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050616 Beef Industry Officials Face Demonstrators

June 11, 2005

St. Paul, MN - Beef producers and regulators from all over the country are in the Twin Cities talking about the safety of your meat.

But it's what's going on outside the meeting that's been cooking up interest.

Protesters insist the testing program for mad cow disease in the U.S. is so poor, it puts consumers at risk.

Those in the beef industry say it would be "economic suicide" not to do all they can to protect us.

The demonstrators tried to make their point in dramatic fashion, decked out in hazardous material protective suits, they used baby bottles and buckets filled with what they said was cows' blood to dramatically illustrate their concerns.

John Stauber wrote a book on mad cow disease in the U.S. He says people need to know what’s in the beef they eat, “This issue is about human health and life and death.”

The protestors decried U.S. agriculture policies which allow beef producers to feed their cattle protein- rich blood from other animals.

Organic beef and dairy farmer Jim Goodman says feeding animals other animal parts is unhealthy, “We know that feeding animal by-products causes mad cow disease.”

A few hundred yards away, at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus, 200 beef producers and regulators were discussing economic and safety issues regarding mad cow disease, also called BSE.

James Reagan of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says America’s beef supply is well monitored, “We've tested over 375,000 head of cattle, high-risk cattle. We have detected zero cases of BSE.”

Reagan says increasing testing for mad cow disease, which is what the demonstrators want, is unnecessary and cost-prohibitive, “You're looking at an additional cost of $40-$45 per head and it's a cost that's going to be pushed down on consumers that is unrealistic. Why would you test for something that you know is not going to be there. You're not going to find it in cattle less than 30 months of age.”

Author Stauber says the testing program in the United States is a joke, a farce. He and others warn that American consumers have a false sense of confidence, which they call dangerous.

Since the mid-1980s, 150 people in Europe and Asia have died after eating beef tainted by mad cow disease.

In that same time period, only one cow in America has been found to have the disease and it was imported from Canada.

Reagan points to that fact and says the demonstrators are simply trying to scare consumers, “We have not only the highest quality beef in the world, we also have the safest supply of beef.”

In Japan, every head of cattle is tested for mad cow disease before it is processed for consumption. In the U.S. about 1 in every 100 animal is tested.


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