Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why We Don't Need Cloned Meat - Part I

As expected, the FDA approved the sale of food from cloned livestock, declaring that they found no evidence of harm to humans who might ingest the meat.

The cloning companies argue that they are creating clones to meet consumer demand, citing tough or generally inconsistent taste and quality as the Number 1 complaint among meat eaters. By using uniformly high-quality clones as breeding stock, the meat from said livestock will be uniform, too.

We do not need cloned livestock to achieve this result!

The reason that beef taste and quality is inconsistent from week to week (if not steak to steak) is because there are literally dozens if not hundreds of beef breeds raised on different diets in different regions that, as a result, naturally vary in taste and texture. Unfortunately, all this glorious variety gets lumped together at shelf and labeled “beef.”

This is a little oversimplified, but it's as if all red wine grapes grown in North America were crushed and blended together at random, placed in green bottles and sold as “red wine.”

While many ranchers, feed yard operators, or processors raise and finish “sale barn” cattle (a hint is that their herd has cattle of all shapes, sizes, and colors grazing on the same pasture or munching at a trough), there are great producers who specialize in a single breed or crossbreed. The best among these use a carefully chosen diet, practice low-stress management techniques, analyze the performance of their herds over time, and use genetic selection (ideally the natural kind) to optimize for certain characteristics that impact the taste and quality of beef, including tenderness.

The problem is that these outstanding producers RARELY GET PAID for this extra effort!

With an industrialized system set up to maximize throughput to maintain margin, it is simply not considered cost effective to sort cattle at large feed lots or slaughterhouse door, let alone on the shelf.

If we consumers want more consistent quality beef that suits our personal palates or priorities, we have the ability to vote with our pocketbooks and support these top-notch producers. We’ve found a number of them over the past two years and are featuring four in our online marketplace today. There are others. Please seek them out, determine what style of beef you prefer (similar to what varietal of wine best suits your fancy), look for beef that’s been aged (to be addressed further in the next post), and make a purchase.


Walter Jeffries said...

There is another reason I, as a breeder and producer, am not interested in cloning: it's a dead end. I strive with my herd lines to constantly improve our breed. Each generation is better than the last. I keep only the very best of the best to test breed and then only the best of those to rebreed. This keeps improving our herd.

With cloning there is the assumption that we have reached the zenith, the apex of perfection and want to keep it. That's completely unrealistic and wrong. Cloning's a dead end with no further improvements. Boring.

There's another reason for not being interested in cloning - the cost of the process is horrendous and then the companies doing it claim patents. I'm not interested in that. Neither the cost nor the patenting. Life should not be patented.

Lastly, why should I let them have all the fun? Breeding, continuing to chase that perfect pig (in my case) is fun. I enjoy the process. When all is said and done that is what we have. Life's a journey. I'm not interested in just turning out assembly line pork chops for some patent holder. I want to enjoy farming.

Carrie Oliver said...

Walter, you single-handedly make farming seem fun! Thank you for doing what you do and for your really original thoughts on the subject, I hadn't thought about cloning as boring!

But you're right, not only is the idea of a zenith boring, it's also totally unrealistic and IMHO a red herring, too. As soon as one clone is deemed perfect, some other enterprising soul will seek to make it even better.

Plus, who is to say what is perfect? Is there a single perfect wine. No, different people have different preferences.

I can see why cloning is tempting, though. It takes such a long time to improve a herd the way you do. Plus, most (esp. cattle breeders/producers) aren't properly rewarded for it.