NEW YORK, June 11-MetaMorphix plans to announce this afternoon that it has completed a draft of the cow genome and has inked a major deal with the international food giant Cargill to discover markers for desirable genetic traits in cattle.
The Savage, Md.-based company, which acquired Celera's animal genomics business earlier this spring, has completed 1x coverage of the genome of the cow, said company CFO Michael Thomas in a brief interview with GenomeWeb.
Additionally, in a two-year, $10 million agreement with Cargill, MetaMorphix will identify markers to predict traits like meat quality and weight gain in the animals.
Cargill subsidiary Caprock Cattle Feeders will measure phenotypic qualities such as meat marbling and provide blood samples to MetaMorphix, where researchers will search for genetic markers associated with these traits.
"The end result is that a blood sample will go in from one cow entering a feedlot, and 24 hours later, they'll know essentially whether that cow is going to produce well-marbled meat," said Thomas.
While MetaMorphix hopes ultimately to develop new treatments and diagnostics for livestock based on improved genetic information, this partnership will be primarily focused on finding markers that predict meat quality.
"The possibilities are huge here, because beef is the one meat that has never really been branded," he added. "The marketing impact of being able to brand consistently high-quality beef--that's obviously the holy grail of cattle production. I think this is a very significant step in that direction."