Iowa Public Television


Mad Cow Disease Update

posted on January 30, 2004

It's been eight years since former rancher Howard Lyman appeared on the Oprah Winfrey talk show and predicted that sloppy livestock feeding and meat processing practices would bring Mad Cow disease to the U.S.

Lyman's comments triggered a lengthy legal battle between the talk show host and the cattle industry, which claimed comments made on the program caused livestock prices to plummet and cost ranchers millions of dollars. A jury eventually sided with Winfrey and Lyman, and an appeals court upheld the decision.

The cattle trade's sensitivity to market-moving events helps explain the rapid response by the federal government once Mad Cow was discovered in the U.S. That includes the announcement this week that the president's fiscal 2005 budget will include $47 million to fund Mad Cow prevention programs.

Indeed, for nearly six weeks now, the feds have taken steps to calm consumer fears and bolster safeguards against future cases.

Mad Cow Disease Update Earlier this week, the government continued its efforts to ward off an outbreak of mad cow disease by banning the use of cattle blood in livestock feed. In the past, farmers have given calves feed containing blood as a substitute for cow's milk. And, such feed also has been given to cattle and other grazing animals, including sheep and goats. But, consumer advocates have argued that blood might spread the fatal brain-wasting condition, better known as BSE.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration also will: (Graphic)

- Prohibit cow brains and other parts from being used in human dietary supplements and cosmetics.

- Ban chicken waste from livestock feed

- Make factories separate production lines for bovine feed and feed for other animals as a way to guard against accidental cross-contamination.

- And, ban the use of uneaten meat and other scraps from restaurants in livestock feed. So-called "plate-waste" can mask prohibited proteins and make it harder for inspectors to know whether certain proteins have made their way into feed.

Yet, some consumer advocates say the safeguards don't go far enough, noting the new rules still will allow poultry and hog feed to be made from cattle remains. They claim that opens the possibility that farmers might give cattle the wrong feed.

At the same time, congressional Democrats are pushing for a national animal ID system. Unhappy with the time it took to trace America's one known case of mad cow disease, lawmakers pressed Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to create a plan to individually identify each of America's 96 million cattle. Many claim current tracing methods based on ear tags are inadequate.

The USDA also announced it will bring an end to its search for the infected cow's herd mates. On Monday, its chief veterinarian, Ron DeHaven, said the department hopes to conclude the search within days or weeks. He reported, to date, 28 of the 81 cows from the birth herd had been identified and that the chances of finding every cow involved would be impossible.

Tags: agriculture animals beef cattle diseases food safety livestock Mad Cow meat news