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Science Monday, April 29th 2013 at 10:30 am

Cows Engineered to Be Born Without Horns, Will Soon Just Emerge From Womb as Burgers

Holstein

How safe is it in the United Kingdom? Like, very. It’s so safe, in fact, that dairy cattle have apparently been deemed too dangerous. In the interest of making it safer to be around the animals, a team of scientists at Scotland’s Rural College has succeeded in removing cows’ last defense, genetically engineering a line of Holsteins with extra DNA that has been shown to stunt horn growth in other cattle breeds. 

Now, cows may not seem all that dangerous to you, but that’s because when they get to your plate, they’ve already had all the tough or pointy bits sliced out of them. Right now, Holsteins — one of the highest-yielding dairy cattle in the world — are born with horn buds that have to be scorched off by handlers. Eliminating that process could help put and end to injuries received by farmers and ranch hands responsible for the work, and eliminate a little needless pain from the lives of dairy cattle, which sounds like a win-win if I’ve ever hear one.

While many beef cattle have had their horns eliminated the old fashioned way through selective breeding, removing the horns from cows valued for their milk production has proven difficult until now. The horn-hampering DNA has already been inserted into one Holstein bull, and cells cloned from Randy will be used to impregnate a herd of Holsteins in the U.S. Midwest. Those clones will serve as the test generation that determines if the process is safe and effective for regular use, or if it turns them into rage-filled mutant cows bent on destruction, which it probably won’t, but a guy can dream, right?

This is good news for the livestock handlers and farmers who work with the animals every day, but the rest of us will have some time to wait before the advent of something equally exciting for consumers — a boneless cow breed, for example, or a Restaurant at the End of the Universe-style animal that eagerly feeds itself to you. Considering this is clearly the noblest possible application of science, though, we don’t imagine it will be long before happy, tasty cows that are incapable of even thinking about hurting anyone are born with the overwhelming desire to process themselves into ground chuck.

(via Daily Mail)

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