for Angus branding. Across geographic areas within a single brand, similar results were observed.

The tests, AnguSure(TM) and Inducator(TM), were developed by Austin-based animal genomics firm ViaGen, Inc. The tests separately assess the two most common criteria employed in branded beef programs certified by the USDA: a minimum of 50 percent Angus (AnguSure(TM)) and minimal Brahman influence (Inducator(TM)).

Both tests were initially performed on multiple brands of steaks purchased from retail outlets across Central Texas. To get a better handle on the scope of the problem, the company followed up with an analysis of meat from four geographic regions sold under a single brand name. The results were the same in both cases, indicating this is an industry-wide issue and is not brand or region specific.

"The industry is doing the best they can with the technology available. But these new tests enable producers, consumers and retailers to benefit from increased brand integrity," says Sara Davis, Ph.D., president of ViaGen.

Labels containing the word "Angus" are generally an indicator of top quality meat. Branded beef originated when the American Angus Association created the Certified Angus Beef(TM) (CAB(TM)) designation in 1978 to boost standards and help consumers reliably identify good beef. Other independent Angus labels followed. Currently, the determination of the amount of Angus is made by a visual inspection of the whole animal. DNA analysis now shows that manual inspection is not always accurate.

About three quarters of the samples that failed one or both tests had higher than desired Brahman influence. While a particularly well-suited breed for hot, southern climates, too much Brahman is associated with increased toughness and poor eating quality. Beef that passes both the AnguSure(TM) and Inducator(TM) tests ensures maximum consumer satisfaction.

Testing can also be performed on live animals, benefiting everyone involved in the production and sale of beef. Offspring of a bull certified as 100 percent Angus automatically meet the first criterion for Angus branding. Precertification of live cattle allows ranchers to obtain premium prices for their livestock and helps packers ship beef to wholesalers with absolute confidence in quality. Genetically certified beef leads to satisfied customers and repeat business for retailers and restaurateurs.

The tests require only a small blood, hair or meat sample to be shipped to the company's lab. Test results can be delivered in as little as two days. ViaGen expects all parts of the industry, from producers to end users, will take advantage of the offerings. The tests will be affordably priced to help many industry segments ensure product quality.

AnguSure(TM) was created by evaluating samples from the nation's top Angus bulls and comparing their genetic profiles to those of bulls from other breeds. Over the past two years, ViaGen scientists have screened genetic markers in order to develop a cost-effective laboratory test. The Inducator(TM) was developed in a similar fashion. ViaGen currently holds a patent covering this specific use of DNA markers in animals.

"AnguSure(TM) and Inducator(TM) ensure that producers are certain of their product," said Davis. "These tests help everyone in the industry - from cattlemen to retailers to restaurants- offer the highest quality products for consumers."

About ViaGen: ViaGen provides state-of-the-art advanced breeding services powered by genomics to all sectors of the $240 billion livestock, aquaculture and companion animal industry. Unmatched genomic capabilities allow ViaGen to identify economically important genetic traits in virtually any animal species, information that is paired with ViaGen's expertise in advanced reproductive technologies to obtain revenue enhancing improvements in quality, yield, safety and brand integrity.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 3, 2004
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