Better meat through science

Paul Elias of the AP reports on how geneticists are trying to make tastier hogs:

Even before the pig genome is completed sometime next year, top commercial producers such as Pig Improvement Co. and Monsanto Inc. are using preliminary results from genetic screens to see if they can determine which pigs are the tastiest before they are butchered. The screens will also be used to manage herds and make breeding decisions, among other improvements.
"They can now look inside the pig," Rothschild said. "They are both building better pigs with this technology."

Cattle, too:

Minnesota-based Cargill Inc., which supplies about 20 percent of the nation's beef, is working on a genetic screen to sort its cattle by the quality of their meat, something that can't be done now until the animal is slaughtered.
Cargill is testing the screen on 30,000 of its cattle. If it works, the company can reserve the best feed and care for its prime beef producers, or ensure that the best animals mate with each other.

The idea is that you eliminate a lot of guesswork by having direct genetic assays for alleles that correlate with meat quality -- instead of selecting indirectly through the observed qualities of genetic relatives.

Most people aren't aware of how much math goes into breeding science -- and this article isn't all that helpful, calling it an "art". It's probability theory, not an art!

In any event, genotyping is a way to raise certain probabilities, and in so doing cuts out a lot of math. It's just ironic that it takes computer screening to help us make meat taste better!