How DNA is used to trace the history of Scottish meat products
When it comes to purchasing meat products, many consumers like to not only know what they are eating - but also where it has come from. While some meat products on the market may contain some bits of information, such as the location of the farm where the animal was raised, they simply aren’t able to tell you the finer details of the animal you’re eating.
It’s been an issue for both farmers, supermarkets and consumers for years, until now. A new scheme has been introduced by Marks & Spencer which allows Scottish meat products to be traced back to the exact animal they are from. The aim is not only to improve transparency but to also help enhance the reputation of Scottish red meat around the world.
How does it work?
In order to be able to trace the meat back to the specific animal, all calves reared on participating farms are tagged with two plastic tags; one with a number to identify the farm and the other to identify the unique animal.
This data is then registered with the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS). Once completed, the database is able to return the relevant information, such as the animal’s parentage and its date of birth.
An advanced genetic fingerprint
Those with some knowledge into the history of tracing meat products will know that the process of tagging animals is nothing new as it has been compulsory for farms for many years.
However, traditional tagging has generally only allowed individuals to track part of the meat’s journey. Marks & Spencer say this new system of tracking allows people to follow the meat through the entire process; from the farm it was reared on all the way up to when the individual product has been bought by a shopper.
While the process is still yet to see a full national rollout, Alan Clarke, from Quality Meat Scotland has praised the scheme, citing how it can help improve standards:
“We are always looking at new technologies, we are always looking at new ways of doing things and anything such as this initiative which could help to enhance the world-class standards that we have we would support.”
With many supermarkets still using fake farm names on packaging to market their products, any means to show more authenticity is widely favoured by consumers. The only question is, how far is too far when tracing provenance?
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