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Leader
26 Dec 03,, 15:23
Beef Takes Long Journey From Ranch to Dinner


WASHINGTON For those who forsook the traditional Christmas turkey or ham for a pot roast or filet mignon, the cooking may have still seemed difficult, but it was nothing compared to the long journey the cow took in order to grace holiday dinner plates.

"It is a long and complex process," said Dan Murphy, vice president of public affairs for the American Meat Institute (search).

Dairy cows, like the one in Washington state that was confirmed Thursday to have contracted mad cow disease, are the usual sources for cuts of beef. Ranchers, dairy breeders or cow operators artificially inseminate cows and use the birth cow for three or four years for its milk production.

After its productivity drops off, the cow is sent to a meat packer, who slaughters the animal and boxes it up to send to a processing company. The processor cuts the beef into steaks or turns it into hot dogs, sausages, ground beef or other forms for sale. The meat is then sold to a wholesaler, supermarket chain or food service chain.

Along the way, the carcass undergoes a series of inspections by government authorities working to prevent diseased or otherwise infected beef from entering the food supply, both for humans and other animals.

Officials say the rigorous inspections have helped prevent the arrival of mad cow disease up to now.

"We have been taking steps since 1990 to protect our beef supplies from this disease. We have a whole series of actions that have been taken to reduce substantially the risk to public health from this disease if it ever were found," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said.

Among the inspections, the Food and Drug Administration (search) regularly surveys animal feed production facilities to make sure that the feed being prepared for farm animals does not include the neural or brain tissue that contains the mad cow disease, scientifically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (search). The FDA has banned the inclusion of neural tissue in animal feed since 1997.

Experts say that since the cows killed for human consumption are all under five years old, none could have been exposed to contaminated feed produced in the United States. The cow infected in Washington state was only four years old.

Just to be sure, however, that no beef is infected, the USDA (search) surveillance program condemns and tests any cows displaying signs of neurological problems. For example, because the Holstein (search) slaughtered in Washington was unable to walk, testing was required. As a result, the disease was discovered.

In all, the FDA examines thousands of cattle brains each year in more than 60 diagnostic laboratories around the nation. It also has conducted thousands of inspections of renderers, feed mills, ruminant feeders, dairy farms, protein blenders, feed haulers and distributors.

Despite all the exams, one scientist who has worked with the USDA said he warned Veneman that it was only a matter of time before mad cow was discovered in the United States.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco who discovered the proteins that cause mad cow disease, told The New York Times in Thursday's edition, that he advised Veneman to start immediately testing every cow displaying any signs of illness and in time test every cow slaughtered for consumption.

Prusiner said the fast, accurate and inexpensive tests, including one he patented through his university, would only add two or three cents per pound to the cost of beef.

But undertaking such a process is no small task. Already, regulation is quite daunting. The United States has 96.7 million cattle and more than 1 million workers in the beef industry. The average American eats 60 pounds of beef a year.

"We believe the people in North America know that we have the strongest food safety systems in the world. We have the protections in place," Veneman said.

In the meantime, the FDA continues its focus on education, sponsoring workshops for state veterinarians and feed control officials from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada. Additionally, FDA officials have held briefing sessions with trade associations and consumer groups, and have developed additional guides for complying with regulations.

Trooth
27 Dec 03,, 02:33
' "We believe the people in North America know that we have the strongest food safety systems in the world. We have the protections in place," Veneman said. '

Seems somewhat disingeuous given that they don't know where the infected bovine was born!

Leader
27 Dec 03,, 02:39
Originally posted by Trooth
' "We believe the people in North America know that we have the strongest food safety systems in the world. We have the protections in place," Veneman said. '

Seems somewhat disingeuous given that they don't know where the infected bovine was born!

The United States is a lot bigger then the UK, let's remember. It's not as easy to track such things over here. There are millions of cattle in the United States. It would be rather hard to track them all.

Trooth
27 Dec 03,, 12:24
:LOL Think before you post.

The UK has millions of head of cattle. That is why the millions of cattle in the UK are all electronically tagged. At any stage cattle can be traced through their line of owners. Their feed is also monitored etc.

In theory from a pack of beef in the shops you can work out what the cows name was :)

Confed999
27 Dec 03,, 15:21
The USDA says there are 96.1 million head of cattle in the US. The FSA, dunno what that is, says there are 11.86 million head of cattle in the UK.

If I were into the conspiracy theory crap, I'd say this was all a set up. Either way I'm going to keep eating my burger.
:dbanana

Leader
27 Dec 03,, 15:52
Originally posted by Trooth
:LOL Think before you post.

The UK has millions of head of cattle. That is why the millions of cattle in the UK are all electronically tagged. At any stage cattle can be traced through their line of owners. Their feed is also monitored etc.

In theory from a pack of beef in the shops you can work out what the cows name was :)

The point I was making is there are a whole lot more cattle in American and therefore they would be harder to track.

Trooth
27 Dec 03,, 17:19
But it isn't a valid point.

Once they are out of sight, 1 mile or a thousand miles is tricky to track. 1 milion cattle or 10 million take the same amount of effort once it is all computerised.

My point was that Veneman was using a platitude "strongest food safety systems" which was undermined by a fairly fundamental question."Where was the cattle born?".

The latest theory is that the infected animal was importated from Canada. But that should not be a theory!

And i wasn't getting all nationalistic, but as the UK was brought up I felt it worth responding that it would take a matter of minutes to identify the family tree of any such animal in the UK (of which there are millions).

Confed999
27 Dec 03,, 20:14
Originally posted by Trooth
1 milion cattle or 10 million take the same amount of effort once it is all computerised.
I'm sure that can't be true. If nothing else, it would be 10 times more work to get it in the computer to start with.

Your basic premise I fully agree with though, by now we should be keeping better track of these things.

Trooth
27 Dec 03,, 21:43
Well you tend not to do it all at once. One of the great hings (look away now veggies) about cattle is that they come and go quite quickly. So you just mandate it by age and tag them all when they reach a certain age. After a few years you have done them all and you know their history.

Problem is you gotta start it at some point and with capitalism and lobby groups and that, everyone hates regulation, so you need a scare (which is all this really is at the moment) to encourage people to spend the time and money. You don't want to get to the stage the UK got to before you are forced into it.

However the UK went through the pain and now has the safest beef in the world.

Confed999
28 Dec 03,, 23:47
The UK should have been our scare too.