Butchery industry divided on cloning row

The cloned meat row has split the butchery industry, with some claiming it has been overblown, and others that cloned meat should never be stocked. Both sides, however, agree that it has been bad PR.

Four butchers in Scotland and one butcher in the north east of England have been discovered to have sold meat from the offspring of a cow cloned in the US. Another male calf was slaughtered at less than a month old in June and its meat sold at a London butcher's.

"There has been a lot of misunderstanding in media and amongst the public," said Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association chief executive Douglas Scott. "It's not a Frankenstein food, as some have suggested, and it's not GM.

"For sure there is some foundation for people to be concerned in welfare terms," Scott added. "Cloned animals have high mortality rates. But the publicity has been about food safety issues, and I cannot understand that."

Robert Jones, owner of Walter Smith butchers in Wolverhampton, added: "It doesn't do the trade any good. It means more confusion and people don't know the process by which meat has been cloned. It doesn't help the trade if things like this are upsetting the public."

Richard Stevenson, technical manager, National Federation of Meat & Food Traders, said the issue had "not been well handled" by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). "They got hold of the wrong end of the stick and didn't seem to get their facts quite right," he said. "If nothing more comes out about cloned meat, then it will be yesterday's story. But if further evidence appears, then the issue will rear its ugly head again and give The Daily Mail and The Express another chance to have a go at the industry."

Stevenson advised butchers to tell customers who were worried that they could be buying cloned meat that "cloned meat has been confirmed independently and scientifically to pose no threat to public health".

However, Malcolm Pyne, owner of P&B Pyne Butchers, insisted that: "Mother Nature knows best. I can understand science does some great things, but where is the line and how far do we go with it all? I wouldn't tolerate being supplied cloned meat, without any question. I'd be very concerned if I found it was being sent to me. The customer on the other side of the counter is the reason we're here, and if they don't like it, we have to respect that."

Eight animals were born from embryos of the original cow cloned in the US four bulls and four cows. All are Holsteins, so UK butchers will have most likely used any meat for manufacturing rather than prime cuts.

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