Wednesday, February 04, 2004

BSE Tidbit of the Day

The guy who killed the cow testing positive for BSE has an interesting take on the story.
    Contrary to reports from the federal Department of Agriculture, he asserts that the cow he killed was not too sick to walk. And it was caught not by routine surveillance, he says, but by "a fluke": he killed it outdoors because he feared it would trample other cows lying prostrate in its trailer, and the plant's testing program called for sampling cows killed outside only.

    "Mad cows aren't downers," he said. "They're up and they're crazy." The Agriculture Department disputes his account. Dr. Kenneth Petersen, a food safety official, faxed copies of the Dec. 9 inspector's report saying the cow was "sternal," or down on its chest.

    Mr. Louthan said he believed the government changed the report on Dec. 23, during the panic at Vern's when a positive test was found. The "smoking gun," he said, is that it is the only one on the page marked "unable to get temp" while other cows' temperatures were recorded. It is easy, he said, to get a rectal temperature from a downed cow but hard from a jumpy one.
In addition, he goes on to say this:
    The now famous cow, he said, was a white Holstein from the Sunny Dene Ranch in Mabton, Wash.

    She was "a good walker," he said. As the driver poked her with a cattle prod, her eyes were "all white, bugging out."

    "She wouldn't come down that step," he went on, "and I knew she was fixing to double back in and trample the downers, and that's a mess," so he killed her there.

    Mr. Louthan was also the plant's carcass splitter, and he has a warning about that too.

    With a 400-pound band saw, he said, splitters cleave the spinal column from neck to tail as hot-water jets blast fat and bone dust off the saw. The slurry, with spinal cord in it, "runs all over the beef," he said. The carcasses are then hosed with hot water and sprayed with vinegar.

    Bucky Gwartney, director of research for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, confirmed that most American slaughterhouses do the same. Since the Dec. 31 ruling that all cows older than 30 months must have their brains and spinal cords removed, "processors are actively looking at changes," he said.
I know he could simply be wrong or confused. But given some of the information I've seen about BSE and how the beef industry works, I know that I don't trust the Department of Agriculture regarding what happened on that day.