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010207 Feed Makers Rethink Use of Meat & Bone Meal

February 2, 2001

Chicago, IL - The use of meat and bone meal in livestock feed, suspected of posing a risk of spreading mad cow disease, is coming under increased scrutiny in the United States, and some manufacturers are reviewing -- or halting -- its use.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997 banned the use of most mammal-based byproducts in cattle feed as a protection against mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). In Europe, where more than 80 people have died from the human version of the disease, researchers blame the spread of BSE on feed made from contaminated cow carcasses.

But in the United States, where BSE has never been detected, meat and bone meal (MBM) derived from carcasses of ruminants -- cud-chewers such as cattle, sheep and goats -- is still a common high-protein additive in feed for poultry, hogs and pets. U.S. renderers produce some 350 million pounds of meat and bone meal each month, with the bulk of it ending up in animal feed.

However, amid growing public concern about beef safety, several U.S. feed makers said they have stopped using ruminant meat and bone meal in all their products, even feeds designed for non-ruminants -- a step that goes beyond current U.S. restrictions.


In the latest instance, Purina Mills Inc., the third-largest U.S. feed manufacturer, said last week it halted all use of ruminant MBM in its feeds. That came after some feed the company produced that contained ruminant MBM wound up being fed to a herd of Texas cattle, a violation of the 1997 ban. Federal authorities imposed a quarantine on the cattle.

“Until better solutions are in place, we have discontinued the use of ruminant bone and meat meal by removing the ingredient from all formulations and eliminating it from the inventories of our manufacturing plants,” Purina Mills President and Chief Executive Officer Brad Kerbs said in a statement.

“This step assures Purina Mills now operates at a 'zero risk' position for any formulation variance involving this ingredient in the future,” he said.

The FDA confirmed on Tuesday that the feed given to 1,222 cattle at the Texas feedlot contained the ruminant byproduct. Purina Mills then said it had purchased the cattle in question and would remove them from the food chain.

The cattle are four to six months old, about a year away from slaughtering age.

“The cattle will be used for non-human food purposes. This guarantees the meat from the cattle will not enter the human food supply,” the company said.

“The feed ingredient was inadvertently added to the cattle feed formulation as a result of human error,” it said.

FDA concurred with that view and with Purina Mills' actions.

Kerbs said that ruminant meat and bone meal was a “valuable ingredient” but was too risky to use at feed plants that make feeds for more than one species, including cattle.

“If we had dedicated milling facilities that only handled feed for a particular species where the ingredient is not banned, we would use it, no problem,” Kerbs said. “In multi-species mills where cattle feed is made, we can't.”

Purina Mills, with 49 plants, has capacity to produce 7.5 million tons of feed per year.


Several other feed companies said they had previously taken steps to eliminate ruminant MBM from their products.

“We felt it was not something we needed to have in our plants,” said Terry Myers of Consolidated Nutrition LC of Omaha, Nebraska, the sixth-largest U.S. feed producer. “We figured that was just one less risk that we needed to pass along.”

Myers said the company stopped using ruminant byproducts more than a year ago. Consolidated has capacity of 2.6 million tons per year.

Art Lurndal of Kent Feeds in Muscatine, Iowa, the eighth-largest feed maker, said his company had not used ruminant meat and bone meal for several years.

“We stopped using that quite some time ago in all our livestock feeds,” Lurndal said in an interview.

Kent produces about 2 million tons of feed yearly.


Other firms, including the top two feed makers, said that they had no immediate plans to stop using ruminant MBM given current nutrition formulas and FDA regulations.

Land O'Lakes Farmland Feed, the top U.S. livestock feed company with production of about 8.9 million tons a year, uses ruminant MBM for its non- ruminant feeds. But spokeswoman Lydia Botham said this week the company was constantly evaluating its manufacturing procedures.

“Whether we will continue to use it in feeds where it is allowed, we're continuing to evaluate that,” she said.

Cargill Inc, the second-largest U.S. feed maker with annual production of about 8 million tons, also said it had no plans to stop using MBM in feeds for non-ruminant species.

“We have a lot of confidence in the 1997 FDA regulation and it's most important that it be vigorously enforced,” Cargill spokesman Mike Mullins said in an interview last week.

MBM's importance as a feed ingredient for non-ruminants is its high protein content of 50% of more.

Aside from use in feeds, meat meal and other inedible fats can be used to produce soaps, paint and varnish, resins and plastics, lubricants, fatty acids and other inedible products.


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