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Reshaping the horse through millennia: Sequencing reveals genes selected by humans in domestication

Whole genome sequencing of modern and ancient horses unveils the genes that have been selected by humans in the process of domestication through the latest 5,500 years, but also reveals the cost of this domestication. A new study led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with scientists from 11 international universities, reports that a significant part of the genetic variation in modern domesticated horses could be attributed to interbreeding with the descendants of a now extinct population of wild horses. This population was distinct from the only surviving wild horse population, that of the Przewalski’s horses. The study has been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The domestication of the horse some 5,500 years ago ultimately revolutionized human civilization and societies. Horses facilitated transportation as well as the circulation of ideas, languages and religions. Horses also revolutionized warfare with the advent of chariotry and mounted cavalry and beyond the battlefield horses greatly stimulated agriculture. However, the domestication of the horse and the subsequent encroachment of human civilization also resulted in the near extinction of wild horses.

The only surviving wild horse population, the Przewalski’s horses from Mongolia, descends from mere 13 individuals, preserved only through a massive conservation effort. As a consequence of this massive loss of genetic diversity, the effects of horse domestication through times have been difficult to unravel on a molecular level. Says Dr. Ludovic Orlando, Associate Professor at the Centre for GeoGenetics, who led this work

“The classical way to evaluate the evolutionary impact of domestication consists of comparing the genetic information present amongst wild animals and their living domesticates. This approach is ill suited to horses as the only surviving population of wild horses has experienced a massive demographic decline in the 20th century. We therefore decided to sequence the genome of ancient horses that lived prior to domestication to directly assess how pre-domesticated horses looked like genetically.”

Recent advances in ancient DNA research have opened the door for reconstructing the genomes of ancient individuals. In 2013, Ludovic Orlando and his team succeeded in decoding the genome of a ~700,000 year-old horse, which represents the oldest genome sequenced to date. This time, the researchers focused on much more recent horse specimens, dating from ~16,000 and ~43,000 years ago. These were carefully selected to unambiguously predate the beginning of domestication, some 5,500 years ago. The bone fossils were excavated in the Taymyr Peninsula, Russia, where arctic conditions favor the preservation of DNA.

The human reshaping of the horse

While the horse contributed to reshaping human civilization, humans in turn reshaped the horse to fit their diverse needs and the diverse environments they lived in. This transformation left specific signatures in the genomes of modern horses, which the ancient genomes helped reveal. The scientists were able to detect a set of 125 candidate genes involved in a wide range of physical and behavioral traits, by comparing the genomes of the two ancient horses with those of the Przewalski’s horse and five breeds of domesticated horses. Says Dr. Dan Chang, post-doctoral researcher at the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab and co-leading author of the study:

“Our selection scans identified genes that were already known to evolve under strong selection in horses. This provided a nice validation of our approach.”

Dr. Beth Shapiro, head of the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab continues: “We provide the most extensive list of gene candidates that have been favored by humans following the domestication of horses. This list is fascinating as it includes a number of genes involved in the development of muscle and bones. This probably reveals the genes that helped utilizing horses for transportation.”

And Dr. Ludovic Orlando from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen concludes: “Perhaps even more exciting as it represents the hallmark of animal domestication, we identify genes controlling animal behavior and the response to fear. These genes could have been the key for turning wild animals into more docile domesticated forms.”

The ‘cost of domestication’ in horses

However, the reshaping of the horse genome during their domestication also had significant negative impacts. This was apparent in the increasing levels of inbreeding found amongst domesticates, but also through an enhanced accumulation of deleterious mutations in their genomes relative to the ancient wild horses. This finding supports an earlier theory coined ‘the cost of domestication’, which predicted increasing genetic loads in domesticates compared to their wild ancestors. Says Professor Laurent Excoffier, University of Bern and group leader at the Swiss Institute for Bioinformatics:

“Domestication is generally associated with repeated demographic crashes. Yet, mutations that negatively impact genes are not eliminated by selection and can even increase in frequency when populations are small. Domestication thus generally comes at a cost, as deleterious mutations can accumulate in the genome. This had already been shown for rice and dogs. Horses now provide another example of this phenomenon.”

This is something that was only detectable in the horse in comparison to the ancient genomes, as Przewalski’s horses were found to show a proportion of deleterious mutations similar to domesticated horses. Says Hákon Jónsson, PhD-student at the Centre for GeoGenetics, co-leading author of the study: “The recent near extinction of the Przewalski’s horse population resulted in the persistence of deleterious mutations in the population, following the same mechanism that once led to the accumulation of deleterious mutations in the genomes of domesticated horses. What is striking is that a similar order of magnitude was reached even though this occurred in a much shorter time scale than domestication.”

An ancient contribution to the present

In addition, comparison of the ancient and modern genomes revealed that the ancient individuals contributed a significant amount of genetic variation to the modern population of domesticated horses, but not to the Przewalski’s horses. This suggests that restocking from a wild population descendant from the ancient horses occurred during the domestication processes that ultimately led to the modern domesticated horses. Mikkel Schubert, PhD- student at the Centre for GeoGenetics, co-leading author of the study concludes:

“This confirms previous findings that wild horses were used to restock the population of domesticated horses during the domestication process. However, as we sequenced whole genomes, we can estimate how much of the modern horse genome has been contributed through this process. Our estimate suggests that at least 13%, and potentially up to as much as 60%, of the modern horse genome has been acquired by restocking from the extinct wild population. That we identified the population that contributed to this process demonstrates that it is possible to identify the ancestral genetic sources that ultimately gave rise to our domesticated horses.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Reshaping the horse through millennia: Sequencing reveals genes selected by humans in domestication

Whole genome sequencing of modern and ancient horses unveils the genes that have been selected by humans in the process of domestication through the latest 5,500 years, but also reveals the cost of this domestication. A new study led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with scientists from 11 international universities, reports that a significant part of the genetic variation in modern domesticated horses could be attributed to interbreeding with the descendants of a now extinct population of wild horses. This population was distinct from the only surviving wild horse population, that of the Przewalski’s horses. The study has been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The domestication of the horse some 5,500 years ago ultimately revolutionized human civilization and societies. Horses facilitated transportation as well as the circulation of ideas, languages and religions. Horses also revolutionized warfare with the advent of chariotry and mounted cavalry and beyond the battlefield horses greatly stimulated agriculture. However, the domestication of the horse and the subsequent encroachment of human civilization also resulted in the near extinction of wild horses.

The only surviving wild horse population, the Przewalski’s horses from Mongolia, descends from mere 13 individuals, preserved only through a massive conservation effort. As a consequence of this massive loss of genetic diversity, the effects of horse domestication through times have been difficult to unravel on a molecular level. Says Dr. Ludovic Orlando, Associate Professor at the Centre for GeoGenetics, who led this work

“The classical way to evaluate the evolutionary impact of domestication consists of comparing the genetic information present amongst wild animals and their living domesticates. This approach is ill suited to horses as the only surviving population of wild horses has experienced a massive demographic decline in the 20th century. We therefore decided to sequence the genome of ancient horses that lived prior to domestication to directly assess how pre-domesticated horses looked like genetically.”

Recent advances in ancient DNA research have opened the door for reconstructing the genomes of ancient individuals. In 2013, Ludovic Orlando and his team succeeded in decoding the genome of a ~700,000 year-old horse, which represents the oldest genome sequenced to date. This time, the researchers focused on much more recent horse specimens, dating from ~16,000 and ~43,000 years ago. These were carefully selected to unambiguously predate the beginning of domestication, some 5,500 years ago. The bone fossils were excavated in the Taymyr Peninsula, Russia, where arctic conditions favor the preservation of DNA.

The human reshaping of the horse

While the horse contributed to reshaping human civilization, humans in turn reshaped the horse to fit their diverse needs and the diverse environments they lived in. This transformation left specific signatures in the genomes of modern horses, which the ancient genomes helped reveal. The scientists were able to detect a set of 125 candidate genes involved in a wide range of physical and behavioral traits, by comparing the genomes of the two ancient horses with those of the Przewalski’s horse and five breeds of domesticated horses. Says Dr. Dan Chang, post-doctoral researcher at the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab and co-leading author of the study:

“Our selection scans identified genes that were already known to evolve under strong selection in horses. This provided a nice validation of our approach.”

Dr. Beth Shapiro, head of the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab continues: “We provide the most extensive list of gene candidates that have been favored by humans following the domestication of horses. This list is fascinating as it includes a number of genes involved in the development of muscle and bones. This probably reveals the genes that helped utilizing horses for transportation.”

And Dr. Ludovic Orlando from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen concludes: “Perhaps even more exciting as it represents the hallmark of animal domestication, we identify genes controlling animal behavior and the response to fear. These genes could have been the key for turning wild animals into more docile domesticated forms.”

The ‘cost of domestication’ in horses

However, the reshaping of the horse genome during their domestication also had significant negative impacts. This was apparent in the increasing levels of inbreeding found amongst domesticates, but also through an enhanced accumulation of deleterious mutations in their genomes relative to the ancient wild horses. This finding supports an earlier theory coined ‘the cost of domestication’, which predicted increasing genetic loads in domesticates compared to their wild ancestors. Says Professor Laurent Excoffier, University of Bern and group leader at the Swiss Institute for Bioinformatics:

“Domestication is generally associated with repeated demographic crashes. Yet, mutations that negatively impact genes are not eliminated by selection and can even increase in frequency when populations are small. Domestication thus generally comes at a cost, as deleterious mutations can accumulate in the genome. This had already been shown for rice and dogs. Horses now provide another example of this phenomenon.”

This is something that was only detectable in the horse in comparison to the ancient genomes, as Przewalski’s horses were found to show a proportion of deleterious mutations similar to domesticated horses. Says Hákon Jónsson, PhD-student at the Centre for GeoGenetics, co-leading author of the study: “The recent near extinction of the Przewalski’s horse population resulted in the persistence of deleterious mutations in the population, following the same mechanism that once led to the accumulation of deleterious mutations in the genomes of domesticated horses. What is striking is that a similar order of magnitude was reached even though this occurred in a much shorter time scale than domestication.”

An ancient contribution to the present

In addition, comparison of the ancient and modern genomes revealed that the ancient individuals contributed a significant amount of genetic variation to the modern population of domesticated horses, but not to the Przewalski’s horses. This suggests that restocking from a wild population descendant from the ancient horses occurred during the domestication processes that ultimately led to the modern domesticated horses. Mikkel Schubert, PhD- student at the Centre for GeoGenetics, co-leading author of the study concludes:

“This confirms previous findings that wild horses were used to restock the population of domesticated horses during the domestication process. However, as we sequenced whole genomes, we can estimate how much of the modern horse genome has been contributed through this process. Our estimate suggests that at least 13%, and potentially up to as much as 60%, of the modern horse genome has been acquired by restocking from the extinct wild population. That we identified the population that contributed to this process demonstrates that it is possible to identify the ancestral genetic sources that ultimately gave rise to our domesticated horses.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Reshaping the horse through millennia: Sequencing reveals genes selected by humans in domestication

Whole genome sequencing of modern and ancient horses unveils the genes that have been selected by humans in the process of domestication through the latest 5,500 years, but also reveals the cost of this domestication. A new study led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with scientists from 11 international universities, reports that a significant part of the genetic variation in modern domesticated horses could be attributed to interbreeding with the descendants of a now extinct population of wild horses. This population was distinct from the only surviving wild horse population, that of the Przewalski’s horses. The study has been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The domestication of the horse some 5,500 years ago ultimately revolutionized human civilization and societies. Horses facilitated transportation as well as the circulation of ideas, languages and religions. Horses also revolutionized warfare with the advent of chariotry and mounted cavalry and beyond the battlefield horses greatly stimulated agriculture. However, the domestication of the horse and the subsequent encroachment of human civilization also resulted in the near extinction of wild horses.

The only surviving wild horse population, the Przewalski’s horses from Mongolia, descends from mere 13 individuals, preserved only through a massive conservation effort. As a consequence of this massive loss of genetic diversity, the effects of horse domestication through times have been difficult to unravel on a molecular level. Says Dr. Ludovic Orlando, Associate Professor at the Centre for GeoGenetics, who led this work

“The classical way to evaluate the evolutionary impact of domestication consists of comparing the genetic information present amongst wild animals and their living domesticates. This approach is ill suited to horses as the only surviving population of wild horses has experienced a massive demographic decline in the 20th century. We therefore decided to sequence the genome of ancient horses that lived prior to domestication to directly assess how pre-domesticated horses looked like genetically.”

Recent advances in ancient DNA research have opened the door for reconstructing the genomes of ancient individuals. In 2013, Ludovic Orlando and his team succeeded in decoding the genome of a ~700,000 year-old horse, which represents the oldest genome sequenced to date. This time, the researchers focused on much more recent horse specimens, dating from ~16,000 and ~43,000 years ago. These were carefully selected to unambiguously predate the beginning of domestication, some 5,500 years ago. The bone fossils were excavated in the Taymyr Peninsula, Russia, where arctic conditions favor the preservation of DNA.

The human reshaping of the horse

While the horse contributed to reshaping human civilization, humans in turn reshaped the horse to fit their diverse needs and the diverse environments they lived in. This transformation left specific signatures in the genomes of modern horses, which the ancient genomes helped reveal. The scientists were able to detect a set of 125 candidate genes involved in a wide range of physical and behavioral traits, by comparing the genomes of the two ancient horses with those of the Przewalski’s horse and five breeds of domesticated horses. Says Dr. Dan Chang, post-doctoral researcher at the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab and co-leading author of the study:

“Our selection scans identified genes that were already known to evolve under strong selection in horses. This provided a nice validation of our approach.”

Dr. Beth Shapiro, head of the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab continues: “We provide the most extensive list of gene candidates that have been favored by humans following the domestication of horses. This list is fascinating as it includes a number of genes involved in the development of muscle and bones. This probably reveals the genes that helped utilizing horses for transportation.”

And Dr. Ludovic Orlando from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen concludes: “Perhaps even more exciting as it represents the hallmark of animal domestication, we identify genes controlling animal behavior and the response to fear. These genes could have been the key for turning wild animals into more docile domesticated forms.”

The ‘cost of domestication’ in horses

However, the reshaping of the horse genome during their domestication also had significant negative impacts. This was apparent in the increasing levels of inbreeding found amongst domesticates, but also through an enhanced accumulation of deleterious mutations in their genomes relative to the ancient wild horses. This finding supports an earlier theory coined ‘the cost of domestication’, which predicted increasing genetic loads in domesticates compared to their wild ancestors. Says Professor Laurent Excoffier, University of Bern and group leader at the Swiss Institute for Bioinformatics:

“Domestication is generally associated with repeated demographic crashes. Yet, mutations that negatively impact genes are not eliminated by selection and can even increase in frequency when populations are small. Domestication thus generally comes at a cost, as deleterious mutations can accumulate in the genome. This had already been shown for rice and dogs. Horses now provide another example of this phenomenon.”

This is something that was only detectable in the horse in comparison to the ancient genomes, as Przewalski’s horses were found to show a proportion of deleterious mutations similar to domesticated horses. Says Hákon Jónsson, PhD-student at the Centre for GeoGenetics, co-leading author of the study: “The recent near extinction of the Przewalski’s horse population resulted in the persistence of deleterious mutations in the population, following the same mechanism that once led to the accumulation of deleterious mutations in the genomes of domesticated horses. What is striking is that a similar order of magnitude was reached even though this occurred in a much shorter time scale than domestication.”

An ancient contribution to the present

In addition, comparison of the ancient and modern genomes revealed that the ancient individuals contributed a significant amount of genetic variation to the modern population of domesticated horses, but not to the Przewalski’s horses. This suggests that restocking from a wild population descendant from the ancient horses occurred during the domestication processes that ultimately led to the modern domesticated horses. Mikkel Schubert, PhD- student at the Centre for GeoGenetics, co-leading author of the study concludes:

“This confirms previous findings that wild horses were used to restock the population of domesticated horses during the domestication process. However, as we sequenced whole genomes, we can estimate how much of the modern horse genome has been contributed through this process. Our estimate suggests that at least 13%, and potentially up to as much as 60%, of the modern horse genome has been acquired by restocking from the extinct wild population. That we identified the population that contributed to this process demonstrates that it is possible to identify the ancestral genetic sources that ultimately gave rise to our domesticated horses.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Reshaping the horse through millennia: Sequencing reveals genes selected by humans in domestication

Whole genome sequencing of modern and ancient horses unveils the genes that have been selected by humans in the process of domestication through the latest 5,500 years, but also reveals the cost of this domestication. A new study led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with scientists from 11 international universities, reports that a significant part of the genetic variation in modern domesticated horses could be attributed to interbreeding with the descendants of a now extinct population of wild horses. This population was distinct from the only surviving wild horse population, that of the Przewalski’s horses. The study has been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The domestication of the horse some 5,500 years ago ultimately revolutionized human civilization and societies. Horses facilitated transportation as well as the circulation of ideas, languages and religions. Horses also revolutionized warfare with the advent of chariotry and mounted cavalry and beyond the battlefield horses greatly stimulated agriculture. However, the domestication of the horse and the subsequent encroachment of human civilization also resulted in the near extinction of wild horses.

The only surviving wild horse population, the Przewalski’s horses from Mongolia, descends from mere 13 individuals, preserved only through a massive conservation effort. As a consequence of this massive loss of genetic diversity, the effects of horse domestication through times have been difficult to unravel on a molecular level. Says Dr. Ludovic Orlando, Associate Professor at the Centre for GeoGenetics, who led this work

“The classical way to evaluate the evolutionary impact of domestication consists of comparing the genetic information present amongst wild animals and their living domesticates. This approach is ill suited to horses as the only surviving population of wild horses has experienced a massive demographic decline in the 20th century. We therefore decided to sequence the genome of ancient horses that lived prior to domestication to directly assess how pre-domesticated horses looked like genetically.”

Recent advances in ancient DNA research have opened the door for reconstructing the genomes of ancient individuals. In 2013, Ludovic Orlando and his team succeeded in decoding the genome of a ~700,000 year-old horse, which represents the oldest genome sequenced to date. This time, the researchers focused on much more recent horse specimens, dating from ~16,000 and ~43,000 years ago. These were carefully selected to unambiguously predate the beginning of domestication, some 5,500 years ago. The bone fossils were excavated in the Taymyr Peninsula, Russia, where arctic conditions favor the preservation of DNA.

The human reshaping of the horse

While the horse contributed to reshaping human civilization, humans in turn reshaped the horse to fit their diverse needs and the diverse environments they lived in. This transformation left specific signatures in the genomes of modern horses, which the ancient genomes helped reveal. The scientists were able to detect a set of 125 candidate genes involved in a wide range of physical and behavioral traits, by comparing the genomes of the two ancient horses with those of the Przewalski’s horse and five breeds of domesticated horses. Says Dr. Dan Chang, post-doctoral researcher at the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab and co-leading author of the study:

“Our selection scans identified genes that were already known to evolve under strong selection in horses. This provided a nice validation of our approach.”

Dr. Beth Shapiro, head of the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab continues: “We provide the most extensive list of gene candidates that have been favored by humans following the domestication of horses. This list is fascinating as it includes a number of genes involved in the development of muscle and bones. This probably reveals the genes that helped utilizing horses for transportation.”

And Dr. Ludovic Orlando from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen concludes: “Perhaps even more exciting as it represents the hallmark of animal domestication, we identify genes controlling animal behavior and the response to fear. These genes could have been the key for turning wild animals into more docile domesticated forms.”

The ‘cost of domestication’ in horses

However, the reshaping of the horse genome during their domestication also had significant negative impacts. This was apparent in the increasing levels of inbreeding found amongst domesticates, but also through an enhanced accumulation of deleterious mutations in their genomes relative to the ancient wild horses. This finding supports an earlier theory coined ‘the cost of domestication’, which predicted increasing genetic loads in domesticates compared to their wild ancestors. Says Professor Laurent Excoffier, University of Bern and group leader at the Swiss Institute for Bioinformatics:

“Domestication is generally associated with repeated demographic crashes. Yet, mutations that negatively impact genes are not eliminated by selection and can even increase in frequency when populations are small. Domestication thus generally comes at a cost, as deleterious mutations can accumulate in the genome. This had already been shown for rice and dogs. Horses now provide another example of this phenomenon.”

This is something that was only detectable in the horse in comparison to the ancient genomes, as Przewalski’s horses were found to show a proportion of deleterious mutations similar to domesticated horses. Says Hákon Jónsson, PhD-student at the Centre for GeoGenetics, co-leading author of the study: “The recent near extinction of the Przewalski’s horse population resulted in the persistence of deleterious mutations in the population, following the same mechanism that once led to the accumulation of deleterious mutations in the genomes of domesticated horses. What is striking is that a similar order of magnitude was reached even though this occurred in a much shorter time scale than domestication.”

An ancient contribution to the present

In addition, comparison of the ancient and modern genomes revealed that the ancient individuals contributed a significant amount of genetic variation to the modern population of domesticated horses, but not to the Przewalski’s horses. This suggests that restocking from a wild population descendant from the ancient horses occurred during the domestication processes that ultimately led to the modern domesticated horses. Mikkel Schubert, PhD- student at the Centre for GeoGenetics, co-leading author of the study concludes:

“This confirms previous findings that wild horses were used to restock the population of domesticated horses during the domestication process. However, as we sequenced whole genomes, we can estimate how much of the modern horse genome has been contributed through this process. Our estimate suggests that at least 13%, and potentially up to as much as 60%, of the modern horse genome has been acquired by restocking from the extinct wild population. That we identified the population that contributed to this process demonstrates that it is possible to identify the ancestral genetic sources that ultimately gave rise to our domesticated horses.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Ancient horse DNA revealed human breeding preferences: Leopard complex spotting and congenital night blindness

White coat with black spots: almost every child knows “Lilla Gubben” the horse of Pippi Longstocking. But what about the popularity of spotted and speckled horses (so called leopard complex spotting) during the last millennia? Researchers found out that the occurrence of these horses fluctuated considerably in the course of history.

Under the leadership of scientists of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) an international team of researchers genetically analysed the phenotype (appearance) of 96 archaeological bones and teeth of horses originating from the late Pleistocene to the Medieval Times. Although a considerable number of domestic horses from the early Bronze Age (2700 — 2000 B.C.) have been genetically identified with leopard spotting complex, this coat colour seems to have almost disappeared at the end of this period. One reason might be that homozygous animals (e.g. Appaloosa and American Miniature Horse) are night-blind in addition to the white coat colour. The ability to see is of great importance for communication, orientation, search for food and avoiding predators. Therefore night-blind animals have a barely chance to survive in the wild. In human care night-blind horses are described as nervous and timid, which are difficult to handle at dusk and darkness.

About 1000 to 1500 years later the leopard complex again occurs increasingly. The coat colour was reintroduced into the domestic gene pool from numerous wild animals existing in those days. Different preferences of the horse breeders in the course of the millennia emphasise the importance of genetic diversity of domestic animals. In times where the original wild form of horse and cattle are long extinct and backcrossing hence is impossible, the modern animal breeding still target on a loss of genetic diversity. The decline in variability enormously restricts future changes in breeding aims and makes us dependent on only a few high-performance breeds.

After the Iron Age a renewed upswing on leopard complex spotted horses was reported. “The behaviour of breeders and their preferences changed at that time as it does today” says Arne Ludwig from the IZW, head of the study. The changing interests in leopard complex spotted horses can also be recognised in Medieval Times, where they enjoyed a high reputation as paintings and text samples demonstrate. They belonged to the favourite animals of the nobles and were symbol of chastity. Also in Baroque period they were favoured, before they go out of date. Today spotted coat patterns occur in many breeds and breeders show an increasing interest in recent years.

“If the theory of the alternative selection applies then it can explain how genetic diversity in domestic populations could be preserved in spite of relevant selection for or against a certain characteristic. The problem in breeding nowadays is that we cannot go back to the appropriate wildlife species, because they are simply eradicated or the wild types vanished by selection. This has to be evaluated negatively for the gene pool of the today’s domestic animal breeds. The missing genetic diversity highly restricts the possibilities of breeding in the future,” comments Ludwig.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Ancient horse DNA revealed human breeding preferences: Leopard complex spotting and congenital night blindness

White coat with black spots: almost every child knows “Lilla Gubben” the horse of Pippi Longstocking. But what about the popularity of spotted and speckled horses (so called leopard complex spotting) during the last millennia? Researchers found out that the occurrence of these horses fluctuated considerably in the course of history.

Under the leadership of scientists of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) an international team of researchers genetically analysed the phenotype (appearance) of 96 archaeological bones and teeth of horses originating from the late Pleistocene to the Medieval Times. Although a considerable number of domestic horses from the early Bronze Age (2700 — 2000 B.C.) have been genetically identified with leopard spotting complex, this coat colour seems to have almost disappeared at the end of this period. One reason might be that homozygous animals (e.g. Appaloosa and American Miniature Horse) are night-blind in addition to the white coat colour. The ability to see is of great importance for communication, orientation, search for food and avoiding predators. Therefore night-blind animals have a barely chance to survive in the wild. In human care night-blind horses are described as nervous and timid, which are difficult to handle at dusk and darkness.

About 1000 to 1500 years later the leopard complex again occurs increasingly. The coat colour was reintroduced into the domestic gene pool from numerous wild animals existing in those days. Different preferences of the horse breeders in the course of the millennia emphasise the importance of genetic diversity of domestic animals. In times where the original wild form of horse and cattle are long extinct and backcrossing hence is impossible, the modern animal breeding still target on a loss of genetic diversity. The decline in variability enormously restricts future changes in breeding aims and makes us dependent on only a few high-performance breeds.

After the Iron Age a renewed upswing on leopard complex spotted horses was reported. “The behaviour of breeders and their preferences changed at that time as it does today” says Arne Ludwig from the IZW, head of the study. The changing interests in leopard complex spotted horses can also be recognised in Medieval Times, where they enjoyed a high reputation as paintings and text samples demonstrate. They belonged to the favourite animals of the nobles and were symbol of chastity. Also in Baroque period they were favoured, before they go out of date. Today spotted coat patterns occur in many breeds and breeders show an increasing interest in recent years.

“If the theory of the alternative selection applies then it can explain how genetic diversity in domestic populations could be preserved in spite of relevant selection for or against a certain characteristic. The problem in breeding nowadays is that we cannot go back to the appropriate wildlife species, because they are simply eradicated or the wild types vanished by selection. This has to be evaluated negatively for the gene pool of the today’s domestic animal breeds. The missing genetic diversity highly restricts the possibilities of breeding in the future,” comments Ludwig.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Ancient horse DNA revealed human breeding preferences: Leopard complex spotting and congenital night blindness

White coat with black spots: almost every child knows “Lilla Gubben” the horse of Pippi Longstocking. But what about the popularity of spotted and speckled horses (so called leopard complex spotting) during the last millennia? Researchers found out that the occurrence of these horses fluctuated considerably in the course of history.

Under the leadership of scientists of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) an international team of researchers genetically analysed the phenotype (appearance) of 96 archaeological bones and teeth of horses originating from the late Pleistocene to the Medieval Times. Although a considerable number of domestic horses from the early Bronze Age (2700 — 2000 B.C.) have been genetically identified with leopard spotting complex, this coat colour seems to have almost disappeared at the end of this period. One reason might be that homozygous animals (e.g. Appaloosa and American Miniature Horse) are night-blind in addition to the white coat colour. The ability to see is of great importance for communication, orientation, search for food and avoiding predators. Therefore night-blind animals have a barely chance to survive in the wild. In human care night-blind horses are described as nervous and timid, which are difficult to handle at dusk and darkness.

About 1000 to 1500 years later the leopard complex again occurs increasingly. The coat colour was reintroduced into the domestic gene pool from numerous wild animals existing in those days. Different preferences of the horse breeders in the course of the millennia emphasise the importance of genetic diversity of domestic animals. In times where the original wild form of horse and cattle are long extinct and backcrossing hence is impossible, the modern animal breeding still target on a loss of genetic diversity. The decline in variability enormously restricts future changes in breeding aims and makes us dependent on only a few high-performance breeds.

After the Iron Age a renewed upswing on leopard complex spotted horses was reported. “The behaviour of breeders and their preferences changed at that time as it does today” says Arne Ludwig from the IZW, head of the study. The changing interests in leopard complex spotted horses can also be recognised in Medieval Times, where they enjoyed a high reputation as paintings and text samples demonstrate. They belonged to the favourite animals of the nobles and were symbol of chastity. Also in Baroque period they were favoured, before they go out of date. Today spotted coat patterns occur in many breeds and breeders show an increasing interest in recent years.

“If the theory of the alternative selection applies then it can explain how genetic diversity in domestic populations could be preserved in spite of relevant selection for or against a certain characteristic. The problem in breeding nowadays is that we cannot go back to the appropriate wildlife species, because they are simply eradicated or the wild types vanished by selection. This has to be evaluated negatively for the gene pool of the today’s domestic animal breeds. The missing genetic diversity highly restricts the possibilities of breeding in the future,” comments Ludwig.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Attempt in Canadian Parliament to Limit Horse Slaughter Doesn’t Make It

Private member’s bills don’t usually make it through the Canadian Parliament, and Bill C-571 to amend the federal Meat Inspection Act and the Safe Food for Canadians Act to limit horse slaughter for human consumption has come up short.

British Columbia Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko saw his private member’s bill fail to pass May 14 in a 155-102 vote that pretty much kills it dead in Canada’s legislative process.

The bill had gained some attention in the United States because it would have banned the importing or exporting of horses to Canada, where the ultimate purpose is equine slaughter for human consumption.

Horses raised specifically for human consumption and having detailed medical records would have escaped the limitations in the MP’s bill.

In the debate, Atamanenko said his bill would protect Canada’s food supply against phenylbutazone, ”one of the long list of veterinary drugs not permitted for use in equine slaughter for food, meaning that no safe limits have been established.”

Pierre Lemieux, Parliamentary Secretary to the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, helped whip up the governing Conservative Party’s opposition to the bill.

“I want to point that it is not just about restricting the movement of horses across the border,” he said. “This bill includes preventing horses from moving from one province to another within Canada. This is not a food safety issue, and it is certainly not an import-export issue, so I appreciate the opportunity to present clear facts to the House.”

Although Atamanenko, a member of the New Democratic Party, also had support from the Liberal Party, it was not enough to overcome the governing Conservatives.

Since legal horse slaughter ended in the U.S. in 2007, thousands of horses are annually moved across the Mexican and Canadian borders for slaughter to meet the world demand for horsemeat, mostly in Asia and Europe.

Food Safety News

‘Trojan Horse’ Antimicrobial Seeks to Kill Pathogens Through Direct Food Contact

A computerized illustration of SDC attacking a microorganism.

An antimicrobial product used to disinfect and sanitize food contact surfaces in the restaurant and manufacturing industries is now being tested directly on food and has shown a “materially significant reduction” in Salmonella contamination on poultry.

That’s according to Hank Lambert, CEO of PURE Bioscience Inc. of El Cajon, CA, the company that created and patented its silver dihydrogen citrate (SDC) product about a dozen years ago. SDC is a colorless, odorless and low-toxicity liquid containing silver ions, citric acid, water and other ingredients.

Bacteria respond to the citric acid as a food source, and the active ingredients in SDC then cause irreversible damage to the microorganism’s DNA, reproductive functions stop, and the organism dies. The company claims that its product has 30-second bacterial and viral kill times and 24-hour residual protection.

Salmonella is a serious problem in the poultry industry, and infection from the bacteria is a common source of foodborne illness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 1.2 million illnesses linked to Salmonella bacteria each year, with about 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

PURE® Hard Surface is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for food surface decontamination applications, and SDC has been determined Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use as a biocide on food processing equipment, machinery and utensils. Besides Salmonella, the company notes that the SDC formula in PURE® Hard Surface is also effective on hazardous food pathogens such as E. coli and Campylobacter, as well as on a several types of viruses and fungi.

PURE Bioscience’s new product, as yet unnamed, along with test results and other information, is about to be submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for potential regulatory approval for direct food contact as a processing aid for poultry.

Lambert told Food Safety News that Dr. James Marsden of Kansas State University’s Animal Science and Industry faculty has tested the SDC formula on poultry and is now embarking on additional tests of the product on produce (lettuce, cilantro and spinach) and meat (beef, pork, lamb and veal).

“The results showed that the combination of treatments has the potential to reduce Salmonella on raw poultry products to levels below the detection limit when SDC is included in the process,” notes a company statement.

Marsden will be preparing the submissions to USDA and FDA, which the company indicates would be made before the end of May.

“These are specific approvals for specific food groups,” Lambert explained. “We would have to go through the [Food Contact Notification] process for produce and for the other meats. We might use different applications and dilutions.”

PURE Bioscience has recently been repositioning itself to focus more on the food industry, said Lambert, who previously managed the food safety services business for Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) and has also worked as a food industry and consumer products executive. He joined the company as CEO this past September in order to move the new agenda forward.

“I was instantly attracted and interested in a food safety solution to take antimicrobial applications in the food industry to the next level and provide an increased level of protection against the pathogens that are so persistent throughout the food industry,” he said.

Lambert said the next step would be arranging for pilot plant testing in USDA-inspected poultry processing plants. If everything goes well, he said that federal agency regulatory approvals could be in place by the end of the year.

Food Safety News

Horse gaits controlled by genetic mutation spread by humans

From the Faroe Pony to the Spanish Mustang, fewer animals have played such a central role in human history as the horse. New research in Animal Genetics reveals that a horse’s gait, an attribute central to its importance to humans, is influenced by a genetic mutation, spread by humans across the world.

The team, led by Dr. Leif Andersson from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, explored the distribution of a mutation in the DMRT3 gene which affects the gait of horses, known as the ‘gait keeper.’

“All over the world, horses have been used for everyday transportation, in military settings, cattle herding and agricultural power, pulling carriages and carts, pleasure riding or racing,” said Dr. Andersson. “Over the centuries, horse populations and breeds have been shaped by humans based on the different purposes for which the animals were used.”

The DMRT3 gene is central to the utility of horses to humans, as it controls a range of gaits as well as pace. From racing to pleasure riding, many species have been bred to encourage smoothness of gait.

“For example, the Paso Fino is a breed from Latin America in which the frequency of the ‘gait keeper’ mutation is nearly 100%. It is claimed that the Paso Fino gait is so smooth that you can have a glass of wine in your hand without letting it spill,” said Dr. Andersson.

The team analyzed 4,396 horses from 141 breeds around the world and found that the ‘gait keeper’ mutation is spread across Eurasia from Japan in the East, to the British Isles in West, on Iceland, in both South and North America, and also in breeds from South Africa.

“Humans have spread this mutation across the world primarily because horses carrying this mutation are able to provide a very smooth ride, in some breeds referred to as a running walk,” said Dr. Andersson. “During such ambling gaits the horse has at least one foot on the ground that means that the vertical movement of the rider is minimal.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Report: Horse Trough Beans and Other Errors Caused Salmonella Outbreak

The Athens Alabama News Courier reported Sunday on the Alabama Department of Public Health Department’s Final Report on last fall’s Salmonella senftenberg linked to a church fundraiser. The Bean Day Athens-Limestone Foundation for Aging event held at First Baptist Church Family Life Center in Athens left a dozen people hospitalized and at least 50 people ill this past October.

At the Oct. 4 dinner, 250 to 300 people ate from a menu including white beans with ham, onions, vinegar-based coleslaw, cornbread, soft drinks and a variety of homemade desserts. Public health officials determined that the beans were likely the source of the outbreak, but they did not know how the infection occurred.

According to the News Courier, the nine-page study revealed that uncooked beans for the annual fundraiser had been soaked in a plastic-lined horse trough covered with plywood before the event and that existing bean soup was topped off with new bean soup during the event. However, that was just one of the possible ways the beans became contaminated with Salmonella senftenberg, according to the report.

While investigators could not determine definitively how, or at what point in preparation, the beans became contaminated, they did conclude in their final report that “opportunities for person-to-food, food-to-food and equipment-to-food cross-contamination or improper holding temperatures” could have been the cause. Among them:

  1. Soaking the beans in a plastic-lined horse trough covered with plywood, with a water hose running water through the trough (the ADPH did not know if or how the trough, which was located at the church, had been used prior to the dinner);
  2. Handling food without gloves;
  3. Turning off the heat source for the beans and disconnecting gas lines for burners without monitoring the temperature of the food;
  4. Transferring the beans in outside cooking pots to a smaller iron pot on wheels to take large quantities of the beans inside the church;
  5. Using one sterno can per 6-inch-deep chaffing pan to maintain the holding temperature of the beans, and,
  6. Re-using chaffing pans and adding new beans to existing beans throughout the serving time.

Salmonella senftenberg was isolated “in two environmental samples obtained from the church, nine food samples and all stool specimens,” according to the report. “The two positive environmental samples were from environment swabs of a dirty strainer and the double sink floor drain at the church.”

Food Safety News

Wyoming Lawmaker Sue Wallis, Raw Milk and Horse Slaughter Advocate, Found Dead at Age 56

Wyoming State Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) was found dead early Tuesday at a Gillette hotel. She was 56. An autopsy is planned, according to Campbell County Coroner Tom Eekhoff.

Governor Matt Mead ordered state flags at the Wyoming Capitol Building in Cheyenne and in Campbell County lowered to half-staff from now until sunset of the internment for Wallis, who has represented the county in the Wyoming Legislature since 2007.

“Wyoming lost a great voice today. Representative Wallis was a poet and her eloquence was on display whether she was writing or debating on the floor of the House or in my office. The strength of her convictions was clear, as was her commitment to the West and our way of life. I will miss her,” Mead said.

Wallis practiced politics her own way, blending her uniquely western style of Libertarianism into a GOP caucus that was often left scratching its collected head. She was a fierce believer in individual rights and in helping Wyoming’s farm and ranch community.

Married for 18 years to cowboy poet and author Rod McQueary, who died in late 2012, Wallis was also one of the West’s larger-than-life personalities. With McQueary, she co-wrote “The Cowboy Cattle-log” and published “Surviving the Good Life,” a memoir of Wallis’ grandmother.

Like other Wyoming ranchers during the recent drought, she became concerned about starving horses being abandoned, and she worked to bring back horse slaughter. Animal rights activists began calling her “Slaughterhouse Sue.” She did not seem to care, pointing out that horsemeat was on the menu not all that long ago at the Harvard Faculty Club.

Wallis and McQueary were friends with two old cowboys who apparently could have made their own version of the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” Wallis, citing that friendship,  emerged as a leader in Cheyenne for equal rights for same-sex couples.

Likewise, Wallis stood up for the right of Wyoming women to abortion services. In doing so, she could be blunt, telling her fellow lawmakers that as a young, single mother of three, she made a difficult decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Her opposition helped defeat a bill that would have required doctors to show women ultrasound images and require 24 hours notice before an abortion.

The daughter of former Wyoming legislator Dick Wallis, she was staying overnight at the Tower West Lodge in Gillette because an annual legislative breakfast was being held there Tuesday morning. But, shortly before 7 a.m., Gillette police dispatched an EMS unit to Wallis’ room and Campbell County Sheriff Bill Pownall confirmed her death.

Up until she died, Wallis showed no signs of slowing down. She had just returned from the Western Stock Show in Denver.

And she’d promised to sponsor a bill in the Wyoming Legislature, which begins Feb. 10, to legalize medical marijuana. She says McQueary, known for his appearances at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV, benefited from medical marijuana obtained in Colorado before he died.

Wallis also tried to legalize raw milk sales in Wyoming, and, when that did not work, she worked on regulators to allow cow-share programs. She was more successful with opening home kitchens to making cottage foods.

“She was a bulldog you know, she really was an incredible force on it, and was phenomenally respected, particularly on her ag issues on a nationwide basis,” said state Sen. Ogden Driskill (R-Devil’s Tower).

Food Safety News

Omnibus Spending Bill Defunds USDA Horse Slaughter Inspection

Language in the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill now headed for President Obama’s desk re-establishes law that existed from 2005 to 2011 prohibiting USDA from spending any money to inspect horse-slaughter facilities.

On Thursday, the Senate joined the House in approving the $ 1.1-trillion spending bill that the Humane Society of the United States said halts any resumption of horse slaughter in the United States.

Obama is expected to sign the measure, which was the product of an historic agreement between U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). The agreement tempered budget cuts imposed by the sequester and avoided another federal government shutdown this month.

The bipartisan agreement cleared the Senate on a 72-26 vote after gaining House approval a day earlier by a vote of 359-67. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced an amendment to remove the prohibition on equine inspections, but he was unsuccessful. The Oklahoma senator said he will pursue a stand-alone bill to get around the new ban.

The last USDA-inspected horse slaughter occurred in the U.S. in 2007. The restriction on USDA spending was lifted in 2011 under a deal between Congress and the president.

After it left the equine business, USDA was slow in approving “grants of inspection,” eventually approving three of the initial five applicants. One of them sued the agency to speed its decision-making, but as soon as the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) agreed to inspect horse slaughter facilities, animal-welfare groups marshaled by HSUS sued USDA.

USDA won at the district court level, and in mid-December, the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Humane Society’s request for a court injunction, saying it doubted that the group’s court challenge would succeed.

Since then, the possible start-up of horse slaughter in New Mexico and Missouri has been held up by state regulatory and court challenges. However, those challenges will become academic with the president’s signature on the spending bill.

Since 2007, an estimated 140,000 horses from the U.S. are exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter each year. HSUS estimates that inspections would have cost USDA about $ 5 million a year.

Food Safety News

New Mexico Judge to Decide Friday Whether to Continue TRO on Horse Slaughter

After day-long testimony very similar to last October’s hearing examiner proceedings for a state ground water discharge permit, a state judge said Monday that he would issue an order Friday on whether to lift a temporary restraining order and allow Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM, to start slaughtering horses.

Meanwhile, New Mexico State District Court Judge Matthew Wilson continued his temporary restraining order against Valley Meat’s startup of processing horsemeat for export under USDA inspection.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is using a civil lawsuit in an attempt to block Valley Meat from becoming the first USDA-inspected horse slaughter operation since 2007.

A hearing officer for the New Mexico Department of the Environment has already recommended denial of a discharge permit for Valley Meat that the company needed to avoid having to collect and haul the blood and other slaughtering wastes.

The civil lawsuit says Valley Meat’s plans would violate state water quality and food safety laws. State officials testified both last October and yesterday that the company’s former beef processing operation repeatedly violated state water quality regulations.

Wilson also heard testimony from a Colorado veterinarian on the potential for horses having drug residues. Dr. Randy Parker said there is no evidence that 120 days in a feed lot would make the meat safe from drug residue.

Blair Dunn, Valley Meat’s attorney, challenged much of the testimony and said the company is working with the Department of Environment to ensure that it operates legally. Valley Meat is expected to challenge the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the discharge permit be denied, and Ryan Flynn, the state’s Secretary of the Environment, will make the final decision.

Food Safety News

New Mexico Judge to Decide Friday Whether to Continue TRO on Horse Slaughter

After day-long testimony very similar to last October’s hearing examiner proceedings for a state ground water discharge permit, a state judge said Monday that he would issue an order Friday on whether to lift a temporary restraining order and allow Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM, to start slaughtering horses.

Meanwhile, New Mexico State District Court Judge Matthew Wilson continued his temporary restraining order against Valley Meat’s startup of processing horsemeat for export under USDA inspection.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is using a civil lawsuit in an attempt to block Valley Meat from becoming the first USDA-inspected horse slaughter operation since 2007.

A hearing officer for the New Mexico Department of the Environment has already recommended denial of a discharge permit for Valley Meat that the company needed to avoid having to collect and haul the blood and other slaughtering wastes.

The civil lawsuit says Valley Meat’s plans would violate state water quality and food safety laws. State officials testified both last October and yesterday that the company’s former beef processing operation repeatedly violated state water quality regulations.

Wilson also heard testimony from a Colorado veterinarian on the potential for horses having drug residues. Dr. Randy Parker said there is no evidence that 120 days in a feed lot would make the meat safe from drug residue.

Blair Dunn, Valley Meat’s attorney, challenged much of the testimony and said the company is working with the Department of Environment to ensure that it operates legally. Valley Meat is expected to challenge the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the discharge permit be denied, and Ryan Flynn, the state’s Secretary of the Environment, will make the final decision.

Food Safety News

New Mexico Judge to Decide Friday Whether to Continue TRO on Horse Slaughter

After day-long testimony very similar to last October’s hearing examiner proceedings for a state ground water discharge permit, a state judge said Monday that he would issue an order Friday on whether to lift a temporary restraining order and allow Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM, to start slaughtering horses.

Meanwhile, New Mexico State District Court Judge Matthew Wilson continued his temporary restraining order against Valley Meat’s startup of processing horsemeat for export under USDA inspection.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is using a civil lawsuit in an attempt to block Valley Meat from becoming the first USDA-inspected horse slaughter operation since 2007.

A hearing officer for the New Mexico Department of the Environment has already recommended denial of a discharge permit for Valley Meat that the company needed to avoid having to collect and haul the blood and other slaughtering wastes.

The civil lawsuit says Valley Meat’s plans would violate state water quality and food safety laws. State officials testified both last October and yesterday that the company’s former beef processing operation repeatedly violated state water quality regulations.

Wilson also heard testimony from a Colorado veterinarian on the potential for horses having drug residues. Dr. Randy Parker said there is no evidence that 120 days in a feed lot would make the meat safe from drug residue.

Blair Dunn, Valley Meat’s attorney, challenged much of the testimony and said the company is working with the Department of Environment to ensure that it operates legally. Valley Meat is expected to challenge the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the discharge permit be denied, and Ryan Flynn, the state’s Secretary of the Environment, will make the final decision.

Food Safety News

Year of the Horse focuses on families and food, providing good opportunities for produce

January will be a time of celebration as people anticipate Chinese New Year and the coming of the Year of the Horse. People born in horse years are said to be skillful with money, perceptive, cheerful and full of wit. The celebration will begin Jan. 31 and continue for 15 days.

Festivities connected with the holiday are ancient, dating back some 4,000 years to the Shang Dynasty. Today, Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival, and it remains China’s most important social and economic holiday. OpenerShotJungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield, OH, provides its customers with a host of Asian produce items. Consumers are increasingly being exposed to new dishes incorporating Asian produce items when they dine out, and are now bringing that experience into their own kitchens.Families focus on their reunion and hopes for the future. As in ancient times, food plays a pivotal role in today’s celebrations.

In May 2010, the Crop Diversification & Biofuel Research Education Center of the University of Kentucky-College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service published its report, Marketing Asian Produce. The report quantified emerging trends regarding consumption of Asian produce, showing that commodities have crossed cultural lines and are being increasingly incorporated into at-home meal planning by Asian and non-Asian populations in the United States.

“The increasingly diverse appetites of Caucasian consumers, combined with a larger ethnic Asian population, fueled an explosion in the popularity of ethnic Asian cuisine during the 1990s and into this century,” the report stated. “In the 2000s, American consumers already familiar with Chinese cuisine began exploring Thai, Japanese, Indian and Korean fare, especially when dining out.”

It is not surprising that ethnic restaurants offering quick casual and fusion cuisine became increasingly popular. During 2002, the Food Institute named Asian cuisine as “the next hot concept for the restaurant industry.”

According to the report, the fusion of Asian and Latin cuisine was deemed one of the top 20 food trends in 2010 by Restaurants & Institutions magazine.

While the report stated that Caucasian consumers tend to prefer value-added and processed vegetables, “there are some growing market niches for fresh Asian vegetables.”

The Produce News spoke with four companies that market Asian produce to get their comments and insights about these trends.

Based in Orlando, FL, Spice World is a leading producer of garlic, as well as herbs and spices. Louis Hymel, the company’s director of purchasing and marketing, said Spice World supplies both conventional and organic garlic to retail supermarket chains as well as customers in the foodservice and industrial sectors.

“Garlic fits all international cuisines and in itself can be exciting to cook and eat,” Hymel told The Produce News. “Spice World is completely vertically integrated from field to plate, making us a leader in the garlic industry. We know our customers and their customers. Therefore, we offer garlic in every variety imaginable and convenient to use.”

An array of packaging options, including bulk, fresh in cello or mesh bags, peeled and ready-to-use jarred garlic are available for both conventional and organic garlic.

One of its very popular items, squeeze garlic, was introduced in 2010. The line eventually included both 20-ounce and 9.5-ounce contains for conventional garlic. In 2012, the program was expanded, offering the same ease and convenience for consumers purchasing organic garlic.

“Our value-added garlic items are so much a main ingredient for Asian cooking, especially our squeeze garlic in extra virgin olive oil, which was introduced less than a year ago,” Hymel said.

Hymel added that some of Spice World’s retail partners offer special promotions around Chinese New Year, which increase overall garlic sales.

I Love Produce, located in Kelton, PA, is making a big push with its Asian pear program from China.

“There are only three packers from Shandong Province, China, allowed to ship Singo pears to the United States,” said Jim Provost, an owner of the company. “One of these shippers has formed an exclusive distribution agreement with I Love Produce for our team to market their pears in the United States.”

Provost said a new protocol has been established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to facilitate the import of two pear varieties.

“One is the Singo pear, which is a traditional Korean-style pear,” he said. “It is round in shape, brown-skinned, crunchy and juicy.”

According to Provost, the Singo pear is exactly the same size as the one grown in Korea. “Korean farmers brought the trees from Korea to propagate the variety in China,” he added. “The taste is very good and sweet, with Brix averaging 14.”

The other pear is known as a Golden Pear, and Provost said it is generally favored by Chinese consumers.

I Love Produce just introduced its new three-pack clamshell for Asian pears. “It has three large pears per package, and will retail in the $ 5.99 to $ 6.99 range,” Provost said.

In addition to its Asian pears, I Love Produce sells Japanese sweet potatoes, garlic and ginger.

“January is going to one of the tightest markets on record for Chinese ginger,” he added. “So featuring ginger on ad for Chinese New Year will be tough. China is gapping between old and new crop, with new crop arriving around the last week of January. Brazil is finished, and Central America is winding down.”

Currently, Hawaii is the only shipping area coming into ginger production. “The prices are in the $ 42 to $ 45 per-box range,” Provost said. “The market is going to be very strong for the next month.”

Maurice A. Auerbach, headquartered in Secaucus, NJ, moves all major Asian produce items. The company’s history dates back to World War II when it began moving garlic.

“We cater to what our customers want,” said Bruce Klein, director of marketing. “We procure based on this.”

Consumer interest in Asian produce continues to grow. “These items are almost mainstream,” Klein said.

According to Klein, consumers enjoy dishes they taste in restaurants and are learning how to makes them at home. Consumers are becoming more experimental with items that were previously unfamiliar to them. To illustrate, he said, “Baby bok choy is really showing good movement.”

Christopher Ranch LLC, based in Gilroy, CA, began moving bulk garlic a half-century ago. Today, it grows, packs and ships 70 million pounds of garlic annually. Its product line includes chopped and crushed garlic, whole peeled garlic cloves, elephant garlic, roasted garlic, shallots, pearl onions, boiler onions, cipolline onions, roaster chopped ginger, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes.

Marketing Director Patsy Ross said the company is currently transitioning from fresh Brazilian ginger to Hawaiian ginger.

“Hawaiian ginger shipments began about one month sooner than normal,” she told The Produce News. “Last season, we experienced some crop and weather issues. But we are optimistic that volume will be up this year.”

Ross said Christopher Ranch will work with its retail partners to determine “what kind of product mix makes sense for them” as they prepare for Chinese New Year.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Oneonta Starr Ranch growers help celebrate The Year of the Horse

Fuji apples and Red Anjou pears
Oneonta Starr Ranch growers help celebrate The Year of the Horse

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers in Wenatchee, WA, has developed an exciting and health-centered promotion for The Year of the Horse.

Chinese New Year begins Jan. 31 and encompasses 24 days of celebration.  Reaching out to both domestic and export markets, OSRG is providing eye-catching point-of-sales materials for its Fuji apples and Red Anjou pears.

According to Oneonta Marketing Director Scott Marboe, the promotion will launch at the start, in all markets and will run longer in select Asian markets. The program can include all varieties of apples and pears, although Marboe said current focus is on Fujis and Red Anjous. “Red is a very popular color in Asia, and of course our Fuji’s have long been associated with Chinese New Year,” he said.

Going into 2014, demand for fruit is high, Marboe said. “It’s great, actually better than we expected for this time of year. We’ve seen the typical after-Christmas slowdown, but demand has remained very steady, and we expect that to continue,” he said.

As for the Year of the Horse, related to the Chinese astrological fire sign, followers celebrate it as a time of adventure and surprises. Tradition says the Horse is also a symbol of high energy and productivity, two traits associated with the health-giving properties of fresh apples and pears.

For more information:
Scott Marboe
Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers
Tel: +1 509-888-5120
Email: [email protected]
www.oneonta.com

Publication date: 1/8/2014


FreshPlaza.com

State Judge in New Mexico Blocks Horse Slaughter—At Least Until Friday

First District Judge Matthew Wilson issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on Dec 30 in Santa Fe to prevent Valley Meats in Roswell from opening as planned on Jan. 1.   It again halts–at least until Friday, when a hearing is scheduled–horse slaughter operations planned by Valley Meat under USDA inspection. Valley’s business plan is  to export horsemeat for human consumption, most likely in Asia and Europe.

Its plans were last put on hold until Dec. 13, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th District lifted its TRO, saying it is likely USDA and Valley will prevail in an ongoing federal challenge.  But after that, on Dec. 19, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King filed for a state TRO on somewhat different grounds.

“With the newly scheduled hearing, the court can now more fully consider the dangers posed by commercial horse slaughter and Valley Meat’s long history of non-compliance with existing laws,” King said in a statement issued after his office obtained the TRO.

King called commercial horse slaughter “a new untested enterprise that poses health and environmental risks to New Mexicans.”

Blair Dunn, attorney for Valley Meat,  told the Albuquerque Journal that King’s allegations  are without substantiation.  He said the former beef plant will work through both the Attorney General’s court challenge and its pending application for a state discharge permit.  It is seeking a so-called “pump and haul” discharge permit.  Dunn said the state issues can be resolved in a couple of weeks.

King’s request for a TRO was originally assigned to First District Judge Raymond Z. Ortiz, who had to recuse himself due to a peremptory challenge. The case was then assigned on Dec. 23 to Wilson, who is Santa Fe’s family court judge. He signed ahead of the hearing now set for Friday and without any written arguments.

“Horses in America are not raised to be eaten, and are widely administered drugs that are forbidden for use in food animals,” King added.

 

Food Safety News

NM’s Attorney General’s Horse Case is Slow Off The Line

A year-end attempt by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King to prevent a Roswell slaughterhouse from processing USDA-inspected horsemeat for export has apparently failed.   It means a New Mexico business could be still be slaughtering horses as early as Jan. 1.

King, who is also running for Governor, held a Dec. 19 news conference to announce he was seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Valley Meat Co. in Roswell “from killing and butchering horses for food.”  But a week later, on Dec. 26, New Mexico court records show the only real action that has occurred in the case is to assign it to a different judge.

King filed the 25-page civil lawsuit on behalf of the State of Mexico with the First Judicial District in Santa Fe, where it was assigned to Judge Raymond Z. Ortiz. A preemptory challenge was filed against Ortiz and he was officially removed from the case on Dec. 23, replaced by the First District’s newly named family law judge, Matthew Wilson.

Wilson, 44, was just named to the state bench in October by Gov. Susana Martinez. The Republican governor named the former domestic relations hearings officer to the bench primarily to handle the district’s family law docket.

Since his appointment, however, other civil cases outside the family law docket have been assigned to his court. Wilson is a registered Democrat. His schedule for the rest of the year shows only some domestic violence and family law cases.

The civil lawsuit filed by King names Ricardo De Los Santos of Roswell and three companies he owns–Valley Meat Co., Dairyland Packing Inc., and Mountain View Packing—as defendants.  King filed the civil action in state court after the U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 13 gave the green light to USDA inspection of qualified horse slaughter operations.

Albuquerque attorney A. Blair Dunn, who represents both Valley Meat and Rains Natural Meat in Gallatin, MO, called King’s civil lawsuit “frivolous” and a waste of taxpayer money.

In Missouri, the FBI is reportedly investigating death threats against Rains family members and warnings its plant will be burnt down. Valley Meat was the target of arsonists earlier in the year.

Congress two years ago lifted budgetary restrictions that for five years prevented USDA from providing equine inspections. Horses have not been slaughtered under USDA inspection in the U.S since 2007.

Food Safety News