Meatpacker Plans To Sue Feds over Mad Cow Testing

By now we’ve all heard that the USDA wishes to cut back on testing for Mad Cow, under the auspices that the “free market” will pick up the slack.

There’s a little kink in their rationalization that most people are unaware. BSE tests are doled out by the USDA. You can’t get a testing kit unless you ask them for one. And they haven’t been all that willing to give them out. From an LA Times article by Jonathan Turley:

According to the Washington Post, Creekstone (Farms) invested $500,000 to build the first mad cow testing lab in a U.S. slaughterhouse and hired chemists and biologists to staff the operation. The only thing it needed was testing kits. That’s where the company ran into trouble. By law, the Department of Agriculture controls the sale of the kits, and it refused to sell Creekstone enough to test all of its cows.

This is in large part why Creekstone is pressing forth with their recent lawsuit plans against the USDA.

Good for Creekstone Farms Premium Beef for understanding what’s at stake. The Mad Cow issue is as much of an economic one as a health one, and they get that clearly. From a free market standpoint, it makes sense for a beef distributor to want to be able to label their product as “tested for BSE”. Not only would it help the consumers from a health aspect, but it would also be a boon for them financially.

From the article:

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to look for the disease in every animal it processes. The Agriculture Department has said no. Creekstone says it intends to sue the department.

“Our customers, particularly our Asian customers, have requested it over and over again,” chief executive John Stewart said in an interview Wednesday. “We feel strongly that if customers are asking for tested beef, we should be allowed to provide that.”

The reason the USDA doesn’t allow for this? “If testing is allowed at Creekstone . ,” the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. told the Washington Post, “we think it would become the international standard and the domestic standard, too.”

Or to put it another way, most beef companies don’t want to pay the additional cost of testing.

Here’s the bit from the article that cheeses me off:

“There isn’t any nation in the world that requires 100 percent testing,” department spokesman Ed Loyd said Wednesday.

That’s clearly a disengenuous statement, and Loyd clearly knows it. What he’s hoping you don’t know the various testing standards throughout the world. Let’s compare the testing standards between the United States and the European Union, shall we?

  • United States – 2% of high-risk downers tested; no required testing of other cattle brought to slaughter.
  • European Union -100% of downers tested; 100% of all cattle over 24 months of age that are brought to slaughter.

The above information can be found in this pdf file.

So no, there are no countries in the world that require 100% testing, but the European Union sure has more comprehensive testing requirements than we do. Certainly more than our meager 2% requirements that we have since removed.

Gah, these people drive me nuts.

POSTSCRIPT: The Times of London is reporting that possible “up to 14,000 people may be carrying the rogue prion proteins that cause the disease (vCJD)”, the disease caused by eating cow tainted with BSE. It’s still a small percentage but quite more than 160 cases previously thought.

Meanwhile, Texas senators are pressing to open the beef markets back in Japan. They’re calling Japan’s stance as “protectionist policies dressed up to look like concern for BSE.”

(Thanks to Mark for the heads up)

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