I’d like to share an e-mail I recently received from one of my (former) beef customers. By way of background, I co-founded the company in Austin that is one of the leaders in livestock cloning. I make my primary living now from raising registered cattle and selling pastured beef through local outlets, primarily Farmer’s Markets. I have been in partnership on cloning a couple of cows; I don’t own the clones, but do have future rights to some embryos produced by them.
As my husband and I can understand your choice on cloned animals, we can not in good conscience choose to eat it as you choose not to tell your clientele unless they ask. We have therefore found a ranch that has no clones of any kind and does not believe in the marketing or selling of this type of animal. While we appreciate your honestly with us, with a heavy heart we ask to please be removed off your email list.
Thank you for your e-mail; I appreciate your sentiments and your integrity in being upfront with us. I applaud you and your husband in sticking by your convictions and will certainly remove you from our mailing list.
I would like to make clear, however, that we will not be selling beef from the offspring of clones through Wild Type Ranch Beef. I understand my clientele and respect that part of the reason we have such loyal clients is that they trust the us to produce beef in a way that they can know and understand.
I happen to personally believe in the technology, and in the data that the FDA used in reaching its decision. At this point in time, there is no chance that beef from a clone or the offspring of a clone will be sold as Wild Type Ranch Beef. If this does occur, it will be with full disclosure and complete transparency.
Why, if I believe in the technology and the safety of meat produced with it, am I stating that it isn’t being sold as our beef? There are a number of reasons, but the first being that even though I was one of the “early adopters”, there won’t even be a chance that we could harvest beef from the offspring of clones until mid-2010.
Here’s why: The cloned cows were born in fall of 2006. The first one will calve this fall, then she will be used as a “donor cow” to produce embryos that other cows will carry. Called “Embryo Transfer” or ET, this is a common practice in registered cattle production (over 10% of registered Angus cattle are produced by ET). The ET sons and daughters of the cloned cow will be born at the end of the year 2009. They will be of such high genetic worth, that they will be targeted as breeding stock. Still, we cull about 10% of our top animals, so there is a slim chance one of them could end up as beef. If it does, it would be ready to harvest sometime around mid-to-late 2010. More likely, the genetics from the cows I was involved in cloning won’t affect the beef supply until her sons are used as bulls and their calves get harvested as beef. Meaning, they will be grand-offspring of the cloned cow and will hit the market sometime around the middle of 2012.
And what will happen if/when I harvest beef that can trace part of it’s pedigree to a cloned cow or bull? I won’t feel any need sneak it into my beef supply, nor would I out of respect for the wishes of my customers. On the contrary, I expect I’ll advertise it widely, as I expect it will be some of the best we’ve ever produced.