By Daniel Bates
Cattle destined for the food chain in the U.S. are being cloned from dead animals.
Technicians take samples from slaughtered cows to assess meat quality, and cells from the best are used to grow clones.
Researchers across the Atlantic said that Britain would have to put its reservations aside and adopt the controversial ‘resurrection’ practice or fall behind the rest of the world in food production.
The development comes after it emerged that three animals descended from cloned cows have found their way into the food chain in Britain, with dozens more living on farms across the country.
All were descended from embryos of a cloned ‘supercalf ‘ that was created in the United States, where official regulators have said that cloned meat and milk is as safe as normal produce.
American scientists are far ahead of Britain on animal cloning and are replicating exceptional animals as breeding stock with the aim of improving the quality of beef, dairy and pig herds.
They use a range of techniques to make this assessment including productivity, longevity or meat quality, which cannot be done until the animal has been slaughtered.
The ‘resurrection’ technique is being carried out by leading animal cloning company J R Simplot. Brady Hicks of the Idaho-based firm said: ‘the animals are hanging on a rail ready to go to the meat counter.
‘We identify carcasses that have certain characteristics that we want, but it’s too late to reproduce the genetics of the animal. But through cloning we can resurrect that animal.’
In America cloned meat has entered the food chain on a small scale. There are roughly 1,000 clones among 100million cattle, and farmers are still working out if it is economically viable.
Despite the ruling by the U.S. Food and Drug administration that meat and milk from cloned animals is safe to eat, supermarkets in the U.S. such as Whole Foods have placed a blanket ban on any cloned products.
However Mark Walton, president of the leading American animal cloning company ViaGen, said that the use of cloning in agriculture will eventually become the norm across the world.
‘If I were a European farmer and my competitors in the U.S., China and South America were using the technology, I’d be concerned about losing all access to it,’ he said.
Artificial meat grown in the laboratory could be on supermarket shelves in just a decade, experts believe.
Produced in huge vats from muscle cells, the fake pork chops, sirloin steak and sausages would be kinder to the environment and to livestock than the real thing, say scientists.
But it remains to be seen whether the fake meat, said to have the texture of a scallop, will be popular with the public.
The method invented by Dutch government-funded scientists involves incubating muscle cells extracted from pigs in a protein ‘broth’.
The cells multiply and create a sticky tissue with the consistency of an undercooked egg. this is bulked up by passing an electrical current through it.