Friday, May 18, 2007

birds and dinosaur proteins

a new video featurning the executive director of the Banbury Center and the executive director of the Dolan DNA Learning Center, both at Cold Spring Harbor, discuss the discovery and analysis of proteins from dinosaurs and how they are related to chickens!

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

it's just natural

as reported in the WSJ;
a group of "smaller" poultry producers (including Sanderson Farms, Foster Farms and Gold'n Plump Poultry) will be delivering a letter to the USDA requesting an elaboration and qualification of the USDA definition of "natural" poultry products.

why? you may ask ...

because, as discussed in class, the larger producers (e.g., Tyson Foods and Pilgrim's Pride) have begun to enter the 'natural' and 'organic' market. Obviously, there is a much greater added value for any company to sell a premium product -- especially when 10-15% of the weight of the product is chicken broth!

The WSJ indicates that this may be a difficult fight for the coalition to win ... as the big producers have made political contributions at approximately 20X that of the smaller guys.

If you're wondering how someone might find this kind of information, click here!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

more feed contamination

a new culprit in the contamination of feedstuffs has been identified! it's cyanuric acid (structure below). cyanuric acid is used primarily as a chlorine stabilizer in backyard pools in the USA (it prevents chlorine loss due to UV light). compare this structure to that of melamine!


apparently, under certain sets of conditions, cyanuric acid can combine with melamine and form a lovely planar structure (see electron micrograph and inset drawing below) -- which forms spontaneously and is loaded with hydrogen bonds.


its toxicology is unknown, but , as quoted in the NYTimes:

“I’m convinced melamine can’t do it by itself,” said Richard Goldstein, an assistant professor at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “I think it’s this melamine with other compounds that is toxic.”

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risk analysis of chickens fed melamine

Chickens That Ate Bad Feed Pass Test -
... over 20 million chickens, quarantined since last friday, have been declared safe for people to eat. in the FDA's own words:
Even if a person were to eat the chickens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, scientists concluded, the amount of melamine consumed in one day would be 1/2,500 of the minimum dose thought capable of posing a health risk.

risk analysis of hogs exposed to the 'tainted' feed are ongoing...

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Monday, May 7, 2007


we didn't have much time in class to discuss 'nutrigenomics' (who are hosting, btw, a symposium in honor of one of my alltime science heroes -- Bruce Ames!). In any case, it is an emerging trend in both human medicine and animal agriculture.

So ...

Is the Feed Industry Ready for the Gene Chip?

May 07 2007 - Nutrigenomics has been defined as the effect of gene expression on nutrition.

It is a case of weird science, or are individual à la carte animal diets that ‘feed the gene’ on their way?

To debate the concept, Feedinfo News Service bought together Dr. Inge Russell, professor of yeast biotechnology and fermentation at the University of Western Ontario and Editor of 'Critical Reviews in Biotechnology'; Dr. Bill Close, a professor of pig nutrition who runs an independent consultancy in the UK; and Alltech’s director of research, Doctor Karl Dawson.

Listen to audio highlights from the debate by clicking on each of the chapters below. You’ll need some mp3-compatible software to play each excerpt. Alternatively, use a right click to save the link to your hard disk/mp3 player and listen at your leisure.
  1. Where we began: selenium (Dawson, 1’51”)
  2. Why yeast is key to understanding the gene (Russell, 1’11”)
  3. Using biomarkers to evaluate next-generation products (Dawson, 0’40”)
  4. Explaining variations in animal production parameters – are you seeing ‘diagnostic’ Nutrigenomics gaining ground? (Close, 1’04”)
  5. ‘The payback is staggering’ – How Nutrigenomics enables us to understand the effect of inorganic selenium use (Close, 2’15”)
  6. A tool for making better sense of field observations in animal performance (Dawson, 2’10”)
  7. Better products faster - Reducing new product time to market using a Nutrigenomics approach (Russell, 0’49”)
  8. How do I sell it? (Close, 1’28” )
  9. Is there an impact on amino acid use? (Close, 0’36”)
  10. The Custom Diet – An example of dairy forage and gene expression (Dawson, 2’03”)
  11. Cost-effective gene chip production and the concept of trust (Russell, 1’25”)
  12. Is the feed industry ready to embrace the chip? (Close, 0’40”)
  13. Realising the animal’s full potential (Close, 2’20”)
  14. Positive environmental impact (Close, 0’44”)
  15. How Nutrigenomics brings the bigger picture to feed formulation (Russell, 0’47”)
  16. How far away is Nutrigenomics? (Russell, Close, 1’00”)
  17. A practical example – Nutrigenomics antioxidants and oxydated stress (Dawson, 1’26”)
  18. Producing an extra kilo of milk per day (Dawson, 0’40”)
  19. What are the cost benefits (Dawson, 1’17”)
  20. Nutrigenomics is indicative of how research has moved into the corporate domain (Close, 0’56”)
  21. Then and Now - parallels between nutrigenomics and synthetic amino acid development 20 years ago (Close, 0’54”)
  22. Nutrigenomics and higher amino acid use (Close, Dawson, 1’37”)
  23. Jumping from Nutrigenomics in breeding to nutrigenomics in nutrition (Dawson, 1’32”)
  24. Ethanol: Nutrigenomics can help evaluate feed ingredients that will take the place of corn (Dawson, Close, 1’50”)
  25. How long until the genotype dictates the diet - a prediction (Russell, Close, 2’00”)
a half-hour (or so) well spent.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

chicken stock

ok; so this post may not be what you expected based on the title ...

but, Tyson Foods is trading for $20.96/share (2nd quarter; 2007 and $21.15 at close today!) while posting a $52 million increase in pretax chicken sales in this quarter.  the recent increases in corn prices should be reflected in the next quarter.

Looming on the horizon, however, is the recent report that "(n)early 40 poultry farms in Indiana gave chickens feed contaminated with wheat gluten imported from China...". while the FDA did NOT indicate which company owned the chickens ... one has to wonder what the effect will be on the bottom line.

for those expecting a different discussion, look here. though, imho, you need to add a handful of flatleaf parsley, some fresh basil and the leafy fronds of some fennel (and a hot pepper!).

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