I’m sure some people may have heard about the positive BSE cow that was recently found in Alberta. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to start a blog to clarify things that happen in the industry that maybe aren’t portrayed very well in the media. I think this case is a perfect example of something that is actually a positive for the beef industry when we really take an in depth look at the situation and not simply rely on the media’s interpretation of the event.
Firstly, it would be great if we could stop referring to it as “mad cow”. I think that conjures horrible images in consumer’s minds and is unrelated to the actual prognosis. The proper name is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). BSE is a progressive neurological disease in cattle. In addition, humans cannot contract BSE unless eating certain parts of the animal: the Specified Risk Material or (SRM). All SRM material is removed in animals who are 30 months and over in all slaughter facilities in Canada.
It was very unsettling news for cattle producers in Canada to hear the words BSE in the media. It takes us back to the dark years (2003) when our cattle were instantly worth nothing. For about ten years after that prices were still very low and it was hard and sparse years owning cattle. For example on our family ranch we probably lost over 1 million dollars of income during that ten year span. I am proud to say we made it through those years with our ranch (most of our land and cattle herd) still in tact. We had to find ways to subsidies our business of cattle production. We were lucky enough to have merchantable timber on our place so we did some logging, we also found a gravel vein so developed a gravel pit and sold gravel and unfortunately we had to sell some land as well to make it through. In addition, we could not make any positive progress because there was simply no money. We had to rely on what we already owned and lived very modestly. We have had some positive years lately, but the words BSE still make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. However, once the initial fear from the word subsided I got to thinking that this finding was actually very positive for the Canadian Beef Industry. This case was found because of the ongoing screening and surveillance Canada does for BSE. Canada, because of our status as “controlled BSE risk country”, needs to test 30 000 head of dead, dying or diseased cattle per year. These cattle being tested are not going into the food supply chain and the cow that recently tested positive was found from this screening and was not in the food supply chain. That means Canada’s surveillance system is working because we found this animal and she never made it into the human food system. I think this really shows how far Canada has come since our initial outbreak in 2003. I wish that was the story the media told!
I have attached some links to some websites with factual information regarding what is happening with the BSE case found in Alberta. I challenge and encourage our followers to find real information to base opinions and judgments on.
Canadian Cattlemen’s Association BSE Update
Canadian Cattlemen’s Association webpage