Ongoing BSE Investigation
Terry Stokes, Chief Executive Officer, National Cattlemen's Beef Association
December 30, 2003

Good afternoon.  This is our fifth telebriefing in an effort to provide access to industry experts and the facts regarding this disease, this case and the safety of the beef supply.  We thought it was important to have this call before we go into the New Year’s holiday based upon the significant actions announced today. 

USDA announced today additional measures to ensure we continue to supply American consumers and consumers around the world with the safest beef supply. 

As USDA reiterated, the beef supply is safe, and these steps taken today are being done out of an abundance of caution

First, we support the announcement by USDA to ban downer animals from the human food chain.  It has always been NCBA’s policy to support the humane disposition of non-ambulatory animals on farms and ranches. We have held this position based on our commitment to animal well-being. We look forward to working with government officials on a system to continue disease surveillance and monitoring for these animals.

Additionally, we support the Department’s announcement to “test and hold” all animals that are part of its aggressive BSE surveillance program.  The Secretary said this program will continue to target older animals that are at higher risk for BSE.

Second, we support the action taken by USDA to require removal of certain specified risk materials from animals older than 30 months of age since this disease affects older cattle.  NCBA also supports the Secretary’s announcement to remove the small intestine from all cattle and prohibit its use in the human food chain. 

We understand this specified risk material list is consistent with the SRM requirements Canada put into place after its May 20 announcement of a BSE-positive animal. 

While none of the central nervous system tissue from the infected animal entered the human food chain, it is important from a trade perspective that there is North American uniformity in these policies. 

USDA also announced that the Department will broaden the rules for Advanced Meat Recovery. USDA already has a “test and hold” procedure for all AMR product, requiring zero presence of central nervous system tissue such as spinal cord.  We acknowledge USDA’s need to take this measure to further enhance consumer confidence in the beef supply. 

The Secretary also announced the Department will prohibit air-injection stunning, and NCBA supports this action.

We applaud the Secretary’s decision to speed up the creation and implementation of a national animal identification system.  NCBA has been an active participant in the Department’s task force on animal ID, and we welcome the accelerated timeframe.

Finally, NCBA and our partners at Cattle Fax have been in touch with multiple beef retail, foodservice, wholesale distribution and packing operations.  These operations are confirming that consumer demand for beef remains constant.

This is because U.S. consumers understand U.S. beef is safe.  The BSE agent is not found in meat.  We can say that based on multiple studies conducted since the late 1980s with BSE-positive cattle and cattle that were intentionally infected with the disease.  Even in these high infection studies, the BSE agent has never been found in meat.  Finally, none of the central nervous system tissue from this cow entered the human food chain.

Thank you.  We would be happy to take questions at this point.

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