Friday, July 29, 2011

What’s For Dinner? Cloned Beef

Don’t rush out to your nearest Safeway or put an order in to Sysco. That oft lamented piece of meat is not here yet but sooner than later it will be, possibly by years end. This, the maximum assault on the organic front by science and ranchers will not go unchallenged.

Cloning is the production of a life form from the original without going through the sexual stage of reproduction. It produces an exact copy rather than a genetic 50% mix. There are several techniques but the results are to produce and identical match from the original.
Parent Navel Tree

Cloning in plants has been around for decades. All the navel oranges have been reproduced from one original tree. In your garden when you take a sucker from a plant and root it that is a form of cloning. It produces a plant genetically identical to its parent.


Geneticist Van Eencennaam with Cloned Calf

When we move up the life form ladder to animals it gets a little more complicated but in actuality is the same principle. Of course we ourselves being an animal makes cloning scary and to many “meddling with our makers plans or nature”. But in reality life is life whether it is a plant or animal. We meddle all the time as with abortion and seem to adjust to the moral and natural issue when it suits us.

The process that is commonly used to produce cloned beef cattle is called somatic cell nuclear transfer. This is harvesting eggs from slaughtered animals then matured or started in a Petri dish in a lab. The slaughtered animals DNA is extracted and the DNA of the preferred animal is put in its place. This DNA is harvested from a live animal you wish to replicate. The egg produces an embryo and you’re on your way to a calf of the exact characteristics you have selected to reproduce. For twenty years or more similar techniques have been used to fertilize eggs in vitro and splitting them to produce twins, triplets and quadruplets along with clones of animal embryos in vitro. Animals produced in this manner are already in the food chain. This is not genetic engineering which is going into the DNA threads and replacing or altering individual genes. The FDA  declared this cloning to be safe and no special label needed.
Champion Chianina Bull Full Flush

The cloned meat was provided by Collins Cattle ranch of Frederick, Oklahoma and was the cloned offspring of the prized animal Full Flush. The process is to produce cloned calves and from them produce offspring by normal insemination which is slaughtered for meat. The cloned animal itself is only used for breeding as it costs about $15,000 to produce. What this actually does is replicates Full Flush so more production can be obtained as the old boy only has so much semen.
Chef Peel

The test is in the eating. Cloned meat was  tested at Champanile with Executive Chef Mark Peel doing the honors after Spago’s chef Lee Hefter at the last moment changed his mind and declined to host the test dinner.

Chef PeelImage(4)

The test dinner consisted of cloned porterhouse steaks and ground beef patties paired off with regular prime identical cuts and ground beef in a blind test. The platters were marked simply A and B. The meat was prepared identical with fleur de sal and cracked black pepper and pan seared to medium rare in a little canola oil. The dinner started out with camelized onion tarts with feta cheese. The accompaniments of the steaks and ground beef were roasted fingerling potatoes, roasted carrots, sautéed blue-footed and hedgehog mushrooms and early spring English peas. Desserts were chocolate tart with chocolate-cocoanib ice cream and chocolate sauce. The wines served were Malvasia prosecco-style sparkling wine from Medici Ermete and Domaine Tempier Bandol 2003.
Dinner Guests

The guest list consisted of Berry Glassner author of “The Gospel of Food; Everything You Think You Know About Food is Wrong” and a college professor. Huell Howser a television travel host. Gregg Jaffee of the Center for Science in Public Interest. Evan Kleiman Host of “Good Food” and chef at Angeli Caffe, Mark Peel executive chef of Campanile, Alison Van Eenennaam geneticist, Leslie Brenner Los Angeles Times food editor, Ashley Dunn Los Angeles Times science editor, Betty Hallock Los Angeles Times Assistant food editor and Karen Kaplan Los Angeles Times writer. I find it sad that the scientists and writers totally outnumbered the one chef but taste and enjoying food is not the sole province of us chefs.

And the winner is: cloned beef. Not one could tell the difference. Chef Peel liked B better which turned out to be the cloned steak but could not pick it out blind as the cloned steak.

In the written commentary about the event I find more is said and thought about the appearance of science invading the farm and food chain than the actual results. Cloned beef is not better or worse than the prime beef we now produce but is more consistent. Taste and marbling is a function only in part to the genetic parent. The method of raising the animal imparts a great deal to the potential of the animal.

As a chef who also worked years for Dole Philippines, producing cloned pineapple (suckers), cloned cassava (stalks), cloned citrus (buds) and dumped tons of chemicals on all of them I hope I can see both sides of the argument. For those who can afford natural produced food of low volume and high cost, enjoy. But for the masses that need affordable food of good safe quality and quantity, the science minded farmer is the man. I support organic food, whole food and slow food producers. They have a place and a demand. But and it is a big but they can never fill the needs of the general population here or worldwide.

There are economies worldwide where eighty percent of income is spent on food and that of low quality. Our harvest of wild fish will go the way of the buffalo and passenger pigeon if we are not careful. Conservation is a science not a fad or religion. It must be used to understand and better all life on this planet not to fence off progress. Man is part of the environment. He does not stand outside of it looking over the fence. So I say “where’s the beef”?

Photo credits Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune


bbally said:

And the food chain continues to get more efficient. Still looks like a couple decades before cloning gets directly to the food chain. For now it is just in the realm of producing the breeding stock.

siksikaboy said:

Quotes from an article
In August, Colby Collins of Frederick, Okla., will begin delivering the first of 50 calves sired by a clone of Full Flush, a popular Chianina bull from a nearby ranch.

Collins could have bought semen from the real Full Flush for $50 a straw. Instead, he paid just $20 for semen from one of the five Full Flush clones. “When you can cut a dollar here and a dollar there, you’ve got to do it,” he said.

The calves will be sold to youngsters, who will raise them for a year and enter them in county fairs and farm competitions, collectively known as the club calf circuit.

The circuit has come to occupy an odd spot in the clone conflict. Everyone knows the club calves will be sold for slaughter after their last turn in the show ring. But no one likes to dwell on it.

Don Coover, a vet and semen broker in Galesburg, Kan., has promised two clone offspring to kids to raise for the circuit. The FDA has no way to track them.

“They will go into the food chain, no question, in six or eight months,” he said.

And that’s just the beginning.

“I’m selling hundreds – maybe thousands – of units of semen from bulls that were cloned,” he said. “They’re going to be slaughtered, and the FDA can’t do anything about it.”

bbally said:

I guess I don’t understand why they think the FDA should monitor it?

And they actually can if they need to identify the meat at some point it is done with DNA testing.

But why the big deal because it came from an animal cloned?

siksikaboy said:

I think this article was written just before the FDA came out with their voluminous rendering that cloned beef was safe and no special labeling would be needed. As far as I can see the cloned beef will enter the food chain without special notice. Possibly some restaurants and markets will require guarantees from their packers that no cloned meat will be delivered to them. I doubt this will last as the semen trade moves along and ranchers do not keep records or pass along the information.

bbally said:

But what scientific evidence suggests a benefit from a resto not using cloned beef? I mean what would a resto be “protecting the public” from by excluding cloned beef? And hogs half been cloned a lot longer then beef. And sheep, well they started the thing!

But what is it that these people seize upon that makes the think there is a problem with cloned beef.

lebelage said:

“But what is it that these people seize upon that makes the think there is a problem with cloned beef.”

The hype, they seize upon the hype.

bbally said:

Well I think we already had a period when hype and religion ruled the world and science was rejected, what was it called again?

Oh ya the dark ages!

lebelage said:

On the other hand,(not saying I agree, just trying to see the other point of view), there isn’t much trust in the government as to what it allows into our foodchain, air, water and medication.

Now, you or I could look at this issue logically and say “well there is nothing about this that would make it inherently unsafe”.

But many can’t do that. Their minds don’t get past “look at all the dangerous and harmful things that have been approved in the past”. Can’t say as I blame them.

You approach things with caution, study them for understanding, then accept them as useful or harmful.

Many people never bother with that second step.

siksikaboy said:

“But many can’t do that. Their minds don’t get past “look at all the dangerous and harmful things that have been approved in the past”. Can’t say as I blame them.”

No harmful agriculture practices or products were approved. They were just overlooked due to ignorance and inattention. I handled and sprayed organophosphates as well as DDT and 2-4-D and 4-5-T, later called agent orange, for years before it was known how harmful these substances at the concentration we were using were to the environment. I vividly remember reading “Silent Spring” and getting a wake up call.

lebelage said:

But for a government oversight agency to overlook is to give tacit approval.

I think my point remains.

bbally said:

I am not saying that the Government is correct. But we do have the safest food supply chain of any country. And we also have the safetest chemical usage and approval process in the world. No one has a better record, no one.

And our drug approval protocols are the highest standard of any country in the world.

Do things get through? Sure, but that is brough forth publicly and dealt with, it may create mistrust, but it does make it appearant that transparent agencies are the best possible method for vetting these things out.

lebelage said:

Hey, like I said.. I agree. I’m just saying that I can see where some people would have these feelings of mistrust. And the media loves to hype people into an alarmist state every chance they get.

firechef37 said:

Great blog and EXCELLENT discussion! This is what it is all about…a rational exchange of ideas in a competent intellegent way. Wow, I wish I would have been able to watch this unfold.

Great great educational blog as normal as well. Do you think cloned meats will help eliminate diseases in the animals that cause problems within the food chain, i.e. “Mad Cow?” Is the day all that far off where we can “breed” in a resistence to such illnesses and reduce the risks of them entering the food chain? Here I go learning about something I considered to be out of “Star Trek” when the day began…

bbally said:

Cloning may stop some BSE or mad cow. But it comes in three forms. It can be acquired sporadically when a normal prion mutates; as hereditary diseases where a bovine or person is predisposed to the mutation due to a chromosome mutation on both sides of the dna ladder, allowing the matching pair to have no way to correct the problem and finally through transmission from infected individuals. The research show that BSE and its human variant are caused by an abnormal version of an everyday protein called a prion. The long name for prion is proteinaceous infectious particle. In its mutated state the prion is in its infectious form, which causes disease. The infectious form of the prion protein form takes on a different folded shape from the normal protein creating holes.

So the short answer is cloning would stop most genetic susceptability to the disease, any cell replicating has the chance to mutate into an infectious prion. And no data exists yet to show that any infected live stock have had immunity to the BSE problem. Part of that is whole herds are culled so no animals are studied long term to see if they can handle the disease. It is just to dangerous a risk to the food chain to allow the animals to remain on earth alive. It will do wonderful things, but like everything else it will only be part of the answer.

siksikaboy said:

Where the highest degree of disease control has occurred in plants and assume potential in animals is in genetic engineering. The problem is that so much is not known about the total and forward effects. Geneticists just can not predict nor have long term evidence of the safety. On top of this there is a great amount of public and private apprehension to the introduction of genetically altered food. Because of cross pollination genetically altered plants can invade natural strains with unknown short and long term effects. As far as animals, that is a whole other can of worms. Remember we are animals too. Sort of reminds me of the days when all we wanted to do was kill the weeds and bugs and did not know enough to stay out of trouble.

firechef37 said:

Good point…we do tend to try to change the way the world flows. Mother Earth has a way things are supposed to be. If we change too much it may make things seem better but it does not men they will be better.

It is good we have the know how to do some things in science but we need to know what not to change…my thoughts on it all for what it’s worth.

Still have to thank you all for the education however!

marybudchip said:

Didn’t anyone see Dateline going undercover into a packaging planet, with the gross conditions and the government inspector telling the plant manager to watch out for Dateline. Is our food supply really safe? Right now I know six people sitting in an US hospital with what the doctors said is mad cow disease. This is all about the MONEY!!! Yes, in small amounts these chemicals and things are safe. But a little bit and there adds up. I say support farmers who are trying to provide the best possible product, and if you are going to sell cloned meat, label it!

siksikaboy said:

The meat you buy is not cloned only the animals that are bred to produce it. In other words they clone a prize bull, to produce several clones of him, to be able to produce more seaman that is then bred with a cow. The cow produces an offspring which is a result of normal breeding techniques and is raised for meat. So cloned meat is not really sold or enters the food chain.

It cost ranchers and the meat industry considerably to control and eradicate mad cow disease.

Our food supply is one of the safest in the world. I worked for Dole and saw firsthand how careful things were tested and handled.

I remember while working in the Philippines about fifty people died from eating bread. They found that pallets of flour was loaded in the same ships hold as pallets of a organophosphate pesticide. The high heat had caused migration and absorption of this pesticide into the flour making it deadly. A tragic error by stevedores and ship personnel. The point being that things happen. General Milling, the miller of the flour, had no idea such a mistake would occur during shipping.

bbally said:

Rest assured you do not know six people in any hospital in the USA with Mad Cow Disease. First Mad Cow (BSE) does not infect humans. Second there is clinical evidence that BSE can lead to a Prion protien change that can lead to vCJD which can lead to human infection. However as of February 2007 there are only three confirmed cases in the USA. So whatever the people you know are suffering from it has nothing to do with BSE and absolutely no connection what so ever to the Cloning of breeding stock bovines.


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