A Peek into mRNA Vaccines

written by

Rachael Conley

posted on

July 13, 2023

We have been getting asked quite a bit lately

"Do you use mRNA vaccines on your animals?"

It is a quick and easy answer for our farm- NO! We do not administer ANY vaccines. 

We breed our pigs here on the farm and never inject them with anything (no vaccines or antibiotics).

Our turkey poults and chicks come from a family owned hatchery in Iowa where they do not give vaccines unless requested, of which we do not. We do not inject or give them any vaccines or antibiotics. 

We are supplied with weaned calves from our neighbor who raises them specifically for us and does not do any vaccines or antibiotics.

We have personal relationships with all of these individuals and they know how important it is to us to provide your family and ours with meat that has not been vaccinated or treated with antibiotics. 

We have purchased 2 dairy cows that are currently on our farm that were vaccinated in 2021 at their original breeders with "calfhood" and "9 way" vaccines. Many states require proof of these vaccination in order for the cows to be transported into the state, forcing breeders to vaccinate. When purchasing, we specifically request they NOT update the vaccines, since Illinois does not require cattle vaccinations for the cattle to enter the state. Knowing they were vaccinated is not ideal for us, but finding a reputable breeder that disease tests, doesn't vaccinate, and provides a diet in line with our desires has proven to be about as impossible as it is to correctly guess the lotto numbers. 

As we breed our dairy cows, we don't update their vaccines, and we don't vaccinate the offspring. We have one dairy cow on farm that did not receive any vaccinations at birth, and all of our dairy steers and bull remain unvaccinated. 

While we do not vaccine our animals, Joe and I still found it important that we research everything going on with the mRNA technologies. Afterall, you trust us to be your farmers and we want to stay educated on the ag industry. 

Below I outline 5 points that I found quite eye opening. I also included references if you wanted to dive deeper.

Pasture Raised Animals at Honeysuckle Farm

Here are 5 things we know about mRNA vaccines currently.

#1: There are mRNA vaccines available and in use in the swine (pork) industry since approximately 2018.
[1] [2] [3] [4] The first RNA vaccine was for H3N2 swine flu. This vaccine was created by Harrisvaccine and approved through a conditional license in 2012 (similar to the emergency approval for the 2020 COVID vaccine). Harrisvaccine followed up with another 2015 mRNA vaccine for avian flu. Later that year, Harrisvaccine was acquired by Merck Animal Health [5]

That same year, Merck entered into a partnership with Moderna to develop a number of undisclosed mRNA “vaccines.” It was slated to be a three-year collaboration, with a one-year optional extension, in which Merck would perform research and development and commercialization of five potential products using Moderna’s mRNA technology against four undisclosed viruses. [6]

#2: Iowa State University is working on an mRNA injection for cattle that would prevent bovine respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
This project was started in 2021 and is expected to be completed in 2026. This project is partially funded by the USDA. [7] 

#3: There is currently no required labeling by any state notifying you as the consumer what vaccine technologies were utilized during the production of your food.
A bill in Missouri (HB 1169) was drafted which would require producers to label products that could alter genes and share information about the potential transmissibility of gene altering interventions. At the end of April, the Missouri House Committee voted 10-4 against the bill, effectively ending the bill’s chance for passage in the current session. [8]

#4: During the House Committee hearing for Missouri HB 1169 (noted above),
Shannon Cooper who represented Missouri Cattlemen's Association stated that he double mRNA vaccinated against bovine respiratory disease before selling his cattle. [9]

It is possible that the Iowa State University mRNA injection against bovine RSV is in trial phase with Shannon Cooper's cattle being a part of that trial. However, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association  "“There are no current mRNA vaccines licensed for use in beef cattle in the United States." [10] If Shannon's cattle are part of a trial and were sold, there is nothing stopping them from ending up on the grocery shelves.

An interesting note is that the National Cattlemen's Beef Association lists Merck Animal Health (noted in #1) and Pfizer subsidiary called Zoetis as sponsors ($100,000 or more sponsorship each). [11] 

 #5: If you have been consuming store bought "factory farmed" pork in the United Stated for the last several years, more than likely that pork is coming from animals treated with mRNA technologies
. [12]

It is a core value on our family farm to not vaccinate.
We will continue to be open and transparent about our farm and farming practices because we believe you have the right to know the ins and outs of how your food is produced. 

Thank you for your engagement and trust in our farm. We appreciate your commitment to sustainable and responsible farming.

[1] National Library of Medicine "An mRNA Vaccine Encoding Rabies Virus Glycoprotein Induces Protection against Lethal Infection in Mice and Correlates of Protection in Adult and Newborn Pigs"
[2] Speaking of Research "Human mRNA vaccine trials in the 2010s? A history lesson in animal research"
[3] National Hog Farmer "New tech approach to vaccines"
[4] Nature Biotechnology "Protective efficacy of in vitro synthesized, specific mRNA vaccines against influenza A virus infection"
[5] Merck "Acquisition Expands and Complements Merck Animal Health’s Strong Vaccine Portfolio"
[6] Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News "Merck & Co., Moderna Launch $100M+ mRNA Partnership"
[8] Missouri House of Representatives "HB 1169"
[9] Twitter- Court Testimonial of mRNA vaccine use in cattle
[10] National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) "NCBA Statement Correcting Internet Falsehoods About mRNA Vaccines in Cattle"
[11] National Cattlemen's Beef Association "Affiliates & Industry Organizations"
[12] Merck Sequivity "Customized Prescription Vaccines + Data Insights"

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