Blink: A system developed to detect the origin of beef

Project title: BLINK

Partners: ABP Beef (UK), Agrimetrics (UK), AIA (Italy)

Research Fund: EIT Food

Initial year: 2020


Sæmundur Sveinsson

Research Group Leader

BLINK's goal is to develop a traceability system based on bovine genetic markers. This system would enable consumers to confirm the origin of beef by tracing it to individual cattle on the basis of genetic analysis alone.

Matís is working on this international research project, which is fully funded by the European competition fund EIT Food. "The project is called BLINK, but its goal is to develop a new traceability system for beef. The method is based on the great advances that have taken place in the last decade in genetic analysis technology and is comparable to methods that will be used in the selection of genomes in the Icelandic cow breed, which the aim is to implement in Iceland in the coming years. 

The idea behind the methodology is that during the slaughter of cattle, a biological sample, for example a hair sample or a tissue sample, is taken from the animal. The sample is then sent to a laboratory where the genetic material is isolated and thousands of genetic markers are analyzed in each and every grab. This genetic information is then used to create a unique "bar code" for each and every cattle that passes through a specific slaughterhouse. A genetic bar code has the advantage over traditional bar codes, which everyone knows from the supermarket, that it accompanies the meat wherever it goes and can not be changed in any way. The aforementioned genetic information, together with supporting documents, is finally placed in a database. If there is a suspicion that there is fraud somewhere in the chain from beef on foot to pieces of meat on a plate, a sample of the meat can be sent for genetic analysis and it can be determined whether the origin of the beef is the same as the food packaging indicates.

This test is quite different from traditional genetic species analysis. In order to uncover meat fraud in Europe, a traditional species analysis was applied, genetic material isolated from meat and it was analyzed by species, whether it was a horse or a bull. "