October 3, 2003



US Genome Research May Lead To Better Turkey


US researchers at the University of Minnesota and Nicholas Turkey Breeding Farms in California are aiming to use genome studies to present the best turkey breed that will be used at Thanksgiving dinners. 


For the first time, joint research has produced the first genome map, or genetic blueprint, of the domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). To do this, DNA had to be first collected and separated. They then applied chemical processes to the samples to enable them to identify the sequences, or ordering, of the building blocks of the DNA, spelling out the genetic code within each species.


Previous studies done have succeeded in mapping up the chicken genome, but the turkey genome map has never been available. Having a genome map for the turkey, one of the last domestic animals to lack one, means that a better turkey breed may very well be on its way. Such research is also valuable from the standpoint of producers' production efficiency - giving a better understanding of reproduction, disease control and economic worth.


One of the researchers, Dr. David Harry explains, "Finding a way to breed a turkey with naturally occurring beneficial traits is clearly of interest to the poultry-producing industry. It is possible for example to build natural genetic resistance to certain diseases. This will enable producers to minimize the cost and potential risks of preventive medications required to safely produce the animals that are being bred for human consumption."