Meat traceability is an important prerequisite for consumer safety, particularly with the threat of infectious disease outbreaks such as foot and mouth or bird flu. While European Union (EU) regulations are placing greater emphasis on being able to demonstrate where animals have been raised, slaughtered and sold, there is a lack of rapid molecular methods that enable animal identification. In collaboration with Applied Biosystems, Spanish researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, have developed and validated an identity test that studies can determine the lineage of a pig by identifying different genetic markers or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The research is due to be published in the December issue of Animal Genetics and describes the development of a panel of 46 SNPs using Applied Biosystems SNPlex system that can identify pigs from five different purebred lines that are of major commercial importance. Typically, such a test would involve studying larger areas of polymorphism in the DNA sequence known as microsatellite markers. This type of genotyping only requires a handful of markers to identify an individual but is prohibitively expensive for genotyping livestock. However, the researchers have shown that the 466 SNPs can identify the parentage of pigs in a cost-effective manner using the SNPlex system and Applied Biosystems 3730 DNA Analysers. "We have established that 46 SNPs are sufficient to identify individual pigs, using the SNPlex technique, with absolute confidence," said Professor Armand Sánchez, lead author of the study. "The SNPlex platform is ideal for analysing larger numbers of markers, and additional markers can be easily added to the panel as required, such as when breeders wish to identify specific genetic traits." The test should enable breeders to identify markers that are associated with desirable traits in terms of meat quality and flavour as well as paving the way for such techniques to be developed for other livestock such as sheep, cows and poultry. The tests could also be useful for animal breeders and farmers who wish to identify genetic markers associated with particularly desirable traits in terms of meat quality and flavor, and could be adapted for identification and traceability in other animal species, such as sheep, cows and poultry. "The SNP-based test provides a convenient, affordable and automation-friendly tool that can be used by farmers, breeders and meat producers to prove the quality of their products," said Lars Holmkvist, Applied Biosystems' president for Europe. "This Applied Biosystems technology also has the potential to enable farmers and breeders to provide their livestock with personalised identity cards."