Image by William Banzai
A central California cow tested positive for mad cow disease.
As we’ve previously noted, the government’s policy is ensuring additional cases of mad cow:
The government is so protective of the current model of industrial farming that private citizens such as ranchers and meat packers are prohibited from testing for mad cow disease, and even investigating factory farming may get one labeled as a terrorist, even though a paper in the American Society of Microbiology’s newsletter mBio shows that overuse of antibiotics by factory farmers creates “superbugs”.
And the government allows cows to be fed animal parts, which causes mad cow:
[Cows] are fed parts of other animals, which can give them mad cow disease.
[T]he identical industrial logic — protein is protein — led to the feeding of rendered cow parts back to cows, a practice the F.D.A. banned in 1997 after scientists realized it was spreading mad-cow disease.
Make that mostly banned. The F.D.A.’s rules against feeding ruminant protein to ruminants make exceptions for ”blood products” (even though they contain protein) and fat. Indeed, my steer has probably dined on beef tallow recycled from the very slaughterhouse he’s heading to in June. ”Fat is fat,” the feedlot manager shrugged when I raised an eyebrow.
F.D.A. rules still permit feedlots to feed nonruminant animal protein to cows. (Feather meal is an accepted cattle feed, as are pig and fish protein and chicken manure.) Some public-health advocates worry that since the bovine meat and bone meal that cows used to eat is now being fed to chickens, pigs and fish, infectious prions could find their way back into cattle when they eat the protein of the animals that have been eating them. To close this biological loophole, the F.D.A. is now considering tightening its feed rules.
”When we buy supplement, the supplier says it’s 40 percent protein, but they don’t specify beyond that.” When I called the supplier, it wouldn’t divulge all its ”proprietary ingredients” but promised that animal parts weren’t among them. Protein is pretty much still protein.
Dr. Michael Greger notes at Huffington Post:
Though some dairy farmers still wean calves on whole milk, the majority of producers use milk replacer, which too often contains spray-dried cattle blood as a cheap source of protein.According to the American Protein Corporation, which boasts to be the world’s largest spray-dryer of blood, the chief disadvantage of blood-based milk replacer is simply its “different color.”
Stanley Prusiner … won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of prions, the infectious proteins that cause mad cow disease. He was quoted in the New York Times as calling the practice of feeding cattle blood to young calves “a really stupid idea,” because it could complete the “cannibalistic” circuit blamed for the spread of the disease.
The European Commission also recommended against the practice of “intraspecies recycling of ruminant blood and blood products” — the practice of suckling calves on cows’ blood protein. Even excluding the fact that brain matter may pass into the trough that collects the blood once an animal’s throat is slit, the Commission report concluded a decade ago that “[a]s far as ruminant blood is concerned, it is considered that the best approach to protect public health at present is to assume that it could contain low levels of infectivity.” Since then, evidence that blood can be infectious has only grown, yet dairy calves in the United States are still drinking up to three cups of “red blood cell protein” concentrate every day.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration initially proposed to ban the feeding of blood and blood products to livestock, the agency ended up reneging on their much touted promise. Let’s hope that the newly reported case of mad cow disease in a California dairy cow will renew interest in closing the loopholes in feed regulations that continue to allow the feeding of slaughterhouse waste, blood and manure to farm animals in the United States.
In a second article, Greger writes:
More than a decade ago, the World Health Organization called for the exclusion of the riskiest bovine tissues — cattle brains, eyes, spinal cord and intestine — from the human food supply and from all animal feed to protect against the spread of mad cow disease. Unfortunately, the United States still allows the feeding of some of these potentially risky tissues to people, pigs, pets, poultry, and fish. Cattle remains are still fed to chickens, for example, and the poultry litter (floor wastes that include the feces and spilled feed) is fed back to cows. In this way, prions — the infectious proteins that cause mad cow disease — may continue to be cycled back into cattle feed and complete the cow “cannibalism” circuit blamed for the spread of the disease.
[T]he U.S. cattle industry may feed as much as a million pounds of poultry litter to cattle each year. A thousand chickens can make enough waste to feed a growing calf year-round. Although excrement from other species is fed to livestock in the United States, chicken droppings are considered more nutritious for cows than pig feces or cattle dung.
A single cow can eat as much as three tons of poultry waste a year, yet the manure does not seem to affect the taste of the subsequent milk or meat.
Cows are typically not given feed containing more than 80% poultry litter, though, since it’s not as palatable and may not fully meet protein and energy needs.
When the Kansas Livestock Association dared to shine the spotlight on the issue by passing a resolution urging the discontinuation of the practice, irate producers in neighboring states threatened a boycott of Kansas feedyards.
Maybe this new case of mad cow disease will reinvigorate consumer campaigns to close the “no-brainer” loopholes in feed regulations that continue to allow the feeding of such filthy feed to farm animals.