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Mad Cow Disease now in the U.S.


alacarte
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I can't imagine that it would be good for a cow to eat a magnet.

What kind of hardware do they eat?

Mabelline is right, though. We feed beef bone meal to chickens and chicken bone meal to hogs and hog bone meal to beef. It's like we can't analogize from trichinosis from hogs to people to rats to hogs. We're taking prions from beef to chickens/pork to beef/pork/chickens to people/beef/pork/chickens/whatever because we feed byproducts to animals to raise protein levels of their feed.

The alternative would be to treat all the bone meal/by-products with DTT or ethanolamine to destroy all of the prions, but I think that would begin to get prohibitively expensive. Or, to stop feeding ruminants meat. Hmm, that's a show-stopping concept.

Oh, the normal type we keep on farms... tractors, plows, irrigation pipe :wink:

There are nails and staples and pieces of barbed wire that cattle are just naturally around that they ingest. The magnet is to keep the jetsam from the flotsam and from traveling through their digestive tract and causing grave injury.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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The magnet is called a bolus,and is a smooth large capsule shape that is given to bossy by a sort of a blowgun arrangement that you squeeze. They feel no pain, which they certainly would with nails. Given their druthers, cows get up to some very weird diets- they will for example, lick all over your warm vehicle, while you are back on a trailer kicking off bales to them. Go figure. Perhaps it's gourmet to them.

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What is reassuring is how quickly, decisively and transparently this was handled. After the recent Canadian experience, there was no doubt that announcing the discovery of a single case of mad cow was going to have serious and expensive consequences, but no one delayed or equivocated.

Unfortunately, if you look at the history, it's not all that transparent or comforting. Congress refused to pass a law requiring testing of all animals headed for slaughter, as has been done in Europe for years. This animal, even though it was so ill it was unable to stand (the clear symptom of terminal mad cow disease) was tagged for testing only, the sample was taken, and the rest of the carcass went into processing for human consumption. There was no provision for removing suspect animals from processing, and most infected animals are slaughtered long before they develop symptoms.

Thanks to the desire of the government and the cattle industry to collect no data, we can only assume that many more infected animals are probably part of our food supply.

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The prospect of the entire beef market collapsing is, I'd think, a pretty good incentive for producers to be careful. In any case, I would trust the food system in Canada or the U.S. before I would trust the food system in many other countries.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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One thing I've never understood is the absolute obstinancy of the USDA to provide sufficient inspectors. Some years ago one of the big panhandle beef processors started a big ole mess with contaminated beef. The root cause was too few inspectors, and packers will be packers, when the cat's away.

Here's another thing which has totally gotten past the mainstream media. There is a possibility of Wyoming loosing its Brucellosis-free certification. Testing is being done as we speak(or write).

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[PanPosted on Dec 23 2003, 11:01 PM

So how do they think this cow got the disease? Still investigating, I'd imagine, but I hope we get a followup]

It is illegal to feed cows to cows. However, it is perfectly legal to feed chickens and pigs feed made up of the cast off remains of cow. It is also very legal to feed cattle food that contains the remains of chickens and pigs. Our civilisation is a mess.

exactly.

i think it's funny how in the newstories i've been watching the issue of how cows get BSE is being sidestepped. other than one newsbyte that mentioned "it doesn't transmit from cow to cow"

i'm with kenk.

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I wrote (and experienced) this in 1996, on tour through Normandy:

Sharing the meal with us is a Yorkshire clan, three generations traveling together in two cars. Grandfather is accustomed to holding forth at the dinner table and we soon learn that he is one of the biggest cattle dealers in the north of England, and that his son just along the table is a dairy farmer.

Inevitably, the conversation moves on to BSE (Mad Cow Disease). Our Flying Yorkshireman tells us proudly that he’s had more cattle destroyed than any other dealer, as if he deserved a medal. He has his own theories about what caused it all, and they relate to concentrated in-breeding, together with chemical treatment to control warble-fly. Nor is he sanguine about the future. He’s seen early-stage BSE cattle in pastures all over Canada, he confides, but nobody will talk about it.

Our host adds that throughout Europe, farmers admitting a single case have their entire herds destroyed. He adds, with a wink, that if he wanted to ensure drastic under-reporting, that’s exactly how he’d go about it.

I mention my peripheral connection with the Food Commission, a London-based gadfly which attacks the multinational food industry, and witness for the first time the spectacle of a florid Yorshireman turning pale.

—For God sake don’t quote me, he babbles. No, I don’t mean just by name. Don’t repeat anything I’ve said. (He’s practically on his knees.) Of course we’ve got it all under control now. The brain and spinal cord are all taken out in the butchering, you know.

—Yes, I reply innocently, I have tremendous admiration for those men in the abattoirs. Working at the speed of lightning, what incredible skill it must take to make certain that none of that soft tissue splashes onto the meat.

His son, silent until now, suddenly doubles up in a fit of laughter.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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What is reassuring is how quickly, decisively and transparently this was handled. After the recent Canadian experience, there was no doubt that announcing the discovery of a single case of mad cow was going to have serious and expensive consequences, but no one delayed or equivocated.

Unfortunately, if you look at the history, it's not all that transparent or comforting. Congress refused to pass a law requiring testing of all animals headed for slaughter, as has been done in Europe for years. This animal, even though it was so ill it was unable to stand (the clear symptom of terminal mad cow disease) was tagged for testing only, the sample was taken, and the rest of the carcass went into processing for human consumption. There was no provision for removing suspect animals from processing, and most infected animals are slaughtered long before they develop symptoms.

Thanks to the desire of the government and the cattle industry to collect no data, we can only assume that many more infected animals are probably part of our food supply.

In part I agree with Katherine's skepticism. The US government and cattle industry have several conflicting goals and problems to contend with when it comes to mad cow disease. It's enough to make anyone cynical. For one thing, the tests for mad cow disease don't work particularly well (they only detect late stages of the disease) and cost about $30 a pop (at least that was the case last time I checked). When you multiply that by tens of millions of cattle, it's a lot of money to spend just to create a false sense of security. For another thing, the USDA and FDA know that a few isolated cases of BSE are no big deal -- in fact the strong suspicion among many agricultural scientists is that BSE has always been around here and there, so that in a sense the "cause" of a BSE "outbreak" can be the tests themselves. Combined with the knowledge that the public, the markets, and our trading partners will totally overreact to even one documented case of BSE (in part because it's payback time for what the US did to other countries when those countries had their BSE problems), there is an obvious incentive to test as few cattle as possible. For still another thing, there are many cattlemen and dairy farmers teetering on the brink of bankruptcy; while it seems appealing to city folk to ban the slaughter of all "downed" animals, the reality is that these few percent of animals, if not sold and slaughtered, combined with the costs of testing, and perhaps other compliance costs, could make the difference between many farms surviving or failing. And of course only a tiny percentage of downed animals are likely to have BSE (not to mention "downer" symptoms are a sign of late-stage BSE; a perfectly healthy seeming animal can have it too). But I do think the USDA was smart enough not to engage in a coverup; I'll give them that.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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We toured the Rungis Market in France two years ago. A butcher shop owner told us that he lost close to 40% of his business when Mad Cow's Disease was discovered in France.

The problem there - and here - was restoring the creditablity of the industry. Creditabllity isn't simply created by saying "I am having beef for my Christmas dinner."

The French put in an expensive tagging and tracking system that traces an animal from the slaughter house to the table. Every cut of meat is trackable; where it came from, where it went. Given that it is impossible for USDA to inspect every carcass or standing cow we very much need that system here.

Also I am more worried about the parts of that cow that went to the rendering plant that the actual meat. The ethical thing would be for USDA to list the products that coming out of the rendering plant so we're sure there's noneim things like a food supplement my graddaughter might be taking, or my dog's food. And finally: stop feeding this stuff to animals.

Dave

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Does anyone here know if there is an advantage to buying "organic" beef like Lauras Lean? I would like to think it would be much less likely to occur in organic certified beef.

One reason it's less likely to occur in organic beef is that there's less organic beef. I know that's a smart-alec answer, but this has to be considered when one looks at the statistics saying there has been no or little (depending on how one interprets the case in Germany) mad cow among organic cattle.

Certainly, if the disease is transmitted through feed, organic cattle are a lot less likely to get it. If, however, the disease is transmitted genetically, or through water, or in any number of other ways, it doesn't make a difference if the animal was raised organically.

Then there's the question -- an open question, in my opinion -- of transmission to humans. All scientists I've ever spoken to about this, even the radical environmentalist/organic ones, seem to agree that there's no risk of transmission to humans via "muscle cuts" of beef. Only the brain and central nervous system parts are suspected. As for those, there are quite a few open questions. There are some (like me) who believe the jury is still very much out on whether any of the 146 (I think that's the number) cases of nvCJD in humans in the UK have positively been linked to beef consumption. For those who take the connection for granted (which includes pretty much 100% of the news media, even though this is far from a given in the scientific community), there are other questions. For example, dosage -- it is unknown whether there is a certain amount of this stuff that needs to be consumed. There also appears to be a genetic marker in humans that indicates a predisposition to nvCJD. As I recall, there has never been a case diagnosed in a human who didn't have this marker. So maybe it's the humans who should be getting tested. And of course if all the fears about BSE causing nvCJD had been true in the UK, we would have seen hundreds of thousands of cases in humans. Instead we saw very few. Not that 146 deaths can be ignored; but the predictions (a basic test of scientific validity in a hypothesis) never came true.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There are several stories in the New York Times. Go to NYTimes.com. Here are a couple of quotes from one story that do not make me optomistic that this will quickly fade away as a real issue, as opposed to an emotional over-reaction issue, or an international payback issue.

Feed plants are inspected by the F.D.A., not the Department of Agriculture. In 2001, the F.D.A. was so short of inspectors that nearly a third of the country's 10,000 feed plants were not inspected
Mr. Stauber said an F.D.A. memorandum in 1997 predicted that if a single case of encephalopathy was found in the United States and a total ban on all feeding of animal protein to animals was immediately enacted, it was still possible that as many as 299,000 infected cows would be found over the next 11 years.

It appears people may well have reason to be concerned.

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i think if your beef is grass-fed and finished, then chances are lower.

BSE is prevalent these days because of feedlot practices, and feeding non-veg diets in hope of increasing protein intake.

i remember watching an interesting documentary on BSE a year or so back, and it showed a clip from the 1950s (i'm guessing, as it had that old 8mm feel to it). In any case it was an anthropoligist interviewing a former cannibal in New Guinea.

I believe tribal cannibalism was mainly in the form of eating the brains of your victims (for that tribe in any case). it had been fairly eradicated by the 50s but there were still older people int he tribe, some of whom exhibited symptoms much like the clip of the cow that we keep seeing. This was before Creutzfeldt-Jacob had been discovered, or named rather - but it certainly was an interesting parallel.

i wish i could remember what the name of the documentary was - i'll have to start googling.

Edited by tryska (log)
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i think if your beef is grass-fed and finished, then chances are lower.

BSE is prevalent these days because of feedlot practices, and feeding non-veg diets in hope of increasing protein intake.

i remember watching an interesting documentary on BSE a year or so back, and it showed a clip from the 1950s (i'm guessing, as it had that old 8mm feel to it).  In any case it was an anthropoligist interviewing a former cannibal in New Guinea.

I believe tribal cannibalism was mainly in the form of eating the brains of your victims (for that tribe in any case).  it had been fairly eradicated by the 50s but there were still older people int he tribe, some of whom exhibited symptoms much like the clip of the cow that we keep seeing.  This was before Creutzfeldt-Jacob had been discovered, or named rather - but it certainly was an interesting parallel.

i wish i could remember what the name of the documentary was - i'll have to start googling.

I remember that documentary too, here's one from 1927 (not the same one, but it mentions kuru). I've never seen it, but I read a book about BSE a couple of years back that talked about kuru and mentioned it.

I didn't know there was an official mad cow site!

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thanks uberleet - mike alpers had to be the guy - apparently it was the 60s not the 50s - but yeah, he drew the correlation between Kuru and human brain-eating. i remember htem going into that part in detail.

and thinking after seeing it that it seems almost like nature has formulated a way for higher level species to maintain a cannibalism taboo.

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The magnet is called a bolus,and is a smooth large capsule shape that is given to bossy by a sort of a blowgun arrangement that you squeeze. They feel no pain, which they certainly would with nails. Given their druthers, cows get up to some very weird diets- they will for example, lick all over your warm vehicle, while you are back on a trailer kicking off bales to them. Go figure. Perhaps it's gourmet to them.

It's the salt - especially in the winter, vehicles pick up salt, and the cows think it's extra tasty.

My dad found out that Toyota truck paint is soluble in cow saliva - his first Tundra had lick marks all over it where the enzymes marred the paint.

As far as hardware disease goes, the magnets only work if you know there's a risk and the cow's given the magnet bolus before it ingests the metal. We lost one to peritonitis once before we even knew she'd eaten a wire - not a good way to go. :sad:

On the subject of mad cow, one thing I've not seen addressed in the past day or so is the possibility of interspecies transmission. A good portion of the deer and elk out west (not sure of the percentage but it's significant) are infected with their own version of spongiform encephalopathy, called chronic wasting disease. Since no one knows for sure whether/how it's being transmitted directly (water/air/spoor/etc.), there's no way to know whether it's jumping species, since in a lot of cases range cattle are sharing habitat with the same infected deer and elk.

i think if your beef is grass-fed and finished, then chances are lower.

Assuming transmission via prions in animal-based feeds, sure - although I'd expand it to say "vegetable-matter fed and finished," since corn/sorghum/etc are just as vegetably and organic as grass. Assuming any other method of transmission, no.

Acceptable-risk-wise, I'd pick organic suppliers, avoid bone-in cuts, and avoid preground beef for the time being.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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Hannah, I think this was a dairy cow. Would such a cow ever be sharing space with wild animals?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Assuming transmission via prions in animal-based feeds, sure - although I'd expand it to say "vegetable-matter fed and finished," since corn/sorghum/etc are just as vegetably and organic as grass. Assuming any other method of transmission, no.

Acceptable-risk-wise, I'd pick organic suppliers, avoid bone-in cuts, and avoid preground beef for the time being.

whilst i agree on the notion that vegetable feeding is vegetable feeding - my main reason for saying grass-feeding, is that grain-feeding, and grain-finishing assumes feedlots - whose practices for the most part scare the hell out of me.

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Combined with the knowledge that the public, the markets, and our trading partners will totally overreact to even one documented case of BSE (in part because it's payback time for what the US did to other countries when those countries had their BSE problems), there is an obvious incentive to test as few cattle as possible.

Not all partners seem to be overreacting; from today's

Vancouver Sun:

Like others in the beef industry, Merz doesn't have much interest in seeing Canada shut the border to American meat -- even though Americans didn't hesitate to shut its border instantly after the Canadian case of BSE was reported.

Dave Borth, general manager of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, said he couldn't see the federal government shutting the border when Canada has had its own case of BSE already.

"My speculation would be that Canada would likely not close its borders. It would seem unusual to me if they went on to a border closure."

Elsewhere in the article, it suggests that the market for American beef in Canada was destroyed when the Americans closed their borders to Canadian beef.

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Hannah, I think this was a dairy cow. Would such a cow ever be sharing space with wild animals?

It's entirely possible. Most dairy cattle in the US aren't confined all day - they're milked in the morning, go out and graze during the day, come back in for evening milking, then go back out at night. Their wandering range might be limited to some extent on the larger farms out west, but there's certainly no guarantee that they wouldn't be sharing pasture area with deer or elk.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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Jensen, I agree there's no way Canada would close the border on account of one or even a handful of cases of BSE. It's politically impossible for Canada to do so, having argued so fervently that closing the border to Canadian beef for the same reason was unscientific and unreasonable -- and I think part of the implicit promise, when the US eased up restrictions and reopened itself to some Canadian beef, was that Canada wouldn't ban US beef in the event of a BSE case here. And it's true that very little US beef is going to Canada anymore, because when the US closed the border it sent Canadian beef prices down so far that nobody in Canada will pay the premium for US beef (save for a tiny handful of restaurants in the major Canadian cities that specialize in USDA Prime beef).

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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AFter reading the articles in the NY Times, something leaves me puzzled. If the inability to walk is one of the symptoms of BSE, why slaughter an animal that has to be pushed down the slaughter line with a tractor? Shouldn't that animal automatically removed from the other animals?

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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