The Mad Cow is Back. What this Means for You

A Mad Cow?


You’ve probably heard this already on the news. For the first time in 6 years, Mad Cow Disease has resurfaced in a single cow in central California. Earlier this week, the USDA notified the press. Eating meat from a mad cow leads to a fatal human brain disease. In the last 2o years, about 200 cases of human deaths have been attributed to Mad Cow.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is the proper scientific name for a disease that is a direct result of our modern factory farming practices. Instead of letting cows eat grass, we feed them animal byproducts (the stuff humans can’t or won’t eat). In the UK, where mad cow was first discovered in the 1990′s, the disease was attributed to serving cow brains and nerve to tissues to other cows. Cannibalism, if you will.

Since then, the British authorities have taken strict measures on two fronts:

1. limiting what can and can’t be fed to cows.

2. creating an elaborate tracking system that can identify every head of cattle from birth to death. That way, when a disease is discovered in one animal, it is much easier to check up on the cohort of animals it spent time with during its lifetime. This is especially important with BSE, which can take years from infection to outbreak.

And here in the US?

Only 4 cases have ever been reported. Not a high priority for the USDA, which regulates food safety when it comes to meat. This, despite massive restrictions on imports to Asian countries of our beef, with damages in billions of dollars to the US cattle industry over the past 15 years.

Although we have also changed the diet regiment of factory fed bovines here in the US, there is much less animal testing here than in other countries. The USDA tests about 40,000 slaughtered cows a year for various pathogens, but that’s a small fraction of the millions that are processed for meat. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “The United States has first-world resources and technology but a third-world animal identification system”

What do you think the beef industry should be doing to better serve and protect consumers, while keeping the cost of meat low?

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  • Heart0fali0n47

    I feel that all cows should be grass fed. How healthy is it for us to eat cows that are eating things that are harmful to us. What happens when you put something besides water in a plant? The plant looks terrible and wilted, imagine now if this same idea was applied to cattle. Our health is the most important factor of our lives and people take it for granted until they are sick. We need to raise healthy cattle to be healthy ourselves. Companies need to stop worrying bout profit, at the rate were going there willbe no consumers left.

  • CT

    Check your facts!  Actually, BSE surveillance IS a huge priority for USDA.  There is a strict feed ban in place in the US, there are rules about removal of all central nervous tissue from animals that are slaughtered, and there are rules about not sending “downer” cows into the food supply.   

    Your statistic about USDA testing 40,000 animals for “various pathogens” is incorrect as well.  Yes, USDA tests about 40,000 animals per year for BSE (not “various pathogens”… that number is way higher).  Let’s put that BSE number in perspective… USDA tests more than TEN times more animals for BSE than what other countries require.

    Three of those 4 animals that were identified in the US were NOT related to the “typical” case of BSE in cows — cows getting sick from eating feed from a contaminated cow.  Three cases, including the most recent one, were “atypical” — meaning it’s not related to the BSE acquired through eating feed, it is a spontaneous mutation that occurs.  Incidentally, that same protein mutation also occurs in humans.  Blame genetics, not feed. 

    The reason “only” 4 animals have been reported in the past 10 years is because USDA does such a great job. 

  • Dirk Wethington

    Simple solution. Stop eating animals.

    • EVIL food scientist.

      But they are SO TASTY!

      • Dirk Wethington

        Way to elevate the discussion there. Well played.

  • Goblue1800

    Our food supply for meat, fruits, and vegetables for eating is a risky business… is either samonella, ecoli, or mad cow disease…sheesh! :-(
    I know someone said the risk is small, but there we go with the odds…could be me!

  • Hadassoren

    Yes they should be grass fed. And isnt it CHEAPER to feed them grass than processed corn neal ir whatever garbage it is they are getting fed? I feel like the US would rather make more money than prevent the very people that buy from them from health and safety. Its insane.

  • OrganicOnly

    CT check your facts because they are WRONG! Only “4 animals…USDA doing a great job” give me a break. Only 4 animals because if they checked more they’d find more. Japan check all their cows we check a drop in the ocean of cattle in this country. Downer cows are sent to rendering plants, turned into meat and bone meal and fed back to cows and then end up on our plate…duh what do you think happens now?!

    Mad cow is being misdiagnosed as, now wait for it, here it comes: ALZHEIMER’S and Cruetzfeldt Jakob’s Disease. You got it. Right now alzhiemer’s is sky rocketing as a leading cause of death in the elderly and when you check the symptoms and brain autopsy it’s identical to mad cow!

    Plain and simple we are being lied to and fed a toxic poison called steak, hamburger, et al in this country. The milk isn’t safe either. Chickens as well. All fed the same thing!

    ORGANIC foods are the only way to avoid it all. At least for now….