Your poop is a snack database for animals

Written by Staff Writer

Is there an afterlife? If so, these would-be posthumous survivors are eating right as a species.

The slow-stewing, thrice-whipped, toe-nailing omnivores known as meat-eating vultures have adapted a way to really make the most of their last meals.

by Phil Musgrave and Paul Geoghegan in the UK’s Independent , and in The Scientist , have created the world’s first poop microbiome toolkit for scientists: A database that pinpoints protein and flavonoid composition, and which pathogens you’re eating, from bacteria-laden human waste.

This is the equivalent of the USDA’s American Food History (AFR), the powerful digital database that can tell you how much meat we eat per year and how many cows we eat for every person living in the United States.

Every fruit, vegetable, herb and leaf up and down the US and the rest of the world contains its own nastiness, filled with a disfiguring toxic form of lichen known as Aspergillus. The fungi hang in the soil, like mud on the branches of a tree, but linger beneath the surface, only to surface when rainfall falls and a leaf lands on its surface.

Next up for farmers is a cheese database, a bacon database, a potato database, even a pasta database. Each one will contain data on micro-organisms in our foods and connect them through the database to profiles of specific animals — cows, chickens, pigs, even seeds.

The database will create a more complete picture of our food, encouraging those who want to keep the livestock-dependent modern world that was once the vision of the French philosophers “Plain Chinois,” as they labeled an aristocratic class of farmers after the rise of the “rich farmer.” In other words, everything you and I eat will not only be classified and calculated, but the “characters” of the proteins and chemicals within it will be compared across databases of varying size, and nature.

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