Why this pork producer has its eye on the transplant market

Smithfield Foods — a major pork producer — created a bioscience unit to focus on supplying pig parts for medical uses. The company's ultimate goal is to sell pig organs for human transplants, reports Reuters.

"Our bread and butter has always been the bacon, sausage, fresh pork — very much a food-focused operation," Courtney Stanton, vice president of the new bioscience unit, told Reuters. “We want to signal to the medical device and science communities that this is an area we're focused on — that we're not strictly packers."


Here are four things to know.


1. Smithfield's bioscience unit seeks to provide pig parts for various medical uses — not just transplants. The company slaughters 16 million pigs annually and already salvages parts from these animals for medical uses, according to the report.


2. While healthcare companies and researchers typically buy these materials from third parties, Smithfield hopes to sell pig parts to them directly. Ms. Stanton said the company is already drafting deals to supply pig parts to two organizations, although she did not name which ones, reports Reuters.


3. The pork producer joined a public-private tissue engineering consortium, which is funded by an $80 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, reports Reuters. Smithfield — the only pork producer in the group — joins major healthcare companies such as Medtronic and Abbott Laboratories.


4. Pig organs are very similar to human organs, making them ideal candidates for transplant donors. While everyday pig-to-human organ transplants are years away, new scientific research is knocking down hurdles to the process and making the potential new market attractive to companies, according to the report.


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