Beef remains a prime choice in area

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 29, 2004

The first-ever episode of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as "mad cow disease") in the United States has prompted the Covington County Cattlemen's Association to ensure the public the beef they eat is in no way contaminated with the disease.

"It was an isolated case," said Glen Powell, president of the association. "The infected part of this single animal did not get into the food supply."

The cow, which was found in Washington state, was traced back to Alberta, Canada, where another cow previously has tested positive for BSE.

The disease affects the brain of cattle, not the "meat" part, or the muscle, which the majority of Americans eat.

"It's important for the public to know the US beef supply is safe," Powell said.

"BSE is an animal health issue and not a food safety issue," he added. "BSE is a disease of the brain and central nervous system, and it is not found in the muscle meat."

Powell said he doesn't think another episode of BSE will be found in the country.

Since the incident in Washington, several countries have cut trading ties with the US, but some of those ties could be mended soon.

"Maybe they'll announce the trade opening back up soon," Powell said.

According to Powell, the prices of beef in the states didn't go down like the association had anticipated, and the price of some beef actually inflated.

The Alabama Livestock Market News reported last week the slaughter cow and bull prices were one-to-two dollars higher (than the first week of 2003).

"The prices didn't go down as badly as we predicted. They probably went down about 10 percent," he said.

Powell emphasized beef is safe to eat, and the public should not be worried about the BSE episode.

"Consumers can continue to enjoy eating beef with complete confidence," he said.

Even with the market a little hurt because of the BSE case, Powell said he expects the market to bounce back.

"There has been a small dip in the cattle market, but it is rapidly recovering," he said.

The majority of Americans aren't overly concerned with beef, according to Powell.

"Beef demand in the US continues to be strong, and consumer confidence is nearly 90 percent," he said.

A recent USA Today/CNN Gallup poll showed that only one in six Americans are concerned they or one of their family members might contract the mad cow disease from eating beef.

"Beef is about the safest thing you can eat," Powell said.