25 March, 2006

Meat Industry Supports Science

and I don't mean it ironically. Three years ago, when the first case of bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE, or mad cow) was discovered in the U.S., the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture promptly created a rule forbidding individual farms and meatpackers from testing their cud-chompers' cadavers for the communicable prion that turns cow, bull, steer, and probably human, brains into Swiss cheese. (The American variety is apparently more like Havarti, and may be a different illness. But that's irrelevant for now.) The USDA has maintained all along that it instituted the rule as part of its eternal pursuit of consistency and high degrees of quality control. Those of us out here in war-on-science-landia suspected it had more to do with concealing for a longer time any evidence that the prion had become endemic in the herd, maintaining for a few years at least Americans' overconsumption of bovine musclature.

At the time, I wondered why a meatpacker desiring to export flesh to Japan wouldn't sue the USDA and demand the right to test its slaughter for prionic pollution. What happened to the constitutional "right to contract"? At last, someone has:
A Kansas meatpacker has sparked an industry fight by proposing testing all the company's cattle for mad cow disease.

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to look for the disease in every animal it processes. The Agriculture Department has said no. Creekstone says it intends to sue the department.

"Our customers, particularly our Asian customers, have requested it over and over again," chief executive John Stewart* said in an interview Wednesday. "We feel strongly that if customers are asking for tested beef, we should be allowed to provide that."
To which I ask, what the hell took you people so long? It's the kind of thing that makes me wish I had gone to law school after all, as maybe I could be spending my time suing the government for the right to conduct science that might protect the public. Jeez.

For my part, I've tried a couple portions of beef in the past 2 years. They were fine. Both times they were at Katz' Delicatessen in New York. I have no idea how the animals were raised, but I know how the meat was prepared, and that was most excellently. It would have been comforting to consume the salty fibers with confidence that they were not deeply infused with self-replicating misfolded proteins.

* From Slaughterhouse Central world headquarters in Kansas, it's the Deathly Show, with John Stewart. (Music up, applause, pan, zoom. Stewart gazes into camera, waves pen. Blood squirts from pen. Audience gasps in orgiastic horror and pleasure.)


"No significant difference has been shown between meat derived from prion-treated and non-prion-tested cattle." 

Posted by hibiscus

prion-tested. i guess i should have read the copy-and-paste chapter of the manual after all.

Reason #421 not to read blogs before morning coffee has been digested: I swore that the the title of this post was "Meth industry" and read the whole thing twice, very confused, trying to figure out what the hell speed has to do with prions and Havarti. This is why I can't afford to stop being a vegetarian--my brain has its own issues already.

Salty fibers: ewwww.

I'm highly skeptical about prion-testing's false negatives, since we still know so little about the structural biology, and that's where all the infectious biology is anyway.  

Posted by Saheli

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