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R-CALF Continues Smokescreen Effort on BSE PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Monday, 20 April 2009
AFF Sentinel Vol.6#12

The U.S. has a multi-hurdle BSE control system that has limited its total BSE cases to two -- one of the lowest numbers from any major beef producing country. No infectious material is known to have entered the food supply. Millions of cows have tested "negative."

So why has R-CALF charged America's system harbors an "unacceptable, unnecessary and entirely avoidable risk," charged the USDA has "acted recklessly and irresponsibly" and claimed FDA has no choice but to implement the enhanced feed ban unless USDA rescinds the Over-Thirty-Month rule?

It has nothing to do with any risk to consumers or animals, despite R-CALF's overheated charges. It is mostly their fear of even comparatively minor competition. They flatly oppose cattle or beef imports. They totally ignore the retaliation other countries would impose on American exports.

R-CALF's radical consumer activist allies probably don't realize these anti-trade policies advocated against Canada would force higher prices on consumers, forcing packers to use lean beef shipped from other continents using shiploads of diesel fuel.

R-CALF is simply using the proposed stricter feed ban rule as another excuse to call for banning Canadian cattle. Their theory is banning Canadian cows and lean beef will significantly boost members' cull cow prices. Instead, this move would significantly boost costs to their cow/calf members. The truth is, the Canadian supply is not enough to make a big price difference for a robust lean beef demand that far outstrips U.S. and Canadian supply capacity.

Let's review the real situation, as opposed to R- CALF's contrived, distorted view:

  • ?BSE is not a contagious disease. Importing cattle that could possibly have BSE themselves, does not itself expose American animals. Animals contract BSE infections from contaminated feed.
  • ?SRM (specified risk material) removal at animal slaughter virtually eliminates risk of infectious tissue getting into the human food supply.
  • ?The U.S. feed ban, in place for over a decade, has successfully limited U.S. cattle cases to two. The feed ban prohibits using rendered ("cooked" and processed) meat and bone meal from a ruminant animal in feed rations for any ruminant. Such feed can be used for non-ruminant animals not susceptible to BSE infection. The new enhanced FDA feed ban rule would tighten feed usage even further by prohibiting the use of material from ruminants in any food animal ration. This would prevent accidental cross contamination, e.g. where feed intended for pigs containing ruminant material could accidentally be fed to cattle. Canada's system already follows this tightened rule. Many U.S. experts consider this tightening of limited usefulness, since U.S. BSE incidence is extremely low and because cross contamination risk is much less in the U.S.'s more specialized livestock operations. Hogs and cattle are not so often fed on the same operation here, compared to Canada.
  • ?Canada has had more BSE cases but the number is well within the permissible range set by the OIE* to retain its Minimal Risk ranking.
  • ?The significant cost vs. risk benefit of banning ruminant materials in any food animal feed and SRM materials in any feed has given pause to the implementation of the strictest feed ban. Disposal cost of the SRM materials and the new rule's requirements that certain SRM's be removed from any dead stock being rendered has led some rendering companies to refuse to handle dead cattle. Those accepting intact dead stock have doubled or tripled fees to recover added costs, costing cattlemen significant sums. The risk of undisposed dead cattle accumulating in rural America for cost reasons has put the strict rule on hold.

So why does R-CALF persist in indicting our animal health system? The answer, of course, is that R-CALF has consistently used the BSE issue as a straw man for its real intent - keeping any cattle or beef competition out -- no matter how small relative to total U.S. production. R-CALF - and various consumer activist and anti-trade farm groups - have falsely attacked consumer confidence, used import fears and misinformation about animal, human and food safety issues in desperate ploys to close the border. They totally ignore the damage to cattlemen's export needs in their frenzy to keep out insignificant import volume.

R-CALF's liberal anti-business rhetoric against "the self-interested corporations and their trade association" reveals their failure to comprehend a self-interested beef industry truly concerned with the long-term good of their market by protecting - not frightening - their customers. R-CALF's indignant call not to "kowtow to the government" is laughable, given their constant calls for the government to regulate and interfere more in production, marketing and food safety.

*World Organization for Animal Health, an internationally recognized policy and regulatory standards body

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 26 May 2009 )
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