Pig Producer's Plan to Save Human Lives

April 12, 2017 03:32 PM

Smithfield Foods Inc., which slaughters more pigs than any other company, wants to save human lives by using leftover hog parts to grow tissue and organs for transplants. 

U.S. pork supplier, which is controlled by China’s WH Group Ltd., is creating Smithfield Bioscience, a division that will use byproducts from its meat operations for use in the pharmaceutical and medical industries, it said Wednesday in a statement. It already sells products used in drugs to treat conditions such as indigestion and hypothyroidism.

The new biosciences arm will participate in the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, a public-private U.S. venture that has funding from the Department of Defense and which will look at how to develop human cells, tissue and organs. The goal of the initiative is to provide organs for traumatic injuries, including those suffered by members of the armed forces.

“There are striking similarities between pigs and humans, for example our DNA and digestive track,” Courtney Stanton, vice president of the Bioscience Group for Smithfield said in an email. Additionally, a membrane from hog intestines has been used to create heparin, the human blood thinner that prevents clotting, she said.

Smithfield, which is based in Smithfield, Virginia, was acquired by WH in 2013 for $4.73 billion. Smithfield’s fresh-pork unit processed 30.5 million hogs in 2015, according to a company filing.

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