The USDA chief veternarian provided a statement regarding the most recent case of BSE in a dairy cow located in central CA. Here’s an excerpt of the full statement.
“As part of our targeted surveillance system, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the nation’s fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a dairy cow from central California. The carcass of the animal is being held under State authority at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed. It was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health. Additionally, milk does not transmit BSE. The United States has had longstanding interlocking safeguards to protect human and animal health against BSE. For public health, these measures include the USDA ban on specified risk materials, or SRMs, from the food supply. SRMs are parts of the animal that are most likely to contain the BSE agent if it is present in an animal. USDA also bans all nonambulatory (sometimes called “downer”) cattle from entering the human food chain. For animal health, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on ruminant material in cattle feed prevents the spread of the disease in the cattle herd. Evidence shows that our systems and safeguards to prevent BSE are working, as are similar actions taken by countries around the world. In 2011, there were only 29 worldwide cases of BSE, a dramatic decline and 99% reduction since the peak in 1992 of 37,311 cases. This is directly attributable to the impact and effectiveness of feed bans as a primary control measure for the disease….
John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer
If you want to enjoy beef but don’t want to support the current feeding practices of conventional beef products, consider some of the other options at your supermarket. Here’s a guide to better beef products:
“Natural,” “Hormone-Free,” “Free-Range,” “Grass-Fed,” “Organic,” “Antibiotic-Free”
USDA Certified Organic: Organic beef (or any other organic livestock) are fed organic plant-based feed, are not given antibiotics (sick animals treated must be sold to the conventional market) or growth hormones and must have access to pasture.
Organic meats are not nutritionally different from conventional but are better environmentally and are the gold standard for safety when it comes to BSE because adhere to the strictest feeding policies. The only downside of organic beef is the price. The cost of producing organic cattle is pricey and that’s passed on to you and me at the checkout.
Natural: By government definition, natural means that there are no artificial colors or additives and is minimally processed. However, natural” on most meat labels means more than “natural’ on other foods.
Most ‘natural’ meats mean that the animals have not been treated with antibiotics or hormones and are fed vegetarian diets. The only reason why we can’t convert all of our cattle to ‘organic’ is due to the lack of organic feed.” However, to be sure of what “natural” means before purchasing, read the label closely and be sure that it defines “natural.” If the label is unclear, contact the company via their website or by phone to ask about feeding practices or the use of antibiotics or hormones.
Grass-fed: Grass-fed meats mean that the animal had access to pasture. However, even conventional cattle may spend some time on a pasture, but that does not mean that it spent all of its life roaming on green acres. Sometimes, it means that the animal was raised for some time on open pasture but may have lived in crowded feedlots at other times. Look for 100% grass-fed on labels or contact the company to find out exactly what they mean by their definition.
–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD