Panic! No! Don’t Panic! What is the “Mad Cow” issue?

As politically savvy as I may or may not be, I actually do not like writing about food politics all that much, in large part because it’s so blessedly depressing. If one likes hot dogs, it’s best if one does not learn how hot dogs are actually made. If I had my druthers, I’d be writing about Mojito’s and omakase.

But alas, beef is not only food, but a food I happen to enjoy on occaission, so I find myself as a vested participant in this whole “Mad Cow” episode. As such, let me cut straight to two points here:

- It’s not time to get upset about our meat supply, yet.

- That being said, it’s perfectly okay to be upset at how the USDA has handled issues surrounding BSE (aka Mad Cow).

These two points are intertwined with one another. The reason we shouldn’t panic about our meat supply (yet) is due to the fact that we simply do not know how prevelant BSE is within our cattle population. It could simply be two cows, or it could be hundreds or thousands. We just don’t know.

Why we don’t know falls explicitly at the feet of the folks at the USDA…which is why we should be so pissed at them. They set the regulations for cattle farmings in regard to testing and feeding matters. They can set the guidelines which could help determine just how prevelant (or not) BSE is…but they don’t. They can set the guidelines which would put our cattle less at risk…but they don’t. There are other important variables involved here, including costs and such, but when you get down to the core failings of the USDA, they’ve done precious little to help reduce and prevent BSE. However, they’ve had no problems in telling us that our food is safe. As for how they come to that conclusion is beyond me.

The World Health Organization recommends the following when it comes to preventing the spread of BSE into the human population.

  • - Stop Feeding Infected Animals to Other Animals
  • - Establish Adequate Testing & Surveillance of animals
  • - Stop Feeding Bovine Brains, Eyes, Spinal Cords, & Intestines to People or Livestock
  • - Stop Weaning Calves on Cow’s Blood

Of these four recommendations, how many do you suppose the USDA supports?

The answer is none of them.

In fact, recently Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns had made mention of reducing the amount of testing. Of course, this was before this recent USDA fiasco (did you think that they’ve held Mad Cow press conferences on Friday is a coincidence? Bad news is always delivered on a Friday).

At any rate, the issue here is to focus your anxiety correctly. Worry less about the meat supply (for the moment) and worry far more about how the goofnuts at the USDA are possibly selling out our health interests for short term profits in the cattle industry.

Call your Congresscritters (state and federal) and raise hell.

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