Meat with no mystery
Trent University Staff | August 21, 2014
With recent scandals in the meat industry prompting consumers to call for greater accountability from suppliers, companies such as Maple Leaf, are looking for new ways to ensure that their products are exactly what they claim to be. This quest brought Maple Leaf to Trent and more, specifically, to Trent University’s DNA lab to look for solutions.
Vythegi Srithayakumar, a postdoc in Trent’s Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre works with Maple Leaf on a DNA traceability program for their meat products.
“We have the ability to extract so many samples using our robots in a short period of time, and the ability to automate everything on a large scale,” says Srithayakumar. “If industry wants us to test thousands of samples within a short period of time we can carry it out.”
Srithayakumar’s fellowship is jointly funded by Maple Leaf and Mitacs, an organization that creates alliances between private companies, government and academia.
The Mitacs fellowship fits perfectly with Srithayakumar’s goals to work in the private sector.
“I like finding answers to real questions,” she says. “When you are into pure research, you don’t get to see the results being applied right away. With the research I’m doing for Maple Leaf, I’m doing it at the same time as I’m having to apply it, and that’s what drives me.”
Maple Leaf’s Director of Emerging science says he appreciates the timeliness of Srithayakumar’s research.
“The recent European horsemeat scandal has focused the need for traceability and accountability right through to the final product on the consumer’s plate,” says John Webb. “The recent order-of-magnitude reduction in the cost of high-throughput DNA testing now makes this a practical possibility to ensure the integrity of products and build consumer confidence.”
Webb says the choice of partner was clear.
“Trent University is a world leader in the development of DNA technologies to track and protect wildlife. We are thrilled and excited to have this opportunity to move closer to the group through the Mitacs fellowship.”
The partnership helps Srithayakumar build industry contacts and apply her academic skills in a real-world setting.
Each month, Research Matters presents a daily series of blog posts based on a theme. This month’s theme is “Your Health.” Some of these stories have appeared previously in university publications. They are edited for brevity, clarity and style, and republished with permission here.
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Noreen Fagan | December 18, 2014Here’s a fun fact – Canadians eat more sushi than the Japanese. At least that’s what Mark Cleveland says, and he should know. Cleveland is a professor of marketing at Western University. His research focuses on the integration of cultures on a global scale and the effects of cosmopolitanism, which according to Cleveland is, “the cultural openness and the ability to successfully navigate between different cultural groups.” In other words, people who want to understand and experience other cultures do so by fully immersing themselves in that culture. “You want to live the life of cultural authenticity, by trying to understand the culture through that culture’s eyes,” he says. Cleveland’s interest in cultural openness started when he was a Master’s and then a Ph.D. student at Concordia University in Montreal. He started researching how new immigrants, primarily ethic minorities, adapted to Canadian culture by finding ways to combine their traditional identities, culture and values into mainstream society. “I have always believed that just because you learn another culture does not mean you give up the original culture. You can be bicultural or multicultural and the two can reinforce each other,” says Cleveland. “Not only are minorities affected by cultural exchange but the majority are as well.” Canada’s multiculturalism prompted Cleveland to extend his research into globalization, with a focus on how global cultures affect majority populations around the world. In the last decade Cleveland has conducted research in 15 to 20 countries exploring cultural exchange and cosmopolitanism. He says a person no longer has to travel abroad – although it helps – to become cosmopolitan. A person can experience different cultures in the comfort of their own home or neighbourhood, simply by watching TV, surfing the Internet, playing videos on You Tube or buying and consuming different products. “When we buy products, and types of brands and the reasons for buying them, they are like extensions of ourselves,” he says. So how do the sushi–eating Canadians fit into all of this? Cleveland believes if a person wants to experience cultural authenticity they will gear their shopping towards achieving that aim. In other words, a person is not going to go for the North American version of sushi (think Californian Roll), when they can get the real thing – think Unagi. He says there is probably a general global trend towards cultural openness as people become more educated and have more exposure to other cultures but he warns, there is another side. “A lot of people are really opposed to what is happening with Globalization and they see their culture as under threat,” says Cleveland adding that the threat is heightened when people feel insecure. If people are feeling secure in their surroundings (financially, emotionally and physically), the more open they are to cultural exchange and the more cosmopolitan they become. Being cosmopolitan however, does not mean buying local is a thing of the past; in fact what makes cosmopolitans stand out is that they strive for cultural authenticity. “The more cosmopolitan you are means you are not only interested in preserving differences but also interested in the environment, like getting the best locally,” says Cleveland. In terms of cosmopolitanism Cleveland thinks Canadians are more accepting of other cultures. “We are a new country, most of us go back two or three generations and have one or two grandparents born somewhere else. We have a more fluid identity,” he says, adding that as large cities go, Toronto is well integrated. “We are not just living in these areas dominated by our own ethic group, there are more opportunities to mix, and I think that allows us to become more open-minded.”