California mad cow case highlights major food safety issues in meat supplies

Mad Cow

Looks like PETA was right when it sued the California Milk Board for its advertising campaign asserting that “Happy cows come from California.”

The USDA has now confirmed that mad cows come from California, well, a mad cow.

Authorities conducting random testing for mad cow disease at a Central California rendering plant came across the first in six years and only the fourth case ever discovered in the United States last week.

First asserting that the animal showed “no signs” of the disease, also known as BSE, the USDA later issued another statement saying that the infected cow had been “humanely euthanized” at the dairy farm where it had been supplying mad cow milk “after it developed lameness and became recumbent.”

The European Union tests all of its at-risk meat. Japan tests everything, at risk or not. The United States agency charged with protecting the American food supply tests 40,000 of the estimated 35 million cattle slaughtered each year within its borders – randomly.

One of the hallmark symptoms of BSE is the inability of a cow to stand. The cow discovered to have mad cow was lying down, a sign of possible disease, and there is no mandate in place, first, to test the cow, and second, to report the lame animal to the USDA.

Masquerading as a watchdog group, the USDA has a long history of being stocked with former livestock industry executives whose first priority is the $160 billion-profits of the very industry they are charged with policing.

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A New York Times exposé in 2010 reported how the USDA created Dairy Management to team up with companies like Domino’s Pizza to get Americans to eat more saturated-fat-laden cheese through a $12 million marketing campaign using millions of taxpayer dollars. This is the same organization working to address the obesity epidemic by discouraging eating too much fat.

Also the same that recently told factory farmers that loading their animals with antibiotics for increased growth is now frowned upon but its fine to lace feed with superbug-creating antibiotics to prevent sickness in the overcrowded, filthy conditions of an industrial feed lot. Oh, and the farmers get to police themselves.

And now the meat-and-milk-industry knight has written in on his mad cow to reassure the meat-and-milk-addicted public that the BSE beast has been slain.

The USDA stumbled upon the needle in the haystack. If I ate meat, I’d insist it were only from the 40,000 cows that are tested. Eating the remaining 349,960,000 is like playing Russian roulette with your brain.

When Creekstone Farms, a beef processing company in Kansas, set up a mad cow disease testing facility at its plant with the intent to test all of its meat, the USDA refused to sell it the necessary test kits saying this one company testing all of its animals would undermine faith in the agency’s approach of random testing. The USDA blocked a farm from voluntarily testing all its own meat. Does this move represent loyalty to consumers, or an industry, like many others, that puts profits before safety and sound science?

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The mad cow was discovered at a rendering facility never meant for human consumption. The problem is that pieces of this cow could have potentially ended up as filler in feed for egg-laying hens. In turn, the chicken excrement and the feed that spills onto the floor is collected and fed back to cows – business as usual in an industry that exists only on filth, misery and death.

Even minus the chicken poop, meat is covered in disgusting additives. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine President Dr. Neal Barnard wrote in his blog recently that

“without any labeling requirement, meat processors can lace meat with chemicals used to bleach fabric, disinfect pools and hot tubs, and bleach wood pulp, just to name a few.”

The recent “pink slime,” or “lean beef trimmings” revelations have disgusted consumers to the point that the maker of the ammonia-treated “pink slime” meat making its way into school lunch lines has been forced to shut down operations at all but one plant, and have led the USDA to consider removing it from the school lunch program.

This goes to show that while it might feel like these huge corporations have all the power, they really have nothing without our money. When consumers decide something is disgusting enough to stop buying it, the corporation has to either shut down or change its practices.

You are what you eat. You eat cows. Cows eat chicken poop. Double Quarter Pounder with cheese, anyone?

Further reading and sources:
Tina is a journalist and mother of three who's lived all her life in the South Bay of Los Angeles except for a two-year stint in the heart of Spain. She believes humans have the capacity to make this a beautiful world for all species to live, and mothers have a special charge to raise their children to enjoy, love and respect all creatures.