Beef lovers in Switzerland will soon be able to guarantee that their steak really did come from Switzerland: the meat industry plans to start testing the DNA of every calf and cow.
Starting in early 2018, a genetic sample will be taken from every calf and cow in Swiss abattoirs. This will then be tested in a laboratory and a DNA profile saved in a database, the Swiss meat industry group Proviandeexternal link said on Tuesday.
The organisation will then carry out random samples in shops and compare the data with that on file.
Individual meat suppliers in Britain and Canada already carry out DNA tests like this, but the Swiss system will be in the first in the world that is nationwide, said Proviande director Heinrich Bucher.
The entire scheme will cost CHF4.5 million ($4.47 million), or CHF7.50 per animal. It will be up to suppliers to decide whether to pass the costs onto customers, Bucher added. If suppliers do decide to pass on the costs, meat prices could be expected to increase by around CHF0.05 a kilo.
According to Proviande, 348,057 tonnes of meat were produced in Switzerland in 2016 (excluding fish and crustaceans) and 431,760 tonnes were eaten in Switzerland – an average of 51kg a head. Just over 80% of the meat consumed came from Switzerland.
Trust in suppliers
In recent years Switzerland has seen isolated cases of falsely declared meat. In 2014 the firm Carna Grischa, which has since gone bust, was discovered to have sold foreign poultry and meat for years having claimed it was Swiss.
“Today consumers have to trust suppliers,” Bucher said. “Only with great effort and cost is it possible to determine the origin of meat products. But in future it’ll be easier to provide the proof and thereby guarantee trust.”
He added he could imagine one day expanding the system to include pigs and sheep, and granting food authorities access to the database to carry out their own tests.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts