Where’s the beef? Food giant Tyson to use Irish DNA traceability tech

Dublin-based Identigen in new partnership with one of world’s largest meet processors

Tyson Foods, one of the world's largest meat processors with $40 billion (€35 billion) in revenues last year, has signed a deal with Irish food safety and traceability company Identigen to use its DNA technology in its products.

Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork subsidiary of the Nasdaq-listed food giant, is to use Identigen’s DNA TraceBack system to track cattle raised for the company’s Open Prairie Natural Angus Beef.

Under the deal, a sample from cattle will be used to trace the origin of individual cuts of beef as they move through the supply chain.

Tyson said the process is intended to assure customers that the Open Prairie beef products they buy are sourced from ranches where cattle are grass-fed and are not given antibiotics or hormones.


"This is about meeting growing demand for more transparency about how food is produced," said Kent Harrison, vice president of marketing and premium programmes at Tyson Fresh Meats.

“Through DNA TraceBack, we’re providing our retail and foodservice customers with scientific evidence that they’re getting high quality, natural beef from animals raised the way we promised,” he added.

Tyson Foods, which was established in 1935, is an Arkansas-headquartered company that employs more than 121,000 people globally. Approximately one in every five pounds of chicken, beef and pork produced in the US comes from the company and the group was ranked at number 80 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest US corporations by revenue.

Horse meat crisis

Identigen, which conducted the tests that identified the European horse meat crisis in 2013, was founded in 1996 as a Trinity College Dublin spin-out.

The company has laboratory operations in Ireland, Britain, the US and mainland Europe.

Identigen secured a five-year contract worth in excess of €17 million with the Swiss meat association Proviande in late 2017 to use the DNA TraceBack system to guarantee the integrity of Swiss beef.

MML Capital Partners Ireland, an Enterprise Ireland-backed fund, invested about €12 million in Identigen in 2015 to give it control in the company in partnership with its management.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist