Saturday, December 27


"Cattle in other states may have eaten the same contaminated feed that infected a Washington state Holstein with mad cow disease," begins this Washington Post story, alarmingly enough, then comes the punch line: "but investigators who want to track the infection to its source are being confounded by the lack of an organized system that would lead them to the herd where the cow was born."

Of course. We're talking about a system overseen by the USDA after all, and this is their M.O. to a T. Keep the accountability of the individual producers (meaning massive factory farm operations) low and the resulting risk to the public high. Remember, "job one is to sell more beef for a better price."

(A side note, the flip side of "job one," is that they're now quarantining possibly-infected calves the cow had had, and one of the births was the cause of the animal's trip to the slaughterhouse - "the birth caused injuries that made the Holstein unprofitable to the farm, prompting it to be shipped to the slaughterhouse on Dec. 9." Yes, being a mother - its job description - made this animal something to throw away. That's yer "job one" industry, all right!)

As the story broke, officials worked to muddy public perception of how momentous this is, keeping the question open of whether any of the animal would have actually been sold to and eaten by anybody. "Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said the slaughtered cow was screened earlier this month and any diseased parts were removed before they could enter the food supply and infect humans." Isn't that reassuring? But inaccurate. Parts that would be definitely diseased may have been removed. But we don't know, as I pointed out below, what other parts may be diseased. That's why a 10,000-pound recall involving over hundreds of grocery stores was in order, and why people who ate it, or may have eaten it, deserve more accountability both on the cow's origin and the nature of its illness. Mike Read, a spokesman for WinCo Foods, where some customers have returned meat for a refund, related that others "have called in and said, 'I purchased it, and I have already eaten it and what should I do?'"

The only good answer is, sit there and hope other people learn from your mistake. Because it may unfortunately be too late for you to do anything. But it's not too late for the rest of the American public to stop buying beef.

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