December 30, 2003
The local impact of Mad Cow

This article from yesterday's Chron about the impact of the Mad Cow discovery on ranchers in Gonzales was presumably written to help us empathize with them and to reassure us that it Can't Happen Here. I'm fine with the empathy, but I'm not 100% reassured just yet.

On Sunday, local rancher Jim Selman was relieved to learn that the infected cow was from Canada and its butchered parts may have been shipped only to Washington, California, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and Guam.

"I think this will probably help our situation," he said. "I think it makes us more confident that all of our fail-safe measures are in place."

If it's not too much trouble, could you tell me what those failsafes are? Are they regulations enforced by an external entity, or are they just your personal code of conduct? I'm not questioning your integrity if it's the latter, but I will wonder if everyone else has the same standards.

My concerns are partially addressed later.

"Nobody makes their living on the cattle industry," said Jay Gray, a cattle rancher and general manager of Graham Land and Cattle Co., the feedlot that supplies 30,000 cows a year to the market. The beef from these cows is sold at Kroger Co. stores under the Nolan Ryan brand.


Gray pointed out the precautions his feedlot takes, such as not feeding animal products to cattle, which is how inspectors found the disease was transmitted. And each cow at his feedlot is tagged, with something akin to plastic earrings, so the animal's background can be easily traced.

"We've rehearsed this for a long time," he said.

Not feeding animal products to animals is very good, and goes a long way towards making me feel better. But I still want to know: What do you do with the so-called "downers"? What determines a sick animal, and how to you ensure that they don't get processed along with the healthy ones?

If you want to point out to me that I used to be blissfully ignorant of such things and accepted the beef on my plate with complacent faith, I'll agree with you. I'm asking these questions now because I know I can't afford to be that way any more.

UPDATE: Barefoot and Naked has a lot of BSE-related links (here, here, and here).

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 30, 2003 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack

What I find interesting about this is that the cows are getting sick from basically eating other cows. Since cows are natural herbivores, the feed they are given would go against their natural eating habits and create this disease.

On the other hand, any vegetarian will tell you that meat is not a natural staple of the human diet either. Even though that may have been true in the beginning (evolution or creation, your choice), I won't be giving up chicken, beef, or pork any time soon. I will, however, be more careful of what I eat, even though I have a 100% chance of dying in my lifetime.

Posted by: William Hughes on December 30, 2003 8:10 AM