Many of you know that I am the Vice Chairman of the Cattle Health and Wellbeing Committee for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.  This is a volunteer position on a national committee which works to ensure good animal health, and the safety of the United States cattle herd.  We work with our government (United States Department of Agriculture–USDA) and our veterinarians from all across the country to accomplish our goal.

I shipped these steers to harvest today---right after I participated on a conference call regarding cattle disease surveillance. I know that Healthy Animals Make Healthy Beef, and I am confident that these steers and their herd mates will provide high quality and safe beef.

One of the aspects of maintaining a healthy cattle herd is the monitoring of disease.  This monitoring is done for two reasons: 1. to ensure that the good health of the US cattle herd is maintained, and 2. to ensure that only healthy animals enter the food production chain.

You can feel confident that the beef that you buy at the grocery store or in a restaurant is safe and nutritious...Only healthy animals are allowed into the food supply chain.

Dr. John Clifford of the USDA announced today that routine disease surveillance and testing at a rendering facility in California found a dairy cow that tested positive for atypical BSE (Bovine Encephalopathy).  BSE is more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.  A rendering facility is a place that dead animals are taken to for proper disposal.


My ranchers and I monitor the health of our animals from the time that they are little (like this guy in the picture) to the time that they make beef.

I believe that the finding today was a great demonstration of what an outstanding disease surveillance program we have in the United States.  A system has been in place in our country since the late 1990’s to ensure that this disease is controlled and isolated if discovered within the cattle herd—there have been only 4 confirmed cases of BSE in cattle in the United States to date.  A system has been in place in the United States ever since the disease was discovered to ensure that no animal with Bovine Encephalopathy ever enters the food chain.

Please trust me and the other cattle farmers across the nation who work so hard to provide you with safe and healthy beef.

If you would like more information on BSE, please visit  This is a great website to find accurate information on this disease.  In the meantime, feel confident that the beef that you feed to your family is safe—I believe that it is with every fiber of my being.  I am serving my family hamburgers tonight and I do it knowing that the beef is safe, nutritious and full of ZIP (zinc, iron and protein).


Filed under General, Nutrition (cattle and human)

19 responses to “

  1. I thought burning doesn’t destroy the prions in BSE?

    • Hi Bill:

      I am checking on that to make sure and then will get back to you.


      • Bill,

        USDA determines how exactly the carcass will be disposed of. As Dr. Haake stated below, typically the carcass is burned first to reduce the mass that must be disposed of. USDA has not yet announced (at least to my knowledge) how this animal will be disposed of.

        Good question!

  2. Pingback: BSE Confirmed In California Cow – Food Supply Safe « Agriculture Proud

  3. BSE prion is not destroyed by incineration or burning. Burining reduces the volume of the carcass. Less space is required in a certified landfill for disposal.

    • So… Do the prions go airborne in the smoke? Can they settle on grass and other plants for both animals and people to eat? If so, would it be smarter for the carcass to be treated in acid or some other method?

      Thanks Anne; Donna. I’m sure you have better things to do than research this. Anne has done a great job educating me on the subject, but this is a loose string for me. I am curious.

      • Donna Haake, DVM

        However this particular carcass is disposed you can be absolutely certain it is done according to internationally researched and recognized best practices.

  4. Paul D. Butler

    Help…….just read that USDA is looking for atypical BSE cow’s offspring. Is there any evidence that atypical BSE can be passed to offspring?


    • Donna Haake, DVM

      Atypical BSE is EXTREMELY rare. Followup on affected cow’s offspring is necessary to find evidence one way or the other if it can be passed to offspring. Follow up surveillence of offspring is standard procedure for many diseases affecting cattle, dogs, pigs even people

      • Paul D. Butler

        Any idea WHY USDA would waste resources and contribute to more public alarm by not only doing this “follow up”……but also issuing press releases to that effect……when based on their own best science…..there is no evidence of transmission of atypical BSE to offspring?

        “We actually don’t know if atypical BSE is transmissible at all.”


      • Hi Paul:
        I do not know the answer to your question regarding the press release. I share your opinion that it is critically important that consumers of beef remain confident in the product that we both work hard to produce.

        I can tell you that I agree with Dr. Haake’s comment that it is common practice to perform an epidemiological study when an unusual disease case is discovered. An individual’s personal bias would determine whether or not they would think that it is a waste of resources to do this.

        I believe that studying disease and disease patterns helps us to ensure that the health of the U.S. cattle herd remains at optimal levels. Epidemiological studies help us to understand animal disease and find ways to reduce or remove it from our cattle herds. Atypical BSE is very very rare, and this case provides our veterinary professionals the ability to study it and learn more about it.

        The important thing to remember is that all of the safeguards that we have put in place over the past 15-20 years have allowed us to ensure that U.S. beef is the safest in the world. The finding of this particular case of atypical BSE in a bovine simply demonstrates that the animal disease surveillance system that we have in place in the United States is outstanding.

        Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

      • Paul D. Butler

        Thanks Anne……for your thoughtful explanation………..also for the great work you do for our industry.

  5. Donna Haake, DVM

    USDA APIS is being completely transparent with press releases in an effort to keep consumers and stakeholders informed. The “Pink Slime” debacle is a case in point of lack of consumer awareness being exploited by media. Lean finely textured beef is a safe product that has been utilized in ground beef for many years. Sadly when this product was “new” neither the beef industry or USDA FSIS undertook a consumer education campaign

    • Paul D. Butler

      Thanks Donna for your defense of USDA. Will disagree with you. USDA is far from transparent in its dealings at almost every level. Agree with you about the travesty of the “pink slime” media hysteria.

      • Donna Haake, DVM

        Paul, I respect and understand your point of view regarding USDA transparency. You & I have never met. I earned the title Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1982. Anne has acknowledged my title in her comments. I sincerely thank her for her work, her energy and respect accorded to me .

  6. Anne,

    As you know the entire BSE completely grabs my attention and I greatly value your efforts and the efforts of others, like Donna, to take the time for education. At no time have I ever thought the beef that I eat or the beef that my family eats to be unsafe.

    However, South Korea was quick to ‘ban’ its US beef imports after the BSE event, and other countries get the jitters whenever a beef producing country like the U.S. has a confirmed case of BSE. It seems to me that the reduction of a carcass’ mass in a landfill is inconsequential to the total destruction of the prions in the carcass.

    Unfortunately, it seems that the entire U.S. beef industry hangs by this BSE thread. What I mean is one case of BSE confirmed out of millions of bovines and thousands of producers can bring an entire industry to its knees.

    Short of a terrorist act, it seems this disease affects the industry far, far more than it will ever affect the consumer. If that is the case, why doesn’t there seem to be more management controls for the eradication of BSE at the industry level? Burning the carcass just doesn’t sound like either the industry or the U.S. Government is on top of total BSE eradication. Funding, from either the industry or the government, should not be an issue with BSE eradication, so burning the carcass sounds like something we did in the 1950s and no one has bothered to create a better plan.

    Of course, maybe my knowledge on how to destroy prions is flawed?



    • Hi Bill,

      I think that I am seeing several questions in your comment so I will do my best to address them all.

      1. International trade is often linked more closely to politics than to animal health or food safety. Quite honestly, I do not know how to change that even though I do not agree with it. Our international markets are incredibly important to us (as you pointed out), and it saddens me that politics do not always rule with a balanced and well formed rational.

      2. The beef industry and our scientists have worked very hard over the past 20 years to eradicate BSE. If you take a look at, you will see that the cases of BSE have fallen drastically over this time period (since the peak of BSE as a cattle disease in 1992, the incidence has dropped 99%. In 1992, there were 37,311 cases worldwide—in 2011 there were 29). When you look at the world-wide population numbers of cattle, 29 cases virtually means that the disease is non-existent. There are many many things that we have done as a group of cattlemen (along with our professional veterinarian and scientist helpers) to accomplish this. I promise that we have not rested on our laurals on this issue.

      3. While it would be nice to live in a perfect world where no disease existed, that is not practical nor possible. It is my job as a caregiver of cattle and a producer of beef to do everything that I can every single day to eliminate animal disease and raise safe beef—that being said, total elimination will never practically occur. This particular case of BSE was atypical which means that it most likely occurred from a spontaneous and random mutation of the normal prions that existed in the bovine’s brain. This animal was almost 11 years old (which is old for a bovine) which gives credence to this belief that a random mutation occurred. As you know, nature is constantly evolving and mutating—it is not a static thing. Random mutating events will happen in nature—that is simply the science of living matter.

      4. As far as animal disposal, USDA uses practices developed nd accepted ainternationally to properly dispose of animals with disease. Mutated prions create a bit of a scientific challenge because they are so hard to kill. I have no doubt in my mind that Dr. Clifford and the rest of the scientists that are handling this case will dispose of the animal in a safe manner. The very smartest and best scientists in epidemiology and the study of animal disease (from all over the world) are taking care of this—I have faith that they know what they are doing.

      I hope that this helps,

  7. Donna Haake, DVM

    Bill, Burning carcasses isn’t and never has been a method of disposal for BSE carcasses confirmed or suspected. Animal carcasses destroyed in Foot and Mouth eradication programs are burned as are carcasses of animals suspected or confirmed of dying from anthrax. England now disposes of cattle affected by BSE by slaughtering them separately and burial of the parts/pieces in a certified landfill that has been sealed to protect surrounding land and water sources. Complete destruction of the BSE prion is possible in a laboratory environment using extreme high pressure and high temperature applied simoultaneously. Scientists, veterinarians, engineers have worked diligently to find a practical solution for destruction of prions. Best science is not always capable of overwhelming biology.and practicality. The US beef industry is best served by the calm resolve of all stakeholders from seed stock producers, cow calf producers, feedlot operators, harvest managers, government agencies and practicing veterinarans.

    • Donna,

      You’ve effectively addressed my concern. So if I can paraphrase, the reduction of mass by burning is so more bad stuff can fit in a ‘certified landfill’ since it is not financially practical to destroy prions.

      I’m just a layman, but I do think both the technology and industrial capacity already exists in the aerospace industry to destroy large amounts of carcasses if needed… not that it sounds like we need to do this or that we want to do this.

      The U.S. aerospace industry has giant autoclaves used to create/cook large carbon fiber aircraft sections, fuselages and wings. These things are large enough to drive a bus into or a load of dead cows. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if the temperatures and atmospheres are high enough in those industrial autoclaves.

      I do believe humanity could advance the tech if we needed to do so.

      My other concern seems to be more about the U.S. Beef industry itself. The point that I was trying to make is about saving an industry from ‘BSE’ rather than the consumer. The consumer is well protected at this point. The industry is not. My focus is on Anne’s “#1” point, of which she does not have a clear answer.

      I do believe that stronger agreements involving both the trade with our international partners and national policies of BSE management probably need a look. They need to work to manage misinformation and panic, especially if it is caused by one single 11 year old milk cow.

      Think about that. A simple dairy cow, in the dairy industry, has the potential to cripple or destroy the entire U.S. beef industry. That strikes me as rather silly, except that it can apparently happen and that there are not better protocols against it.


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