USDA said this week it was "very pleased" to announce that a cow suspected of having mad cow disease has tested negative. Test results from a USDA lab in Iowa and from one in England both came to the same conclusion.
That news brought a sigh of relief from the beef and other livestock industries, which are aware of growing consumer sensitivity to food safety.
That's also a matter of importance to food providers. McDonald's Corporation, for instance, is offering a premium of up to 10 cents a pound for beef that is traceable back to the farm. About 10 percent of the beef that the fast-food giant now uses is traceable.
McDonald's also is among an increasing number of food companies listening to concerns about the use of antibiotics in livestock production. And the response of those companies to consumer calls for change had them positioned in advance of a government announcement on the matter.
As consumers demand more naturally raised foods, more and more meat and poultry are being marketed as "natural" or "raised without antibiotics". So late last week, when the Food and Drug Administration placed a limit on the use of a certain antibiotic in chickens, it may not have set off alarms industry wide in the livestock production arena.
The Wall Street Journal reports that restrictions on the use of the antibiotic, Baytril, marks the first time the FDA has limited the use of an animal drug due to worries that it could lead to antibiotic-resistant pathogens in humans. Consumer groups applauded the FDA's action, saying the use of antibiotics in animals erodes the effectiveness of the drugs used by humans.
The FDA says poultry producers who have used Baytril, which is administered to battle respiratory infections in chickens and turkeys, still will be allowed to use it to treat sick animals.
Large chicken producer, Tyson Foods, says it already has phased out the use of Baytril and another producer, Perdue, says it never used the drug.
In 2003, fast-food giant McDonald's said it would no longer buy chickens raised on antibiotics.
And at least one major pork producer, Smithfield Foods, said it will limit the amount and kind of antibiotics it uses in pigs to comply with the guidelines imposed by one of its major customers.