June 24, 2005
The U.S. government is investigating a confirmed case of Mad Cow Disease in the United States, and it is now making some people a little weary about buying beef.
Recent test results confirm what some government officials already knew. This case of Mad Cow is the second case in the U.S., but the first case of a U.S. born cow to strike the multi-billion dollar industry.
"Results confirm the presence of BSE in this animal," said Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns. He later added that it was an animal that was blocked from entering the food chain thanks to the firewalls that they have in place.
The Secretary of Agriculture tried to reassure the beef eating public today, saying the beef supply was safe. The cow was first identified in November as a potential carrier. Initial field tests were negative. However, a third test came back positive and an independent lab in England confirms the cow had the disease. This lack of knowledge scares some.
"What's really critical about this case is not what the USDA is telling us, but what they're not telling us," said Caroline Smith DeWaal from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. For example, they haven't released the age of the cow or the farm or ranch where it was born.
Back home in Virginia, beef cattle is a $320 million a year business. Virginia ranks 20th in the United States in the total amount of beef cattle. The threat of Mad Cow scares some, but one shopper at the Food Lion in Albemarle County says he has been searching for a while for an alternative.
"Way before Mad Cow, I've been trying to find natural beef that is grain fed just because you hear about the hormones and chemicals that they give to cows," said Brian Bristow.
With this most recent scare, the government is standing by its industry.
"There's a better chance that you will get hurt crossing the street to get to the grocery store, then [getting hurt] by the beef you buy in the grocery store," said Johanns.
The beef industry claims the cow was identified early, and is not a threat to the rest of the beef supply.