In July of 2007 the USDA put rules into effect that required any cattle that became non-ambulatory at a packing plant prior to slaughter be reviewed by a veterinarian on a case by case basis, before the processing could proceed. A ruling this month has changed that. Joe Brown has more in this week’s From The Ground Up.
"At that packing plant, every animal that comes through is inspected for the ability to use that animal in the human food chain. After that inspection process, in the holding pens, before an animal goes into the packing plant, things can happen. Accidents do happen. A cow can break its leg. An animal can blow out a knee, can do something like that that puts the animal on the ground where the animal cannot get up, can’t rise anymore. So this rule’s really directed at those animals."
David Andersen is an Agricultural economist for Texas Agrilife Extension and says this rule has to do with the protocols for food safety related to Bovine Spongioform Encelphalopathy or BSE from a few years back.
"BSE’s a neurological disease and animals in advanced stages of that do fall down, can’t get up, and so one of the ideas is, one of the safeguards is, you may know it’s a broken leg, but if you eliminate all of those animals from the food chain, the you eliminate that problem. It’s just another layer of protection in the food chain."
Rules were already in place at sale barns, so the impact on producers, for the most part, had already been felt.
"An animal that’s come to the end of its productive life and it’s time to sell them, people have to make different decisions now and often decide earlier, to make sure that animal’s in good shape to make the trip to where it needs to go, and those rules have been in place for several years, so for producers, most of that stuff is probably done already."
I’m Joe Brown, tracing the journey our food makes from the ranch to our tables, From The Ground Up.