Beef steaks from cloned animals coming to you?

In 2012, West Texas A&M University (my Alma matter – Go BUFFS!) meat and agricultural science researchers started a beef cloning project to increase efficiency in the beef industry, specifically, meat quality.

image002“Most of that high quality beef that you would find in those white tablecloth, high-end dining experiences (has) a tremendous amount of waste fat that must be trimmed from the carcass,” said Dr. Ty Lawrence, professor of meat science and lead researcher on the project.
“Conversely, if you have a high-yielding carcass that is trim, it is most often low in marbling. What we’re trying to do is both at the same time. We want to be able to produce taste fat without that waste fat.”

Over five years ago, Lawrence was walking through a meat packing plant, and within 10 minutes, he found two carcasses that graded Prime, Yield Grade 1. This combination of quality grade and yield ranks as the best in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) beef evaluation system and only occurs in about .03 percent of all beef carcasses.
“You’ve kind of got to be standing in the right place at the right time and have your lightning rod up to get struck and see one of those,” Lawrence said. “That’s the ‘aha’ moment; that’s what gives you the impetus to call your boss at 11 o’clock at night.”
Lawrence called Dr. Dean Hawkins, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at WTAMU, and received the go-ahead to buy the steer and heifer carcasses and begin his research.

WTAMU researchers teamed up with ViaGen Cloning Technologies to clone a bull they named Alpha from the steer carcass. Three heifers were also cloned from the heifer carcass named Gamma 1, 2, and 3. The crossbreeding between Alpha and the Gammas resulted in 13 calves, nine bulls and four heifers. “Then, our research hypothesis: If we can create a male and a female from a clone and crossbreed those, we will simultaneously improve beef quality and yield,” Lawrence said. “We kept the two best bulls and sent seven of them [steers] to our research feedlot. The remaining two bulls and four heifers are under the good care of Dr. David Lust, associate professor of animal science at WTAMU at our Nance Ranch. They live there today.”

“The calves were raised by their mothers while grazing our native pastures, in the herd with our other commercial cattle,” Lust said. “They were weaned at a normal time and then fed at the WTAMU Research Feedlot for 185 days on a typical feedlot diet. They have been treated just like commercial cattle throughout the industry.”

The seven steers sent to the feedlot were finished out and then harvested. A USDA grading supervisor found that one of the seven achieved Prime grade, three graded High Choice, and three were Average Choice. For perspective, the meat grading industry average is Low Choice, with only about ~3% of all cattle grading Prime.

The steers averaged a 15-inch ribeye, which was a 9% increase from the average of a 13.7 inch ribeye. When adjusted for the steers’ smaller size and weight in comparison to the average animal, it became an 18% difference in size for the cloned steers. John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M system, said that, compared to industry averages, the steers produced 16% less seam fat, 45% more marbling, and 9% more ribeye poundage. Lawrence said that they gained just 2.9 pounds a day on feed, without any additional hormones. “We’re selecting for a genotypic trait, instead of a phenotypic trait like a lot of cloning projects have done,” says Landon Canterbury, manager of West Texas A&M University’s ranch.

“In and of itself, these individual traits of better marbling, better muscling and better yield are not that impressive on an individual basis,” Lawrence said. “What’s impressive about our cattle is that they all occurred simultaneously in the seven cattle. We’ve been able in seven animals, as a proof of concept, to shift the distribution to higher quality and higher yield simultaneously.”

WTAMU Assistant Professor of Animal Science Trent McEvers said this project contains the power to affect cattle producers through increasing efficiency for the beef industry.
“In my opinion, the way this is potentially going to shift the industry is that for every pound of feed that we feed an animal, if a higher proportion of that weight of feed is actually converted into muscle, then fat, that basically improves our utilization of energy,” McEvers said.

“In our college and across the university … our mission and goal is to provide a world-class education to the most valuable commodity, (and) we think, in Texas, that’s the young people,” Hawkins said. “Our second goal is to conduct cutting-edge research with applications that apply directly back to the producers that feed us every day.”

The next step for WTAMU is to compare the bull Alpha to top Artificial Insemination (AI) sires from the Angus, Simmental, and Charolais breeds. Additionally, 1,300 cows have been bred by Alpha, and the calves will be treated the same as any other calf while in the feedlot. It is important to remember that these calves are not cloned – they are the product of cloned animals.

It will be fascinating to see the results from all of these future offspring and the impact they will have on the beef and meat industries. It will be an amazing day when you can go into 10 different restaurants, and the steak you order in each one will be as tender, flavorful, and juicy as the previous one; gone will be the days of inconsistency between each steak! Below is a great video that sums up this project. It is a good day to be a WTAMU Alum.

This post was created from the following news sources:

The Canyon News: WT cloning research results significant progress for beef, cattle industry (Callie Shipley)

Drovers: Cloned calves carcass results unwrapped (Steve Cornett)

CattleNetwork: Cloned calves create ultimate steak (Tyne Morgan)


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10 things I once knew about Texas but kinda forgot…

I just spent three days in the Texas Panhandle (Amarillo/Canyon) for a friend’s Celebration of Life. I moved to Canyon in August 2001 to start a Master’s degree and stayed for eight years, working on a career as a lifetime student…

I have now lived in Nebraska for over four years, and don’t get back to Texas often. But this weekend I remembered things unique to Texas that I had forgotten about or placed in the back of my mind.

My top 10 list of things I once knew about Texas:
1. Sweet tea and/or Dr. Pepper are the unofficial state drinks.
2. Texas pride is everywhere; whether it is the state flag, huge lone star decor, the text of “Texas”, or any combination of those three things.
3. Big hair, bright make-up, and big jewelry are normal and expected!
4. The wind blows… A LOT! Not an exaggeration, last night we received weather warnings of a terrible dust storm (it was sandblast quality).
5. Access roads are awesome! I had never been introduced to these until I moved to Texas, but since they run parallel to Interstates it makes them great for local travel and exercise opportunities.
6. Texans can dance! I don’t mean twerking, I am talking about swing, two-step, etc.
7. Smoking is still allowed in most cities and in most bars…
8. Steak is common and fairly inexpensive. On most menus this weekend it was just $2-3 more than a chicken entree!
9. There are not many trees or windbreaks; which is nice for the views that extend for miles.
10. Honey, sweetie, and ma’am are common terms of acknowdgement/respect.

While Texans have larger than life personalities, they are also fun, generous, and caring people.

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What are things you once may have known about Texas but forgot over the years?

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Some words are harder to write than others…

Have you noticed that when you need to write something hard, very important, or something that will challenge you, you delay doing it? I certainly do. I would rather do the dishes, vacuum, nearly ANYTHING other than what I need to be doing. Procrastination? Perhaps… But I think sometimes we don’t know where to begin, there is no end in mind, there is nothing but a bunch of random thoughts that will need to be written down, sorted, pondered, and refined. And that is a lot of work!

Today I am on my way to Amarillo and Canyon, TX – home of my alma matter, West Texas A&M University. I am so very excited to see old friends and professors, I am excited to see all of the changes that have happened on campus, and I am excited to just get away for a few days. While there is a lot of excitement around this trip, it will be bitter sweet. We/I lost a dear friend from Brazil in an automobile accident last month. So this reunion will be a celebration of his life. We will be compiling a scrapbook of photos, memories, stories, letters, etc. that will be sent to his family. We hope it will be helpful with their healing process, and to have a better understanding of how much he was loved at WT.

20140313-081704.jpg Filo and I!

The letter… How do you write a letter to a family that tragically lost a son? I don’t know… and I guess that is ok. It will come from the heart, it will be honest and raw. I hope that my words and the pictures I have gathered will be a testament to the person my friend Filogomes Alves de Carvalho Neto was – daring, carefree, smart, funny, caring, courageous, plus an awesome cook, a hard worker, and a dedicated friend.

20140313-083255.jpg Brazilian cooking – never a bad meal!

What are the hardest words you have had to write?