Published on 06/29/01

L.C.'s Coming-out Big News for Beef Lovers

Photo: Brad Haire

Along with her seven genetically identical sisters, this nosy calf had a big coming-out party in Athens, Ga., June 26. She and the other clones may pave the way to cheaper, better beef for shoppers.

In Athens, Ga., scientists and a crowd of reporters had a big coming-out party for L.C. the calf and her seven sisters June 26. But, why would anyone, besides maybe a cattleman, have an interest in eight cute, healthy, playful calves?

You may be interested yourself when you go to your grocery meat counter in two to four years and find cheaper beef.

Less Expensive Production

"We believe the cloning process will make it less expensive to produce the animals, and the industry will pass it on to the consumer," says Steve Stice of the University of Georgia's animal and dairy science department, in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

As it is now, you might buy just the tasty beef you want, but find it's not quite as good as the same cut was the last time you bought it. But cloned cows could help make sure you get the same quality meat purchase after purchase.

Passing along good qualities from one cow to another is iffy at best. But two and a half years ago, Stice and a group of 20 scientists thought they saw a new way to clone a really good cow that produced a lot of calves but had come at the end of her reproductive life.

Mama Cow's Skin

The scientists took microscopic pieces of the old mama cow's skin, removed its genetic code and stored it. Later, they took eggs from other cows, removed those genetic codes and replaced them with the DNA codes from the old cow.

The modified eggs were placed in individual cows for nine months. There have been other cloned animals, but it's how Stice and the scientists prepared the cells from the old cow that rate as a scientific breakthrough.

Their vision of cloned cows became real when the first two healthy calves were born last February. In the next four months, another six came along.

What Next?

What happens to the calves?

"They will be producing offspring that will go to the meat case," Stice said.

They'll provide more than uniform quality beef, too.

L.C. and her sisters, all genetically alike, will keep alive, one calf at a time, the genetic ancestry their mother would have taken to the grave.