Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), Mad Cow,

Without a doubt, the anti-ag movements in this country are ramping up their fear mongering efforts about animal agriculture. As of 8:30 this morning, I have received six different formats for letters to the editor calling for an end to animal agriculture. In the next thirty days, many groups will attempt to plant seeds of fear in every media source possible. The need for all of us to be vigilant in presenting the facts has never stared us in the face to the degree that it is now.

If, in fact, we all accept the challenge to get involved in educating our neighbors, the impact of this BSE incident will be minimal. I STRONGLY encourage you to read all newspapers, keep your ears open in your community and engage yourself in this time of need. Your letter to the editor addressing issues with facts is the best tool you have to use. If you want any help at all, please call me at 970-481-1389 or email

These facts are the key talking points that you need to know and present.

* The U.S. began a surveillance program for BSE in 1990 and was the first country without evidence of the disease to test for it. The surveillance system targets all cattle with any signs of a neurological disorder as well as those over 30 months of age and animals that are non-ambulatory.

* The U.S. banned imports of cattle and bovine products from countries with the disease beginning in 1989.

* The disease only spreads to animals through contaminated feed. In 1997, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration instituted a ban on feeding ruminant-derived meat and bone meal supplements to cattle.

* BSE in the brain affects the brain and spinal cord of cattle. No infectivity has yet been detected in skeletal muscle tissue.

* BSE does not affect lactation therefore milk and milk products are considered safe.

* CJD occurs (human) in a form associated with a hereditary predisposition (approximately 5–10% of all cases) and in a more common, sporadic form that accounts for 85–90% of cases.

* 140 people worldwide have "apparently" contracted variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) from consumption of contaminated beef products.

* In comparison, 150 Americans die annually due to deer/automobile collisions

* 7000 Americans die annually because their medical doctors prescribe incorrect medications for them (Journal of American Medical Association)

* There are 831,000 beef cowherds in the US and 80% of these herds have less than 50 cows yet they produce 30 percent of nation’s calves (therefore, one contaminated herd does not affect the entire beef population in the US).

* $41 billion of gross output from beef production activity supports an additional $147.4 billion of economic output for a total of $188.4 billion of direct and indirect economic activity throughout the U.S. economy that is due to the beef industry.

* Safe guards against the transmission of this disease are in place and effective. The system is working and this cow was found because the strategy was put in place as a firewall to protect consumers, farmers and ranchers and the beef population.

Parting Words of Wisdom:

We have been talking about getting closer to the consumer and now is our chance. It is like coming off the bench in overtime to make the last shot in the championship game. If we haven’t played until now, this is our chance to be the hero. Just like in the big game, we have to remember to keep our cool and use what we have learned (and what we know) to get the job done. This should be looked at as an opportunity and not a crisis. Make the best of it – get to know the consumers and tell them the “real” truth. Every one of us is responsible for making sure that food producers are the ones who come out on top in this crucial game!

Trent Loos

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