Mad About "Mad Cow" Testing

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Creekstone Premium Beef wants to test all their cows before they are slaughtered for mad cow disease, reports Reuters. Perhap a bit of overkill, but if Creekstone wants to pay for it, who would stand in their way? Actually, the US Department of Agriculture and competitors are.

According to Reuters:

Critics in the cattle industry said Creekstone is trying to hijack food safety regulations for financial advantage. The American Meat Institute, representing meatpackers, said BSE testing almost always is a government function worldwide.

So what? If Creekstone thinks it can make a buck by offering consumers what they think is more safety, they should be allowed to go for it. This is no different than the way organic farmers make a buck off of consumers who erroneously think that their products are safer and more nutritious.

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  1. Don’t kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance he’d eat you and everyone you care about.

  2. Erroneously?? I think you put too much faith in aggregate statistics and too little in individual experience. Organic foods have been key to my girlfriend overcoming Crohn’s disease. I was as skeptical as you, but I’ve been convinced. And you also left our TASTIER. Applegate Organic Turkey is the best deli meat I’ve ever had. And organic steak and lamb is equally superior to conventional stuff. Although in that case, organic may just be more of an indicator that the producer takes pride in their meat.

  3. Isn’t the problem that Creekstone mostly slaughters animals that are too young to show signs of mad cow? So if they start “proving” that their beef is mad cow free, other companies would have to do the same in order to show consumers they’re not hiding anything. This is a concept they taught in econ 101, but I don’t remember what it’s called. In any case, the firms’ costs will rise and so will prices, all for something that doesn’t actually produce anything. That’s market failure, right? Whatever.

  4. Initially Creekstone may get a premium for tested beef. If they do, that will encourage other manufacturers to do the seem, increasing the supply of tested beef. This will bring the price back down and we all get safer beef.

    All without government regulation. I do not see market failure there.

  5. mg – I don’t have Krohn’s disease, so I don’t need to eat organic to get over it. Not saying there aren’t benefits to organic, I don’t really know (not a biologist, nutritionist, etc). As to the taste thing, I think you’re right, it’s simply because more care is put into the farming process, not that no pesticides are used, or whatever.

    Leo – Ron’s organic food analogy holds here, too. Just because a lot of people have been convinced that organic is better, doesn’t mean every single AG company has gone organic. Yes, they’ve began offering organics or just simply put more care into their products, but they haven’t completely revamped their system.

    The government’s just pissed that Creekstone is jumping in front of them.

  6. I am not only agnostic on the whole “organic” foods thing, I am positively apathetic.

    Creekstone is engaged in pure PR. More power to ’em.

  7. “I think you put too much faith in aggregate statistics and too little in individual experience.”

    No offense, but this statement is the definition of bad science.

    “Organic foods have been key to my girlfriend overcoming Crohn’s disease.”

    I doubt that you have any possible way of making this claim. There are too many variables that there is just no way you are controlling for. Regressions over large numbers of incidences allow us to control for those, which is why scientific claims are made based on aggregated data rather than single instances.

  8. The government’s just pissed that Creekstone is jumping in front of them.

    Jumping ahead? I remember hearing on the news the other after two more cows were found in the US to have mad cow that the USDA was thinking about pulling back and doing less testing.

    I guess that’s one way to reduce the number of infected cows. Just stop testing them

  9. The organic thing seems different to me, maybe because I don’t eat the stuff. But anyway, “organic” doesn’t seem to carry the same weight health/safety-wise as a label saying “no mad cow here.” Even among people I know who eat organic, I don’t get the sense that they have superdefined ideas of the benefits they’re getting from organic food. But I imagine people know exactly what they hope to get from something described as not being full of mad cow disease.

    Also, Reformed Repub, the “market failure” comes from having a bunch of resources being used to produce something that everybody would agree is worthless. It’s a total waste, and people would be better off not testing cattle that can’t show symptoms yet anyway. Creekstone and the rest won’t have to spend a bunch of money and time investing in nonproof of the absence of mad cow, and we won’t have to pay higher prices for our potentially-mad-cow-infested beef. Even if price came down in the long run, is it likely to come back down to where it was before everybody started in with these expensive, useless tests? I doubt it. Maybe. But I doubt it.

  10. I”n any case, the firms’ costs will rise and so will prices, all for something that doesn’t actually produce anything. That’s market failure, right?”

    Only if you consider confidence in the safety of your product to be without value, and are convinced that consumers in the aggregate are similarly unconcerned.

  11. ChiTom – well, if they just made sure no one was feeding ground up cows to other cows, testing would hardly be needed, but I get your point. I kind of threw that last line of mine in there while I was actually doing some other work, so I didn’t really think it out.

    I still don’t see what the problem is. If a company wants to test it’s damn product and put the results on a label, what’s the big deal?

  12. Leo,
    If people do not want it, they will not buy it. Especially not a higher prices. If they buy it at higher prices, it is only because they want it. That means they do not agree that it is worthless.

  13. Coming up with ways to make a product more attractive, even without changing the product, is not market failure. Printing on a package (truthfully) that the contents have been tested for is just like printing a picture of an athlete or celeb whom you paid for an endorsement on your product. It cost the company time and money to get that picture on there, and maybe that cost got passed onto consumers, and obviously it doesn’t make the product better. It’s like advertising… Leo, you don’t think advertising is market failure, do you?

  14. Even among people I know who eat organic, I don’t get the sense that they have superdefined ideas of the benefits they’re getting from organic food. But I imagine people know exactly what they hope to get from something described as not being full of mad cow disease.

    When it comes to meats, organic meats or grass fed meats tend to severlely restrict the occurance/spread of things like mad cow. My understanding is that it spreads because bits of infected cows are used in making the feed (esp. parts of the spial cord and some brain matter) either accidentally or on purpose.

    If the cow only eats grass or organic grains that don’t have infected cow parts ground up and added, then it’s much less likely to get mad cow.

    As for “conventional” meats, I would imagine that being able to claim that you test all your cows for mad cow would be a good marketing move since it seems that every time a case of madcow comes around there tends to be panic and at least for a while quite a few people tend to eat less beef.

    On a side note, as someone who eats quite a bit of organic foods, I do know what the benefits are, to me. To me the benefits are a lack of extra poisons / pesticides, a lack of hormones and chemicals that make foods / animals grow faster and to larger sizes than they normally would, and a healthier environment that they grow in that has resulted in siginificantly better tasting food.

    All of these benefits, to me, are worth the extra cost of organics.

  15. The best thing for Crohn’s disease might be a steak “certified to contain tapeworms.” I’ll pass, thanks.

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=98514

    I’d pay extra for a BSE-free certification on my steak. If they want to package this with organic certification as well, then that probably makes economic sense.

  16. Reformed Repub, if we agree that the test won’t actually show that a cow of a certain age isn’t a mad cow, then what will everybody (consumers and producers) be paying for? Again, it seems a little more difficult to show that people don’t get extra benefits from the “organic” label, partly because I’m pretty ignorant of that whole thing, but I think also because the benefits are pretty vaguely defined. But the benefits of not eating mad cow seem straightforward enough to me. But this test – applied the way Creekstone want to apply it, and the way other beef companies will have to apply it if they don’t want to be seen as selling diseased meat – won’t actually prove that we’re not eating diseased meat. We’ll all just pay more for the same thing.

  17. ChiTom – well, if they just made sure no one was feeding ground up cows to other cows, testing would hardly be needed, but I get your point. I kind of threw that last line of mine in there while I was actually doing some other work, so I didn’t really think it out.

    Lowdog, I agree.

    I understand that we want as few regulations as possible, but when we know that the way mad-cow spreads is by feeding cows to cows, I would hope that the practice would be forbidden. But even if it is banned, I dunno enough to comment on how enforcable such a ban would be. I would imagine they would likely just swap one set of testing (testing for madcow) with another (testing to see if feed contains ground up cow?)

  18. The problem is that consumer choice has been circumvented. We see the same issue in the RBsT issue in milk. If anyone thinks I’m gonna feed my prepubescent girls mammalian maturation hormones on purpose is crazy.

    Put two steaks in the grocery store. Steak #1 is $4.49/lb. Steak #2 is $3.99/lb and has a label that reads this beef from cattle that ate the ground up unusable leftover parts of other slaughtered cattle. That’s true choice.

  19. Isn’t the problem that Creekstone mostly slaughters animals that are too young to show signs of mad cow?

    So (just to clarify), Creekstone wants to test the cows to see whether they have the disease, rather than wait until it advances to the point where symptoms start to show. Although it is probably not necessary because (according to the article) the incidence of mad cow in American beef is so low that testing is not necessary, says the USDA. But it can be considered an “extra, extra, just in case” safety precaution anyway. Like when I check the parking brake four times when I start the car and drive off, or the iron twice before I leave my home.

    So if they start “proving” that their beef is mad cow free, other companies would have to do the same in order to show consumers they’re not hiding anything. This is a concept they taught in econ 101, but I don’t remember what it’s called.

    “Keeping up with the Joneses”?

    In any case, the firms’ costs will rise and so will prices, all for something that doesn’t actually produce anything. That’s market failure, right? Whatever.

    It depends on how consumers react. If they think the “extra, extra, extra” safety isn’t really worth any additional cost to themselves, then they’ll buy cheaper beef and Creekstone will stop doing it. If they think the “extra, extra, extra” safety makes them feel a little bit better about eating beef — enough to pay for it — then everyone will test. If consumers are divided — some willing to pay for the testing, some not — then there will be a market for each preference. (Just as, for example, some people are willing to pay more for organic foods, and some aren’t.)

    That’s market functioning, not market failure.

    (The big mistake most critics of the market make is in thinking “value” is objective rather than subjective, and that it’s wrong for people to pay for preferences that some of the rest of us would disagree with. And also disregarding the cost of time, worry and research that it would cost some people to make more “rational” decisions.)

    Also, Reformed Repub, the “market failure” comes from having a bunch of resources being used to produce something that everybody would agree is worthless. It’s a total waste, and people would be better off not testing cattle that can’t show symptoms yet anyway.

    It’s not at all clear to me that the test is a complete waste and doesn’t show anything. While it might be overkill because there are relatively few cows with Mad Cow in the first place, my interpretation was that the test could detect the presence of the disease before symptoms are outwardly detectable. Like you can test to see whether a person is HIV positive before they show symptoms of AIDS. Or a PSA test can indicate the presence of prostate cancer before symptoms are apparent.

    If the choice is left to Creekstone about whether to test the beef (as a marketing move) and to consumers as to whether to prefer it, I don’t see the problem.

  20. Leo,

    Do you know more than what’s in the USA Today article linked to above? I read the article and it’s not clear to me what the USDA is arguing. It may indeed be that they’re claiming that the test will give false negatives, but it could also be that they’re arguing that the test won’t find any BSE only because it’s so rare.

    According to the article, Consumers Union is in favor of letting Creekstone test their cattle, so presumably CU isn’t as concerned about the false negatives as you are.

    I suspect most libertarians would object to Creekstone using a test in a dishonest manner.

  21. I think everyone has missed the significance of Leo’s comment “[…]Creekstone mostly slaughters animals that are too young to show signs of mad cow?”

    NPR did an article on the Creekstone kefuffle last night, and the Govt/AG folks indeed claimed that *most* cattle (not just Creekstone’s) are slaughtered before age three, and that for some unexplained reason cattle don’t test positive for BSE until later in their lives.

    If this is true, then Creekstone is trying to legally, but disingenuously boost sales by claiming a 100% test rate.

    The real question is when will they develop a test that can detect BSE in younger cattle.

  22. “The problem is that consumer choice has been circumvented. We see the same issue in the RBsT issue in milk. If anyone thinks I’m gonna feed my prepubescent girls mammalian maturation hormones on purpose is crazy.”

    No, you’re not crazy, just ignorant. First of all, the total BST in milk is about the same whether the milk came from BST-supplemented cows or not. Second, BST is not orally active, even in cows, which is why growth hormones are given by injection. Third, BST does not bind to human growth hormone receptors. Forth, every glass of milk you have ever drank in your life has some hormones in it, including BST.

  23. If the test is not effective, it should be illegal to print on the meat package that it has been tested. That is not a market failure, as Leo claims, but rather simple false advertising (which is of heightened concern when the subject of the advertising is food safety).

    I imagine the FDA has twisted itself into a knot because it wants to keep doing (or condoning) this kind of false advertising so long as the FDA is in control.

    It would probably help to enhance FDA isolation from lobbying influence. That is probably the ultimate source of the apparent FDA hypocrisy in this case.

  24. “I understand that we want as few regulations as possible, but when we know that the way mad-cow spreads is by feeding cows to cows, I would hope that the practice would be forbidden. But even if it is banned, I dunno enough to comment on how enforcable such a ban would be.”

    Just to be clear, this practice was banned almost a decade ago as part of the ruminant feed ban. Other facts to consider:

    1. We’ve tested over 600,000 of the highest risk cows in the US and found only 3 positives. All three were born before the ruminant feed ban.

    2. While 5000 people die each year from conventional food-borne pathogens, even now, almost 10 years after the ruminant feed ban, we have yet to see even the first domestic case of vCJD. So far, the vCJD risk from US beef is not even up there with risk of death from lightning.

    3. In the UK, where basically the worst-case scenario came to pass, only about 150 people have died.

  25. If I recall correctly, market failure comes from restricting, not expanding, the range of economic choices.

    Is the USDA concerned about the possibility (and negative effects) of false positives in these tests, or are they attempting to restrict competition for the benefit of a specific set of producers?

  26. My understanding is that it spreads because bits of infected cows are used in making the feed (esp. parts of the spial cord and some brain matter) either accidentally or on purpose.

    Feeding animal protein to cattle has been banned in the US since 1997.

    However it is still OK to feed it to sheep and pigs.

  27. Patrick – isn’t there some concern about the incubation period of the prion (if I’m even using the correct language here)? So we might not have seen all the cases yet?

    And if the feed ban went into effect 10 years ago, why do people still talk about it? How is it’s compliance ensured?

    I’m not really very scared of mad cow, I’m just asking questions.

  28. I doubt that you have any possible way of making this claim. There are too many variables that there is just no way you are controlling for. Regressions over large numbers of incidences allow us to control for those, which is why scientific claims are made based on aggregated data rather than single instances.

    Jason, your point is well taken, however the uncontrolled variables maybe are the strongest link to the claim then to single out and control such variables. For instance, if one chooses to eat organic to control a disease, they are then likely to not eat out, especially, fast food where organic food is not served elminating a diet of highly refined, high fat, low nutrition foods that are often cited for America’s obsesity and other ill effects problems. Furthermore, one consuming an organic diet are more typically cooking at home which increases digestive enzymes (read mouth watering) improving complete food digestion. Organic is not always about the food, its a lifestyle.

    My disclaimer is while never being a smoker, I am fighting lung cancer, the same that took the life of Dana Reeve. My medical team is always quick to point out how well I am doing on chemo as opposed to my fellow patients. I haven’t lost my hair, no nausea, and making good progress on the cancer. While there is no scientific evidence to support what I am doing, it is catching notice of my fellow patients, many of which have made their switch as well.

    The only science I have read to support my direction is reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and a study on Aruvedic medicince increasing survival rates among some types of cancer patients. I apoligize for not providing some links, my Aruvedic doctor downloaded the studies from one of those subscription websites NEJM or Medline.

    As for Mad Caw Disease, my organic vegan diet has buffered me from that problem. However, Creekstone should have no problem marketing the increased costs product to a weary market. The organic fed, free range meats do quite well at a much increase price. However if its true Creekstone is testing the cows at ages before Mad Cow can be detected, it does ring a bit disingenous and they should be called out on it.

  29. mg is just a shill for Applegate Organic Turkey.

  30. I swear I only heard the NPR story because I’m cat-sitting and my girlfriend leaves the radio on so ODB doesn’t get lonely. I swear.

    Stevo, is it keeping up with the Joneses? I thought it had something frogs. Like little male frogs have to croak even though their croaks reveal them to be little frogs because if they don’t croak females will think they’re even smaller frogs than they are. Eh, it’s probably the same thing.

    Also, do people really have a preference (subjective or otherwise) for “phony assurances of safety”? And I don’t disregard the costs of acquiring information faced by consumers who want to make rational choices. If I have a point, that’s a big part of it.

    And I’m sorry to organic food eaters. I didn’t mean to suggest that you know not why you eat what.

  31. Even if the test is no more than voodoo, the customer will still get something for their money when buying Creekstone’s tested beef.

    It’s called a warm squishy feeling.

  32. In the UK, where basically the worst-case scenario came to pass, only about 150 people have died.

    Doesn’t it take a LONG time (like 20 years or so) before a person who has contracted the disease starts to show signs? I thought I remember hearing that, but I may be wrong.

  33. They can have my BSE-infected meat when they pry it from my cold, dead hand.

  34. I thought the objection to testing was that the test is ineffective in showing BSE in cows under 30 months. If thats the case, and Creekstone’s cows are slaughtered younger than 30 months, wouldn’t it be potentialy fraudulent to advertise the beef as BSE free?

  35. ChiTom – see my comment at 3:24 pm

    I asked a similar question. It doesn’t always take a long time like that, but I’m not sure about the details, which is why I asked Patrick…he seemed to know what he was talking about.

  36. I”n any case, the firms’ costs will rise and so will prices,

    Maybe prices will rise, maybe they won’t. Just because one cost item has been increased, doesn’t mean others can’t decrease. And even if the total cost goes up, that doesn’t mean prices will.

    all for something that doesn’t actually produce anything.

    I know, its like a government program, idn’t it?

    Actually, what it produces is pretty much what organic foods produce – a feeling of well-being in the consumer.

    That’s market failure, right?”

    No. Market failure is when the markets can’t deliver goods or services that are wanted/needed. This is kind of the opposite of that.

  37. I remember reading that Creekstone does a lot of business with Japan, apparently the Japanese love them their steak, but the Japanese won’t allow Creekstone to export their beef to Japan, so Creekstone has said they will test themselves, here’s an article about it, and yeah I realize it’s from Creekstone’s website, but I’m sure more research will turn up other stuff.
    (I didn’t read the article this post was about, maybe this was mentioned?)

    http://www.creekstonefarmspremiumbeef.com/news_bse.html

  38. “you don’t think advertising is market failure, do you?”

    If more people were less influenced by image-rich, fact-starved (oh, Dodge Trucks are Ram Tough!?) advertising, the nation/world as whole would be materially better off. Advertisers would have to either supply more powerful arguments (leading to better products), or advertise less (lower prices). A nation can be measured by the inanity of its ads.

    As for organics, one reason I buy them is to “vote” against dead zones. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_zone_%28ecology%29

  39. RC, so market failure can’t also refer to a situation in which “the price established in the market does not equal the marginal social benefit of a good and the marginal social cost of producing the good”? I got that off the biz/ed web site, and it sounds a lot like what I remember from school. Again, assuming that the test results don’t actually tell us anything about whether our particular cow is mad, what is the marginal social benefit here? Is whatever it is really worth the increase in cost/price? (I assume costs/prices will rise because I’m playing the economist game of holding all other variables constant. It’s a nice game.)

  40. C’mon, Leo, even I know that even if such things as “the marginal social benefit of a good and the marginal social cost of producing the good” existed, they would be impossible to measure.

    Get with the subjective theory of value. It’s the only one that makes any sense.

    Free Minds, Free Labor

  41. In every economics class that I took, a market failure was defined as a situation where some or all of the costs weren’t borne by the voluntary parties to the transaction and/or some or all of the benefits weren’t received by the voluntary parties to the transaction.

    That’s the meaning of “market failure” in economics jargon. It’s not a value judgement, since a market failure can include positive externalities. For instance, if somebody opens a mall that attracts people to an area, the value of commercial properties around the mall will rise. The mall owner isn’t getting any benefit from the profits enjoyed by the restaurant owner across the street, but the restaurant wouldn’t be doing all that well if the mall hadn’t been built.

    Likewise, the failure to produce something that is wanted or needed not a market failure. Prior to the 20th century, even the most efficient market in the world couldn’t deliver antibiotics because they hadn’t been discovered. People wanted cures for infections, and many people died of infections (hence you could say that they needed antibiotics in any reasonable sense of the word “need”). But the markets weren’t providing them.

    Of course, all of this is just economics jargon. You can always use the word in some other sense, and assign it some other meaning. You can argue that the economists chose their jargon poorly. You can argue whatever you like and say whatever you like, but if you go against the common usage you will find that some people have trouble understanding you.

  42. KP,

    If by “the nation/world as whole would be materially better off”, you mean the people of the nation and world would be materially better off, then you may be mistaken. It’s certainly intuitive to assume that lowest-common-denominator advertising wasteful, but since some animals, e.g. peacocks, have evolved advertising, it’s probably more complex than that.

    Just having the money to run a “Dodge Trucks are Ram Tough” ad in itself shows something about the size of the company doing the ad, and it does so in a way that connects sufficiently well to the populace that the folks at DaimlerChrysler pay for the ads. It’s easy to be dismissive of inarticulated information, especially when one is articulate, but it’s possible that if people were less influenced by image-rich, fact-starved, advertising that it would be harder to reach large enough audiences with simple ad campaigns. That could lead to fewer sales and lower economies of scale, or more diverse ad campaigns which could be more expensive.

    Personally, I strongly believe that a more intelligent and educated populace would have benefits that outweigh the problems that might cause for advertisers, but that’s not the same as hypothesizing the exact same people with the exact same intelligence and education suddenly no longer being influenced by image-rich, fact-starved advertising.

  43. Thoreau, your first definition of MF (I’m sick of reading the whole words) is an externality, yeah? That’s one kind of MF, but I thought there were others (or maybe just different variations of that one, I don’t know). In this case we’d “overproducing” phony assurances of safety because the costs of making those assurances are borne by … people who get mad cow 20 years from now because they mistakenly thought they were eating good burgers. Something like that.

  44. Thoreau,

    Googling “market failure” suggests that you have an incomplete definition. For example, The Economist says:

    MARKET FAILURE
    When a market left to itself does not allocate resources efficiently. Interventionist politicians usually allege market failure to justify their interventions. Economists have identified four main sorts or causes of market failure.

    • The abuse of MARKET POWER, which can occur whenever a single buyer or seller can exert significant influence over PRICES or OUTPUT (see MONOPOLY and MONOPSONY).
    • EXTERNALITIES: when the market does not take into account the impact of an economic activity on outsiders. For example, the market may ignore the costs imposed on outsiders by a firm polluting the environment.
    • PUBLIC GOODS, such as national defence. How much defence would be provided if it were left to the market?
    • Where there is incomplete or ASYMMETRIC INFORMATION or uncertainty.

    Abuse of market power is best tackled through ANTITRUST policy. Externalities can be reduced through REGULATION, a tax or subsidy, or by using property rights to force the market to take into account the WELFARE of all who are affected by an economic activity. The SUPPLY of public goods can be ensured by compelling everybody to pay for them through the tax system.

    By The Economist’s definition, having everyone pay for a test that is absolutely useless (which is what Leo is saying; I’m not claiming that it’s useless) would indeed be a market failure.

    However, not only is Leo alleging something that Consumers Union doesn’t appear to believe, he’s also making the leap that all of Creekstone’s competitors will also do unnecessary testing. This seems highly unlikely since Creekstone apparently gets premium dollar and is trying to cater to the Japanese market and they’re sure to have plenty of competitors who aren’t targeting their niche.

  45. Leo,

    If only Creekstone does it, it’s not market failure. You appear to me to be making a race-to-the-bottom argument.

    I highly doubt that it will turn out that the test is entirely useless and that all of Creekstone’s competitors will adopt it. OTOH, I’m one of those people who believe that market failures are-in the absence of government intervention-rare and, not too surprisingly, I’m fairly skeptical of race-to-the-bottom arguments, too.

  46. anon2-

    I was responding to R C Dean, mostly. I guess there are more expansive definitions than the one that I cited. And since I’m jumping in late in the thread, I guess I should have paid more attention to the fact that R C Dean wasn’t the only one discussing it.

  47. As I understand it, Creekstone’s main market was Japan — they produce mainly prime Angus — and the only way that Japan will allow US beef is if it’s 100% tested, using the methods that Creekstone proposes.

    So this doesn’t seem to be a case of one company trying for an PR advantage in the US market, but rather one of a company trying to comply with the requirements of their main customer.

    On the other hand, it does seem as if the USDA’s position arises from their being in the pockets of the larger producers, whose main markets are domestic — in that what is a requirement for Creekstone becomes just an added expense for the others.

  48. Does anyone care if the cow that was used to make a burger had malaria? If it had malaria then the burger eater may get malaria. My God! We must test all cows for malaria. (Not afraid of malaria? Just insert the name of a disease you are afraid of and continue.)

  49. I’m involved with cattle ranching so let me shed some light on the situation from inside the industry so to speak.

    First a couple of points on feed bans and bse control

    1. In the US use of meat and bone meal from ruminants as a cattle feed supplement was banned in 1997

    2. Feed makers are audited to make sure they comply with the ban.

    3. All of the cattle that have tested positive for BSE were born before the feed ban was put in place.

    4. Cows born before the feed ban went into place are considered old and they will continue to decrease in numbers.

    5. The UK had the largest population of bse cases in cattle. The bse rate declined steeply after they put a mbm feed ban in place and it continues to drop. Banning the feeding of ruminant sourced mbm to cattle is effective at stopping bse.

    For more technical info the site (bseinfo dot org)is pretty decent. Full disclosure site content is copyright cattlemen’s association and beef board so it is information from the beef industry

    TJIT

  50. Explanation of why most of the beef industry vehemently opposes Creekstone’s testing proposal.

    1. This is a trade issue not a food safety issue. Food safety issues make are a very attractive way for countries to enact non tariff food barriers to food imports.

    3. Japan is an important importer of US beef. Getting the Japanese to open their market to US beef was a decades long very difficult process. After the first case of bse was discovered in the US Japan banned all imports of beef from the US to Japan.

    5. Years of very difficult negotiations between Japan and the US took place. The result of these negotiations was a science based food safety system that ensured all beef shipped to Japan from the US would be from bse free cattle. Japan opened the market to US beef at the point and exporters resumed US beef shipments to Japan

    7. A beef purveyor who had just received a permit to export beef to Japan and was not familiar with the ongoing situation received an order from a Japanese importer for bone in steaks. Bone in steaks of the type ordered were a forbidden item under the agreement. Apparently neither the US based provider or the Japanese importer realized this. In fact the shipment was clearly labeled with what it contained. Upon arrival in Japan the inspectors saw this was a forbidden product and again closed the Japanese market to US beef.

    10. The negotiated system is sufficient to ensure the safety of US beef shipped to Japan. There is absolutely no scientific justification for doing a bse test. Japan is using it as a non-tariff import barrier.

    11. Since the Japanese requirement for a bse test is a not tariff trade barrier it is critical that it not be complied with and that negations between Japan and the US result in removal of the test requirement.

    12. As soon as any producer complies with a non-tariff trade barrier it guarantees further non tariff trade barriers will be developed. If Creekstone complied with the bse test requirement the Japanese could then demand that they sprinkle anti bse magic pixie dust around the boxed beef before they load it on the ship to Japan. Both requirement have the same food safety utility and both are nothing more then non tariff trade barriers.

  51. I’ve been tracking the entire beef-into-Japan thing because I and a friend were in the process of setting up an export company to Japan when the whole mad cow thing came down.

    Look, no matter how much the US leans on Japan to open the borders again to US bovine products, US beef is not going to sell in the Japanese market unless the Japanese consumer is reassured about food safety. There have been a number of scandals over the last few years and the Japanese are extremely suspicious at present and going more and more towards straight organic. The US, with its “whoops, we sent you something that slipped through the testing” has now tainted the cachet of the “USDA inspected” label. (And the US reaction to the Japanese fuss didn’t help matters.) The ONLY way for the US to get back into Japan is testing, testing, testing. We’ve abused their trust and now have to answer for it.

  52. tzs,

    I assume the scandals you talk about are the way the Japanes government handled the feed ban and at least one bse positve animal. These will influence Japanese consumer confidence toward Japanes porduct but I am not sure how much of this would spill over to Japanese consumer opinion of US beef. My understanding is that Japanese consumers like and have a preference for US beef.

    In any case we can’t tell what Japanese consumer opinion is because the Japanese government is keeping US beef out of the Japanese market using non-tariff trade barriers.

  53. Last I heard, cows can still be fed rendered pigs, and pigs can still be fed rendered cows. Prions are similar to proteins. They are not a virus and have no species barrier. All mammals can be infected with them which means that pigs can be infected with mad cow disease. If these pigs are fed to cows, well I’m sure you can figure out what will happen.

    Enforcement of BSE regulations is a joke in this country, especially under this administration. The Bush administration can’t or won’t handle anything with any degree of competency. I don’t blame American or Japanese consumers for not trusting the USDA.

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