Copy Cow

For a take on cloned cattle that’s more nuanced than “OMG! They’re cloning our burgers!” the November issue of Wired offers a long piece that gives ranchers, scientists, pig farmers, semen brokers (yes, semen brokers), and food safety experts plenty of time and space to lay out their arguments for and against introducing cloned meat into the food chain.

The pro-cloning folks feel that cloning is necessary to keep up with the U.S. demand for high-quality meat. Those who question the process wonder if widespread cloning will lead to fewer genetic strains, and thus a greater chance for disease to wipe out large sectors of the meat supply.

While the FDA has said that meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring are “as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals,” it hasn’t actually approved the introduction of these items into the markets.

This hasn’t stopped some cattle growers, who may have a large financial and time stake in cloning their animals, from selling clones for food:

[Rancher Don] Coover says he shipped the rest of his lot to market.

‘Wait. You mean into the food chain?’ I ask.

‘I never worried much about it,’ he says. ‘Unless you tell them it’s a clone, no one can tell.’

NPR’s Here and Now invited Coover on the program for a little chat, during which the rancher and semen-seller seemed more than a little defensive.

The topic can definitely incite some passions.