Asda puts cows under microscope

Supermarket chain Asda has signed a deal with a bovine gene-marker company to give its farmers discounted genetic profile tests to improve efficiency.

In a partnership with Igenity, Asda will offer its BeefLink farmers a 42% discount on bovine profile tests, which have the potential to save them 324,000t of feed annually. Asda claims that the tests will also improve the eating quality of its beef.

By taking hair samples, Igenity's DNA technology gives breeders and producers better knowledge of animals' genetic traits, allowing them to make more informed decisions that have a direct impact on profitability.

Pearce Hughes, Asda agricultural development manager, said: "This is a landmark move for a retailer, which will help to put our Asda farmers one step ahead of the game with regards to business efficiency, as well as providing a genuine step in the right direction on the farming industry's contribution to global warming."

The tests involve feed efficiency and residual feed markers, which can improve overall efficiency in beef supply chains. Research by Igenity and partner universities has shown that the most efficient animals can consume up to 2.5kg less daily feed than their counterparts, while achieving the same growth rates.

Igenity business development manager Nick Munce said: "These latest gene markers could potentially be our most powerful and revolutionary to date. By managing a cattle's feed efficiency and so reducing feed costs, the technology also has a wider impact in substantially reducing carbon footprint, through savings in haulage road miles and lower methane outputs.

"We're pleased that Asda is encouraging its supply chain to adopt the technology, to help improve the production efficiency of its beef and milk suppliers."

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