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Which Little Piggy Went to Market?

Bioinformatics and Meat Science


Debra A. Meuler
Biology Department
Cardinal Stritch University


In this case study, a scientist is contacted by a friend from a meat processing plant who is looking for a test to determine the sex of the animals that contributed to a particular batch of meat. He needs to know because meat from uncastrated males (boars) imparts an unpleasant odor (boar taint) to pork products, something he wants to avoid. Developed for use in an introductory biology class, the case introduces students to basic genetics concepts, DNA structure, the technique of PCR, genetic databases, and the use of positive and negative controls during scientific investigations. The case could also be used in high school classes, especially as a tool for learning about (or reviewing) the scientific process as it requires students to develop hypotheses, design experiments, and analyze and interpret data.

  • Provide students with experience in how science is done.
  • Provide students practice in designing experiments.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions based on real data.
  • Help students learn about polymerase chain reaction.
  • Help students identify differences between the sexes and the genetic basis of sex determination.
  • Introduce students to bioinformatics and genetic databases.
Keywords: Polymerase chain reaction; PCR; pig; boar; boar taint; SRY; gilt; sow; barrow; ELISA; enzyme linked immunosorbent assay; experimental design; androsterone; skatole
Topical Area: Scientific method
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biotechnology   Genetics / Heredity   Bioinformatics   Food Science / Technology   Molecular Biology  
Date Posted: 10/25/05
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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