Cloned Meat Info Roundup

You guys have been asking for information on cloned meat, so here you go:

The Economist: “IF YOU have ever longed for a meat substitute that smelt and tasted like the real thing, but did not involve killing an animal, then your order could be ready soon. Researchers believe it will soon be possible to grow cultured meat in quantities large enough to offer the meat industry an alternative source of supply.” (This article refers to the use of stem cell technology.) A Meaty Question Sep. 23, 2006

New Scientist: “Cloning livestock promises to bring us better food, but will anyone eat it? Cloning endangered species is an option only if the animal concerned has a closely related farmyard counterpart to supply eggs and act as a surrogate. And cloning pets is just for the sentimental with more money than biological understanding.” A sporting chance, August 27, 2005

Lots more inside.

Congressional Quarterly: “Livestock farmers and animal breeders champion cloning as a cheaper alternative to conventional breeding. The technique is no different, they argue, than any other sort of breeding — and could well result in safer food products, since it allows for greater control over disease factors in clone subjects.Consumer and food-safety advocates say the technique is anything but safe: It’s been shown to create serious genetic defects, and too little is known about other health effects for the FDA to green-light widespread animal cloning.” Critter Copies, Nov 11, 2006

Associated Press: “Cloning is the creation of an animal from the DNA of a single parent to create an offspring genetically identical to the parent.
“This seems to be one of the things where technology seems to drop something in the lap of the food companies,” Ruland said in a recent interview. “It’s not driven by the market or any benefit to the consumer.”Dairy industry treading cautiously on cloned cows July 8, 2005

CNNMoney: “The report concluded “that animal cloning is as safe as other assisted reproductive technologies,” said Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof, director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.”Almost all food will come from sexually produced offspring of the animals and not from the clones,” said Sundlof.Cloned animals are used primarily for breeding which can help create stocks with increased resistance to disease or with superior meat quality, said Sundlof.” FDA gives nod to cloned meat, milk safety, Dec. 28, 2006

It seems that the main objections are moral (cloning seems “wrong” to some people.) The plus side for farmers is that they can replicate a cow after they’ve seen how it tastes. Also to take into consideration is the fact that with cloning approved, there’s really nothing to stop them (except technology) from growing meat in a vat like the Economist article says. Should vat meat need a label? It’s up to you guys. Is Soylent Green vat meat? —MEGHANN MARCO

CORRECTION: From the FDA FAQ: “FDA is not recommending any additional measures relating to food derived from adult clones and their offspring, including labeling.” Since the FDA specifies “adult” clones, we’re assuming they’re not yet ruling on the issue of cloning stem cells for vat meat. Vat meat may still be Soylent Green, however…


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mike_ says:

    They already snuck cloned eel blood into your ice cream.

  2. Dustbunny says:

    The cultured-meat-grown-in-a-vat thingie? I read about that in a sci fi book several years ago — it might have been David Brin’s “Kiln People”. Once again, sci fi predicts the future. Cool. Bring on the flying cars!

  3. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I have a feeling this is one of those things that we will realize is a health risk 10 – 20 years down the road.

  4. rachmanut says:

    I don’t believe vat meat and cloned animals are the same technology. The former is only growing tissue, and it takes place entirely in a lab, whereas the latter creates an entire organism and if I’m not mistaken still requires a natural womb.

    But then again I could be mistaken. I’m not that kind of scientist.

  5. jblake1 says:

    The marginal benefit from cloning does not seem to beat the extremely cheap way we produce livestock now ‘old fashioned copulation’. Its worked very effectively for a long time. Cloning isn’t going to effectively replace it anytime soon.

  6. Meg Marco says:

    I understood the article to say they cloned the stem cells for the vat meat. I could be totally wrong. I’m really, really not a cloned meat expert, but I’m trying for you guys.

  7. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Why does it seem like the focus of this is to offer cheaper burgers and Shop-Rite, and not provide cheap food to starving countries?

  8. TedSez says:

    Ohh, it tastes funny.

    Funny how?

    It tastes synthetic. So what have we proved?

    The computer is giving us its interpretation of a steak. It’s translating it for us. It’s rethinking it rather than reproducing it, and something’s getting lost in the translation.

    Me, I’m lost.

    The flesh. It should make the computer crazy, like those old ladies pinching babies. But it doesn’t, not yet. I haven’t taught it to be made crazy by the flesh, the poultry, the steak. So I’m going to start teaching it now!

  9. Charles Duffy says:

    Huh? Health risk? What kind of health risk?

    Conventional reproductive mechanisms have a risk of mutation as well — just not as much in any given generation, though the mutation rate with cloning is continuing to go down as the technology gets better. So — if eating animals for whom a little bit of mutation per generation (compounded over many, many generations — albeit with those animals for whom the mutations were sufficiently disadvantageous culled by natural selection) doesn’t kill us, why would a larger amount of mutation over only one generation be a problem?

    I just don’t see any legitimate scientific basis for concern.

  10. Musician78 says:

    @ AlteredBeast: Because Corporate America doesn’t and cannot operate that way. The people at the top would make less.

  11. jblake1: “The marginal benefit from cloning does not seem to beat the extremely cheap way we produce livestock now ‘old fashioned copulation’.”

    Most cows (I don’t know about pigs or chickens) are inseminated, actually. There are people whose actual jobs are “bull jacker-offer” to collect the sperm. Only I think they’re called “cattle reproductive specialists” or something like that.

  12. Hitchcock says:

    The article from The Economist has nothing to do with meat from cloned animals (what the FDA is expected to allow with no labeling).

  13. weave says:

    What about risk from lack of genetic diversity in a given livestock population? If a given disease targets a weakness where all the livestock are basically the same, it could wipe them all out at once methinks.

    (More of a risk to the producer, not the consumer)

    I’m no expert btw, just a blog commenter who pretends to be smarter than they really are (don’t we all?!)

  14. major disaster says:

    The word “clone” is used scientifically to mean many different things. Basically, it just means an exact copy. So you can clone an entire organism, a particular cell, a gene, whatever. Obviously, the technologies for doing each of those things is totally different. (Haven’t read the linked articles, but as a general rule, getting scientific info. from popular media is a dubious proposition.)

    As for the advantages of cloning animals, as was mentioned in the comments to the previous post, it’s usually about maintaining consistency of particular desired traits from the parent animals, which is much harder to do through traditional breeding. If it were simply about producing new animals, yes, natural breeding would likely be more cost-effective, but that’s not the only consideration here.

    By the way, vat-grown meat? I have a hard time believing it could ever approach the same taste and texture of real meat, which would be the one reason I would have not to eat it. I mean, look at a cow – there is a huge difference between all the different cuts from the various different parts of the body – doesn’t seem like you could ever replicate that in vitro.

  15. I just don’t see any legitimate scientific basis for concern.

    Is personal observation scientific? It’s not like the FDA has never approved something that’s later been found to have been unsafe.

    Even if cloning is safe, do we trust the people doing it to do so safely? It seems like every time you turn around some medication is being recalled and they can’t even keep the e.coli off the lettuce. Now we’re supposed to just trust that they can clone animals without messing something up?

    I don’t see anything wrong with having label. Some people won’t care if it’s cloned.

  16. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Charles Duffy says:

    Huh? Health risk? What kind of health risk?…

    I just don’t see any legitimate scientific basis for concern.

    Honestly, I don’t know what kind of health risk. But…this is the kind of thing were we don’t realize the problem till it appears, being new territory and such. Also, there may not appear to be a concern looking at the black and white of how this should work, but once it is put into practice, there may be production variables not anticipated.

    To me, it is not worth whatever savings. The introduction of cloned meat may even bring down the cost of “traditional” meat, so everybody wins.

  17. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Sorry for the double post!

    Charles Duffy says:

    Huh? Health risk? What kind of health risk?…

    I just don’t see any legitimate scientific basis for concern.

    Honestly, I don’t know what kind of health risk. But…this is the kind of thing were we don’t realize the problem till it appears, being new territory and such. Also, there may not appear to be a concern looking at the black and white of how this should work, but once it is put into practice, there may be production variables not anticipated.

    To me, it is not worth whatever savings. The introduction of cloned meat may even bring down the cost of “traditional” meat, so everybody wins.

  18. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    What the heck is going on with my formating? Anyway, the first two lines of my post is from Charles Duffy. Sorry for making a mess of this topic!

  19. Phyllis Nefler says:

    okay, the term “vat meat” is making me want to vomit.

  20. kaycee says:

    Mike_ says:

    “They already snuck cloned eel blood into your ice cream.”

    Unless I misunderstand that article, they’re not using eel blood. It’s a protein extracted from baker’s yeast by, I guess, genetic modification – which is disturbing in itself for many of us.

    The article says:
    “Instead of extracting the protein from the fish, which Unilever describes as “not sustainable or economically feasible” in its application, the company developed a process for making it, by altering the genetic structure of a strain of baker’s yeast so that it produces the protein during fermentation.

    This ingredient, called an ice-structuring protein, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is used by Unilever to make some products in the United States, like some Popsicles and a new line of Breyers Light Double Churned ice cream bars.”

  21. Tom says:

    major disaster: Contemplate, if you will, the various manipulations that domesticated animals go through before their flesh reaches your (I’m presuming non-vegetarian) plate, and not just the notorious examples of veal and pate. You’re talking about an industry that had to be forced to stop feeding herbivores the ground-up remains of their predecessors to stop the spread of mad cow disease. Vat-grown flesh might actually be better.

    Ah, what do I really care? The eggheads still haven’t answered the question of, if I cloned myself, but substituted an X chromosome for the Y, and then married my clone, would it be incest. Er… purely as a thought experiment, you understand.

  22. AlteredBeast, can you not see the italics or did you not mean for the name to also be italicized?

  23. major disaster says:

    Tom, those are really different issues. No, I’m not a vegetarian. I certainly understand the reasons why some people might not want to eat meat, and that’s cool, but it’s not something I plan to give up.

    As to your second question, assuming they every achieved successful human cloning, and assuming you could actually replace entire chromsomes like that, I don’t know, but I do know it would make you quite a dirty old man, because when you clone yourself, you get a baby, not a fully grown person, and you’d have to wait for it to grow up. So, good luck with that (heh).

  24. SexCpotatoes says:

    Let’s look at this another way. Say you’re a feed company like Mosanto, or something, you invent a genetically engineered grain, which is resistant to your best kill everything let bob sort them out pesticide. It’s patented because you engineered it.

    Then, engineer some cloned cows, let’s say, that will need your brand of patented grain or they will die. Yay, profit.

    Now let’s say people start eating this cow meat, or pig, or anything else that has been patented, because it was manufactured in a laboratory. So and so decides meat is murder, or vegetarianism is good, and cuts the family off from meat. Family dies, writhing, in agony.

    Jack up prices.

    Profit from your “addicts,” I mean consumers.

    There exists a great probability that these companies will be engineering, or cloning animals so they can PATENT them. Complete control over prices, and such, just like some pesticide, I mean agricultural companies are trying to do with wheat, corn, grains, etc.

  25. Shadist says:


    Do you mean that ingesting such meat would, in some way, make it so lack of said food would then kill you?

    Just how do you think that would happen, some basic change to our DNA by eating the food? Some change in body chemistry that would prevent us from making some enzyme?

  26. formergr says:

    It’s people! Vat meat is people!!

  27. yellojkt says:

    Vat-grown meat as a science fiction concept goes back at least as far as The Space Merchants by Frederick Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth. The hero spends some time carving parts off of ‘Chicken Little’ until he escapes. The book also serves as a cautionary tale about the excesses of the advertising industry.

  28. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Rectilinear Propagation says:

    AlteredBeast, can you not see the italics or did you not mean for the name to also be italicized?

    I meant for the name, and the two lines following it to be italics. I started the tag at the begining, ended it after the following two lines, yet only effected the name. Weird. Did the same thing when I went to reply to you.

  29. Tom says:

    The vat-grown-human-meat-for-human-consumption meme also took root in Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan, which featured “Long Pig” fast food restaurants.

    major: Sorry–I left out the part where my distaff clone’s growth is accelerated, along with the virtual-reality helmet that ensures that she grows up with at least some of the same pop-culture references as I did. Oh, and then there’s my brain transplant into a younger, cybernetically-enhanced superhuman body. I tend to forget that not everyone reads as many comics as I do.

  30. ElizabethD says:

    Pass the Frankenburgers!

  31. major disaster says:

    Oh, in that case, it’s probably okay, then. :)

  32. Shadist,

    “Do you mean that ingesting such meat would, in some way, make it so lack of said food would then kill you?”

    That’d be an interesting business model. Currently the major corn companies (ADM, Monsanto, etc.) all sell seed that is patented and engineered. It’s engineered to work best with that company’s regime of herbicides (for the weeds), insecticides, and fertilizers. And it’s engineered to be sterile. So if you buy your seed from them, you MUST buy your crop treatment products from them, AND you MUST buy the seed from them again next year. The goal of the companies is to remove the ability of these crops to reproduce so that farmers will HAVE to buy seed every single year. There’s far less profit in it if the farmer can grow his own seed corn for next year’s crop — then he only has to buy from you once. If you can make him buy seed EVERY SINGLE YEAR, you OWN him.

    And guess what — if you over-nitrogenize a field long enough, you turn the field into a sort of nitrogen crack whore. It becomes effectively sterile and it takes TEN YEARS for the field to recover its fertility. So once the farmer uses these commercial fertilizers for just two or three years, he has to keep buying them, and he has to keep buying MORE of them, or his crops simply won’t grow.

    We take for granted the availability of our plant-based food supply, both as food for us and as food for livestock. But that availability depends upon plants able to evolve to meet ever-evolving disease threats, and that availability depends on the ability for these plants to reproduce.

    Dole engineered the overthrow of the Hawai’ian monarchy in the 1890s to make pineapple importation easier and cheaper (by making Hawaii part of the US) and give them control of the crops.

    Consolidation is a reality in Big Ag and the field is dominated by a handful of very large players. What would really stop Monsanto from controlling, say, 90% of the North American corn market and holding corn seed hostage unless farmers — or even the US and Canadian governments — coughed up actual ransom money? Or maybe farmers agreed to forego their consumer rights, or maybe the governments agree to approve a dangerous and controversial NEW GM product? The vast majority of US corn farmers can’t grown corn unless Monsanto (et al) says they can. The corn is infertile. The seed comes from Monsanto. And Monsanto will only sell to you IF YOU FOLLOW MONSANTO’S RULES. If you don’t, they will sue you, and they will not sell to you.

    Big Agriculture is remaking our worldwide environment, genetics, and food system to suit their business model without asking anyone’s permission. These things are so basic I don’t know if anyone ever wondered, “Hey, do we have a right for people to have access to corn that can actually produce seed?” because it never really entered anybody’s mind that a company would deliberately create infertile crops to hold farmers hostage to them for seed.

    Big Ag has proven over and over again that it’s unethical and will do anything for a buck. Maybe they really would do something creepy to GM meat so that you would have to them buy a supplement from them to be able to digest it, or it would make you infertile unless you bought their special energy drink. Who knows? They’ve already done the unthinkable and sterilized our food plants.

  33. Oh, and the other point I meant to make — what’s really to stop Monsanto (or whoever finally wins the Big Ag consolidation wars) from pulling a Dole and just overthrowing the government for the convenience of its business model? Corporate agriculture has always been dirty. Read up on sugar companies and their rabid defense of slavery.

  34. Eyebrows McGee,

    Damn. Learn something scary everyday. (Of course, now that I think about it I don’t notice corn seeds in corn. Didn’t there used to be seeds?)

  35. SexCpotatoes says:

    Thanks Eyebrows McGee, for taking the time to explain it in such thorough detail. I didn’t have the time to type it out before I left for my physical therapy today.

    oh, and tom, great taste in comics, I loved Transmetropolitan.

  36. Rectilinear:

    “Didn’t there used to be seeds?”

    The corn kernels are the seeds. :) (And broccoli is a flower! And poinsettias’ red parts aren’t flowers! It’s the wonderful, crazy world of botany!) Various Big Ag corporations have engineered infertile kernels on their corn. You can plant them, but they won’t grow.

    Agricultural policy in the US is seriously screwed up. The problem is that the rest of the world can have the best Ag policy ever, but they’ll still suffer from what US ag companies do … because you can’t put the genetic genie back in the bottle. Those modifications are out there in the genome now.

  37. major disaster says:

    I always like telling people that the tasty part of watermelon is the plant’s ovary. The disgusted looks you get, especially from guys (and especially if they’re in the middle of taking a bite) is priceless.

  38. Hoss says:

    Just an observation; the cloning concept seems to be very close to what we buy (or home grow) as “heirloom” vegetables.

  39. SexCPotatoes and Eyebrows McGee did a fantastic job of describing the very good reasons to be afraid of this technology, so I won’t repeat.

    I will say that, in spite of the fact that I virtually can’t be a vegetarian (I’d be stuck on pills for life due to very high iron/hemoglobin needs), the thing that really bothers me about eating meat isn’t that it comes from an animal, but that it might come from an animal that was mistreated and/or not nicely killed. If muscle tissue could be cloned in vats and used as food, I think that’d be a huge step in the right direction. As long as it won’t hurt or kill me, I’d rather eat something that never felt pain for my doing it!

  40. Plasmafire says:

    You know if a disease hits one clone, all the clones are gonna get hit too. Diversity=Prosperity. Everything being the same leads to certain death and destruction. If something is wrong with one clone, its going to be wrong with all clones.

  41. Keter says:

    The problem with cloned animals isn’t that they’ve necessarily been engineered, although that’s also a distinct possibility. The problem is already known: even in the best controlled labs, there have been numerous accidents in which retroviruses and alien (to the species, not the planet) protein fragments have been inadvertently introduced to the clone’s genetic material.

    How is this a problem? Multiple ways:

    1. Mad cow disease is a prion. A prion is a tiny, very difficult to detect protein fragment. There are uncountable number of unknown prions, which may not be able to access a cell’s DNA in the wild, but may do who-knows-what if introduced via a cloning accident.

    2. If these accidents occur in very well controlled research labs staffed with highly educated professionals, they can be expected to happen with much greater frequency in a production environment staffed with less well trained, clock-punching technicians. God help us if they outsource this.

    3. Nature has a way of dealing with defective DNA as the animal matures and enters the reproducive cycle: they die, they can’t reproduce, or their offspring aren’t viable. The cloned animals should not be allowed to reproduce, and will likely be killed young, before the effects of anything other than catastrophic defects will be noticed. The effects will then be noticed only in the consumers, and since the forensic difficulty of tracing the source will be enormous, it will take a long time to diagnose the cause of illness and there will be a large number of individuals affected.

    4. The cloned animals should not be allowed to reproduce, but again, there is no guarantee they won’t…I can envision scenarios where they get sold as regular livestock to other countries, breed, and manage to get back into the bloodlines here.

    5. Diversity matters in a food supply. Didn’t we learn anything from the Irish potato famine? A pestilence that affects one genetic stock with disastrous results may affect other genetic stocks of the same crop less or not at all. If all of our food is reduced to a handful of genetic stocks, the likelihood of a pestilence that will destroy all supplies is increased to near certainty. We will find ourselves with inadequate “heirloom” varieties to meet short term needs, and will have to choose between feeding ourselves now or reproducing those “heirloom” varieties to have adequate supplies later. This is a recipe for war.

    *THIMK* as the once-popular slogan said…take back control of our food before they use it to control us.

    As for not being able to tell whether what I’m eating is cloned or GMO or not? If I can’t tell, I’ll assume it is, and either will buy from another source or won’t eat it. I may end up vegetarian by default.

  42. TVarmy says:

    I know I should be a concerned consumer and be angry at the evil Agrabusiness companies for putting weird stuff in my ice cream, but what I really want to know is where I can get some of that eel yeast so I can make me some freak cream with low fat and low graininess at home. I’m sick and tired of adding vodka to my ice cream to keep the ice crystals small. People think they’ll get drunk off of it, and they refuse to try it no matter what I say.

  43. aestheticity says:

    Vodka icecream? Where do I sign up?

    Vat meat is a different concept than cloned animals. I have a problem with the latter and certainly wouldn’t eat any of the products. The former I’m OK with – in fact I believe vatgrown meat is the future of our entire race and it would also allow a lot of vegetarians to return to sanity by having nothing to do with the slaughter of animals. Both must be labelled of course.

  44. phrygian says:

    We (most Americans, anyway) are too removed from our food as it is. The further away from our food we get, the more unhealthy/obese we get. Twinkies and processed chicken nuggets become “real food”; our diets become full of empty calories and garbage (like high fructose corn syrup). Vat meat and cloned livestock are just another step away from us to having to see and understand what we’re ingesting. I’m not sure I could ever bring myself to eat them.