GLOBAL: Genetic research to improve meat quality

Scientists at the University of West of England in the UK are working with eight other higher education institutions from seven countries to study the role genetics play in meat quality so that improvements can be made to livestock breeding and products sourced from animals.

The Bristol-based UWE will lead the Excelmeat project, which is backed by European Union (EU) funding and focuses on creating new technologies that could quickly and efficiently evaluate the quality of meat products. Researchers have taken a special interest in pork because it is one of the most popular meats in Europe.

"We are bringing together international expertise to develop new effective tools and approaches for the improvement of food quality," says Dr Olena Doran, leader of the research project. "The partners' experience and facilities will be used to create and develop an international genetics and food quality network."

Using genetic research, the UWE and its partner institutions aim to create several new systems to improve the quality of food, including: a method of detecting fat partitioning using a magnetic particle-based method; the creation of a 3D cell culture system to allow a closer study of food and the identification of physiological candidate genes; and the development of genetic markers in food that contribute to its high quality.

"Quality of food has direct impact on human health," Doran says. "For example, fatty acid composition and fat content in food products are related to the development of cancer, obesity, coronary heart disease and many other pathological states."

The UWE will work with Spain's Institute for Food and Technology and the University of Lleida, also in Spain, as well as Iowa State University in the US. The University of Bologna in Italy, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Studies, the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and the Institute for Pig Breeding, also in Ukraine, and the University of Leuven in Belgium are also partners in the project.