‘Mad cow’ and beef prices

first_imgSecretary assures U.S. beef is safeU.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman remains confident inthe safety of the nation’s beef supply. “The risk to human healthfrom BSE is extremely low,” she said in a news release.BSE is a progressive neurological disease among cattle that isalways fatal. It belongs to a family of diseases known astransmissible spongiform encephalopathies.In the same family of illnesses is the human disease, variantCreutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). It’s believed to be caused byeating neural tissue, such as brain and spinal cord, fromBSE-affected cattle.Even without the BSE incident, McKissick had expected cattle andretail beef prices to retreat some from their record high pricesof 2003.”How much further prices fall will depend on how long the exportmarket remains closed and, more importantly, U.S. consumerreaction,” he said.Consumers shouldn’t rush to stock their freezers with low-pricedbeef. “Retail prices won’t fall as much as live animal prices.(They will drop) perhaps 5 to 10 percent once the shock anduncertainty passes with consumers,” McKissick said.His prediction depends on this staying an isolated event, hesaid. Aggressive government actions to keep it from happeningagain and trace any future infection to its source are factors,too. Cattlemen shouldn’t panicFor U.S. cattlemen, the holidays were “a real roller coasterride,” said Robert Stewart, a UGA Extension animal scientist.”Now, we’re somewhat in a wait-and-see mode.”Stewart urges farmers not to panic. “Cattlemen should hold theirground, as we will see the market rebound in their favor,” hesaid. “This is similar to the dairy buyout in 1996. The markettumbled, but it recovered.”He agrees that the industry’s fate lies in consumers’ hands.”Consumers should have the confidence they need to have that thebeef they eat is safe,” he said. By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaHow the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, alsoknown as “mad cow disease,” in the United Statesaffects the nation’s beef market depends heavily on consumerreaction, a University of Georgia expert says.The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced two weeks ago that apositive case of BSE had been found in an adult Holstein cow inWashington state.Only 10 percent exported”The market’s reaction will obviously be negative, but the fallshould not be as severe as in Canada,” said John McKissick, aneconomist with the UGA College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences. He heads the UGA Center for Agribusiness and EconomicDevelopment.”Canada exports 50 to 60 percent of their beef, while we onlyexport around 10 percent,” he said. “Like Canadian consumers,U.S. consumers need to understand that BSE is not transmitted byeating muscle cuts of beef and that the infected tissue isisolated from all animals in the slaughter/processing process.”Consumer demand for beef in Canada didn’t fall after BSE wasfound there last May because the consumers were aware, McKissicksaid.News reports show U.S. beef products being pulled from groceryshelves overseas in reaction to the finding. But McKissick saidU.S. beef prices would drop only by 15 percent if exports wereclosed for an extended time.”While this is a significant hit, it’s nowhere close to the 60 to70 percent decline Canada experienced,” he said.”Furthermore,” he said, “we don’t expect our major tradingpartners — Japan, South Korea, Canada and Mexico — to remainclosed if this proves to be an isolated case associated with theCanadian case, as it now appears.”last_img read more

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