A single case of mad cow disease discovered in a dead dairy cow in California shook the beef industry, but the industry seems to be rebounding.
United States Sen. Ben Nelson said he greets any such news with concern.
“Well, I’m always concerned about the discovery of any kind of BSE issue or any other kind of controversy that could adversely impact beef,” Nelson stated during a conference call with reporters. “It’s understandable that there is a risk always, but the risk is so very, very low.”
Authorities in California discovered the case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) when the animal arrived in a truckload of other dead cows April 18th. Samples taken from the cow were sent to a food safety lab at the University of California, Davis. Further testing is being conducted at the Agriculture Department lab in Iowa.
Federal agriculture officials determined the animal had atypical BSE, which means it didn’t contract the disease from eating infected feed. The cow was never intended to enter the food chain.
Any news reports about mad cow disease triggers widespread concern in the industry, which won’t even use the term “mad cow disease”, preferring the scientific name which is shortened to BSE. Nebraska Beef Council Executive Director Anne Marie Bosshamer says science should be what consumers focus on, not the fear that arises at the mention of mad cow disease.
“People need to remember that and so, sometimes I think people can get caught up in the hype, but really if you look at facts and science and educate yourself, you’re able to discern a real good, common sense way to make a decision.” Bosshamer tells Nebraska Radio Network.
It appears the industry has dodged a bullet. While South Korea halted the sale of United States beef initially, other major trading partners assured U.S. officials they would continue to import American beef. The assurances provided by Japan, Mexico and Canada allowed live cattle futures to rebound sharply after tumbling when the news first broke.
Bosshamer says the case seems isolated, the scare seems to have passed and the industry hasn’t been harmed, a relief for the entire state economy.
“The beef industry truly is an economic driver for our state, bringing in over $12 billion to our economy,” according to Bosshamer.
Agriculture officials say there have been three confirmed cases of BSE in cows in the United States. One, in 2003, was discovered in a Canadian-born cow in the state of Washington. The other cases occurred in Texas in 2005 and in Alabama in 2006.
AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews Nebraska Beef Council Executive Director Anne Marie Bosshamer [6 min.]