March 17, 2019

Novel Alternative Approaches to Conventional Meat Production Practices Symposium Highlights

Novel Alternative Approaches to Conventional Meat Production Practices Symposium Highlights

By: Samantha Tabert

Lou Cooperhouse the President/CEO of BlueNalu, Inc. started off the afternoon by discussing cellular aquaculture and agriculture. He proposed a transformative solution for feeding our planet. BlueNalu is a company pioneering the category of cell-based seafood. He reviewed a survey that reported most consumers are eating more seafood and less red meat than they used to. At BlueNalu, they plan to use large bioreactor tanks, in a warehouse that looks similar to a brewery that meets a food processing factory, to cell culture the growth of fish. Mr. Cooperhouse explained that it arguably works like in-vitro fertilization, and would be a non-GMO operation. This will be a large disruption, and possibly transformative, to the food industry. Currently, they are working on developing their product and their next step is to conduct market research without products. They are looking to bring a meat scientist onto their team right now. Mr. Cooperhouse also mentioned they are about five years out from commercialization.

Dr. Anna Dilger continued our conversation by entering into a review of gene editing in livestock. Dr. Dilger started us off with history information about the 40 years gene engineering has been around. The early stages of gene engineering didn’t have a lot to do with livestock but within the last ten years since gene editing was born, there has been a renewed interest in the subject. Dr. Dilger discussed that with gene editing you don’t rely on exogenous, or external factors, like genetic engineering does. With gene editing, you are able to induce double stranded breaks in DNA in targeted genes and this sets off an internal repair mechanism that creates a mutation. By doing this, the mutation that is created gives us our desired effect. Dr. Dilger explained that this is a cleaner way of doing things than by inserting externally generated antibiotic resistant mutations.

Dr. Dilger continued our discussion by reviewing her work with a myostatin mutation with pigs, IGF2 mutations, and technology advancements the industry has seen. Dr. Dilger mentioned we need more research in embryo transfer and cloning in pigs. She also mentioned the CRISPR/CAS9 technology has seen many improvements already over the years and she predicts this will continue well into the future. As you can guess, consumer perception is a challenge and concern for advancement in this part of the industry. Dr. Dilger feels that telling consumers we are trying to genetically engineer animals to get sick less often, would most likely be an easier sell than what we are seeing take place in the industries today. Dr. Dilger left us with the knowledge that they are limited in what they can do based on the understanding of the genome to phenotype variations, similar to what the FAANG symposium on Monday had discussed. 

To conclude the symposium, Dr. David Lust reviewed successes they have had at West Texas A&M in their PrimeOne project which focused on cloning in beef production. Cloning allows us to salvage and replicate genetic material, in this case specific material from carcasses that grade USDA Prime- Yield Grade 1. The goal of this saved material helps to improve future herds and make the genetic variation in these prime sires less rare. From their experimental crosses, they compared their Alpha progeny (steers and heifers) against progeny of three purebred (Angus; Charolais; Simmental) reference sires in a terminal sire test. The data Dr. Lust presented showed that based on multiple breed terminal sire production traits, their Alpha progeny performed comparably high compared across the reference sires. Dr. Lust encouraged us to check out Jessica Sperber’s graduate work in recent publications for more information on their study.