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Test EVERY Cow in the Food Chain

Test EVERY Cow in the Food Chain
Like Other Countries Do

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Heifer International: Give a Gift of Cow?

Click on title above to go to "Heifer International" website, where you can see they won the "Hilton Humanitarian" is interesting to note that Hilton Corporation is a "Welfare Rancher" in the USA

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gov 2 Giv Big-Ag a hand - Will Create Shortage to Strengthen Demand

From the website of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture:

Washington, DC - The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) this week released a proposal to address the critical economic situation of American dairy, pork, and poultry producers, while simultaneously providing much-needed nutritional assistance to Americans facing hunger due to job loss and other economic hardships.

People whose careers involve creating, fattening, transporting and slaughtering sentient nonhumans whose parts and secretions will then be used as food are having some financial difficulties.

Along with the rest of the country.

To "help these industries survive this economic downturn and gain a solid footing for the future," NASDA is proposing a "bold solution: a plan to take extra inventories off the market to reduce supply, all while providing vital nutritious, protein-rich foods to those who are unable to afford them, which is in more demand now than ever before."

Translation? First let's deconstruct:

The recession has caused a decrease in demand for animal products. I say stop right there, as Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman and Jonathan Safron Foer could be behind the decrease. We don't really know. We do know that a feature of a recession is that all sectors are affected in the same direction, and I don't see anyone proposing a bold solution for writers or editors.
What if consumers have genuinely been paying attention and have realized that animal products aren't that healthy, are an environmental disaster (the way most are produced) and not sustainable and are a blatant, direct signs of the largest and longest injustice in human history? What if Meatless Mondays and all of the messages about decreasing consumption of animal products have made a difference and consumers have spoken? What if this has nothing to do with the recession or less than one might think (nothing's a tough sell)? Why the rescue plan? The market has spoken; this is supposed to be capitalism, not corporate socialism.
But all of that aside, the bold solution is: Americans who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be the targeted consumers of the surplus (in addition to military food assistance programs in places like Afghanistan).

"By removing these excess products off the market, and placing them into food assistance programs, we will quickly stabilize the prices for these products, allowing the producers to break-even, or perhaps even make a profit on their farms. Simultaneously, our fellow citizens struggling to put food on their table will find themselves with more opportunities for healthy, protein-rich meals."

So people with lower incomes, who already have higher incidences of obesity and diabetes and already don't eat as well as people with higher incomes, will be the intended consumers of exactly the type of foods they don't need to be eating. And that's being done as a favor of sorts, a gift to them by the benevolent NASDA.

Perhaps just as ironic is the mission of the NASDA, which includes "protection of animal and plant health, stewardship of our environment, and promoting the vitality of our rural communities."

Aussies Get Serious about Mad Cow Disease , USDA "Amused"

Aussies NAIS Working

A national system to track diseased cattle remains a work in progress here, but
Australia has developed a successful system that some say is worth replicating
by Erin Snelgrove
Yakima Herald-Republic

Celso Alvarez attaches an identification tag to a cow at the George DeRuyter &
Sons Dairy in early November 2009. The tags contain a wealth of information that
allow the cow to be identified and tracked throughout its life.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yakima County is home to an estimated 286,432 meat and dairy
cattle. It's also where the nation's first confirmed case of mad cow disease
occurred six years ago. That discovery helped prompt efforts to develop a
national system to track diseased animals. Reporter Erin Snelgrove traveled to
Australia and reports today on how that nation developed such a program and how
efforts are progressing here.

CLONCURRY, Australia -- Dust billows in the sun-drenched sky as 600 cattle
charge through the chute. They act as one, a writhing mass of legs and hooves.
Flies swarm in their wake, and ranchers stand on alert, ready to jump into the
fray if needed.

As each animal passes, its ear tag transmits data that's entered into a national
database, allowing authorities to track each animal from birth to death.

In a global economy, where mad cow, hoof and mouth and other diseases can crush
a market overnight, the ability to track cattle can be crucial.

In Australia, where 65 percent of all beef is exported, it's especially

"It gives us lifelong traceability," said Ray Campbell, who owns a 26,000-acre
cattle operation in Cloncurry. "It gives us the edge in the world market.
Australian beef is known as clean and green."

In the United States -- where discovery of a single case of mad cow disease at a
Mabton dairy in December 2003 prompted Japan, Korea and others to ban U.S. beef
imports for more than a year -- some see the Australian system as worth

Since 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been attempting to develop a
program similar to Australia's.

But not everyone likes what the USDA has been proposing.

"This is overly intrusive, overly costly," said Bill Bullard, chief operating
officer of R-CALF, a Billings, Mont.-based organization representing thousands
of cattle producers in 47 states.

"There's no justification for the onerous regulatory scheme the USDA is
proposing ... We think this is un-American."

Whether a system such as Australia's can be developed in the United States
remains to be seen, but most in the Australian beef industry said they were glad
a universal tracking system is in place.

"From time to time, individuals indicate it's a load of garbage," Campbell said.
"But they're getting fewer and fewer."

As the world's second-largest beef exporter -- only Brazil exports more --
Australia had compelling reasons for ensuring its products are safe and

In the 1990s, it watched the spread of mad cow disease in England. Mad cow, or
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), is a chronic, degenerative disease
affecting the central nervous system of cattle.

Scientists suspected that people who eat the brain, spinal cord or other
infected tissues from BSE-infected cattle can develop the incurable and
always-fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which destroys the brain and
causes dementia, memory loss, personality changes, hallucinations and other
involuntary body movements.

The British government ultimately destroyed more than 4.3 million cattle as a
safety measure because it didn't know which animals were infected.

In Australia, there was general agreement in the government and industry on the
concept of a tracking system to identify which cattle may have been exposed to a
disease, and even what they ate.

The Mabton case was suspected to have been caused by feed that a dairy cow ate
in Canada that included brains and other internal cattle organs infected with
BSE. However, authorities were unable to determine which other cattle might have
eaten the same feed or where they ended up.

Despite the general consensus in Australia on the need for tracking, working out
the details wasn't easy.

Ranchers, for example, were reluctant to disclose private business information,
such as the number of cattle they owned, in the highly competitive beef market.

James Lord, owner of the May Downs cattle station, a 600,000-acre operation in
Mount Isa, Australia, said cost was his top worry. Already, land rents were
increasing and complaints about the cost of government regulation loom as large
there as in the United States.

Ear tags alone cost the equivalent of about $2.80 U.S. each. For a large
rancher, that can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars.

Lord now thinks the database has promise. One day it could be used to track
fertility and weight -- data that could improve herd quality and economic

In the meantime, he said the ability to trace diseases helps reassure
international customers about product safety.

"We have a good, clean image. We have to maintain that image," he said.

The system works by clipping an ear tag encrypted with a 15-digit number to each
animal. The code has the uniqueness of a Social Security number and is
transmitted via radio or electronic frequencies to machines placed wherever
cattle are being moved from one operation to another. The numbers in the
machines are then transferred into a national database. Every time the animal
moves to a different farm, ranch or stockyard, the database is updated.

By 2006, a system was in place to track the movements of every one of
Australia's approximately 28 million cattle. Ranchers and producers are required
to participate.

The database program, which includes proprietary information from ranchers, is
administered by Meat and Livestock Australia, a privately operated,
producer-owned company. The company collects the equivalent of $4.50 U.S. on the
sale of each head of cattle. That money funds not only the tracking program but
also a wide range of other activities, including international marketing and
research and development.

Monitoring for compliance is conducted by each of Australia's state governments,
and there are penalties for violations. While fines vary by location, they
typically run the equivalent of $930 U.S., plus court costs.

Dale Saunders, a sale yard manager in Cloncurry, said the system isn't perfect.

"There are still a few kinks," he said. "We still have 10 percent to work on
yet. ... As people learn to understand it, it's getting better."

Sometimes tags don't work or they fall out, and sometimes people will transfer
cattle without reading the tags properly. Still, there's a general acceptance.

"I feel it's been effective," said Campbell, a Cloncurry rancher. "We use it as
a marketing tool. ... It's like any industry. We've come a long way. You have to
change with the times."

Changing with the times hasn't been as easy in the United States.

Perhaps that's because, unlike Australia, the United States exports only about
10 percent of its beef. As a result, there's less pressure to satisfy a world

But when that international trade is disrupted -- such as in 2003 when that cow
with BSE was detected in Mabton -- the results can still be disastrous.

After the outbreak, American beef was banned for 18 months by Japan. That
country was the world's largest foreign buyer of U.S. meat and had imported more
than $1 billion worth annually.

A similar ban by South Korea cost the U.S. industry an estimated $1.6 billion
over two years.

To this day, Japan, Korea and a number of other Asian nations require beef
importers to meet standards that are stricter and more expensive than standard
international guidelines.

In the wake of the mad cow scare, the USDA announced in 2004 the framework for a
national tracking process known as the National Animal Identification System, or

The USDA's long-term goal is to track the source of diseased livestock within 48
hours to stop its spread and remove any cattle suspected of carrying disease.

So far, it's spent about $147 million developing the program.

But its efforts have been slowed by resistance from the industry, which voices
many of the same concerns raised by Australian producers when that nation was
developing a program in the 1990s.

As a result, beef producers here aren't required to participate in NAIS. Only
about 37 percent of the nation's livestock producers take part on a voluntary

The USDA says that without mandatory participation, the program won't be

Jack Field, executive director of the Washington Cattlemen's Association in
Ellensburg, concedes a side benefit of a tracking system could be greater access
to the world market.

Still, he said those who want to export around the globe -- and get the
resulting premium prices for their beef -- are already doing so.

"The industry has been able to recapture current export markets with the
voluntary system," he said. "The free market drove that process."

Similar objections are raised by Bullard of R-CALF, who said the United States
has already done a great job of preventing and controlling diseases in the
livestock industry.

He thinks the proposed system is more about promoting global commerce than
disease control.

"We believe this is an attempt by the USDA and meat packers to comply with
international standards for international commerce," he said. "It's
misrepresented as a disease program."

But Jay Gordon, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation in
Elma, said that argument is a red herring.

"This is primarily about disease," he said.

"If we can't trace where foot and mouth disease is, what's left after the pile
gets through burning we won't be able to sell," he said, referring to how
England burned vast numbers of cattle carcasses that were feared diseased in the

"This debate is getting old," he said. "We're risking so much by being

Dan DeRuyter, a partner in George DeRuyter & Sons Dairy -- a 4,000-head
operation in Outlook -- has been preparing to participate in NAIS for several
years. He already uses electronic tags to record everything from a cow's family
tree to its milk production.

Most dairy producers already use that kind of identification program to manage
their herds. But DeRuyter said the next step is to integrate some of his data
with the national system. He supports the USDA and its efforts to implement a
universal program.

"Anything that would reassure the consumer we have a quality product is good for
us," said DeRuyter, whose family has been in the dairy business for about 40

Others are more skeptical.

The USDA conducted 14 listening sessions nationwide to take comments on the
program, including one that attracted about 75 Western livestock producers in
Pasco in May. Like Australia, concerns about cost were voiced.

If 90 percent of the beef and dairy industries participated in NAIS, the USDA
estimates the annual cost at $176 million. That breaks down to $4.91 per animal.
Buying and applying the tags makes up three-fourths of the expense.

The USDA estimates the cost for consumers would be less than one-half of 1

There's also concern by some cattlemen that confidential information would leak
from a federal database. Such information could include a producer's herd size,
which could aid competitors.

"There's fear of the unknown and who will control the database," Field said.

A few ranchers even worry that animal-rights groups could somehow gain access to
the information to use against them or that their cattle will be tracked by

Field dismisses such claims as unrealistic, but believes the USDA's proposal has

"The current federal approach -- one size fits all -- is poorly executed," he

If a database is created, many Washington cattle producers want it controlled by
the industry, like Australia's privately operated system.

An ideal program, according to many ranchers, would be privately operated
systems for each state that have uniform standards for data retrieval. They
believe such state-based databases would be more accurate.

"A huge (national) database would never be up-to-date," said Leonard Eldridge,
Washington state veterinarian with the state Department of Agriculture in

"We know our state. We don't know other states," he said. "When there's a need
for animal tracking, disease tracking, we'll share with the USDA and other state

Neil Hammerschmidt, NAIS program coordinator in Washington, D.C., said all
options are being considered, but the concern is having a program that can be
shared universally at the local, state and federal level.

Field and Eldridge hope to overcome these obstacles, and are discussing ways to
develop such a system. They contend the federal government can set up the
program's parameters, and each state can manage and control it. The states'
veterinarians would work with other veterinarians and issue tags.

To Field, a state-run program is an acceptable compromise between a national
system and no system.

"Now it appears the USDA isn't willing or ready to consider changing its
direction," he said. "It can be frustrating to see the USDA political machine

* Erin Snelgrove can be reached at 509-577-7684 or\

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

US to Short-Change Consumers to Help Big-Ag

NASDA Offers Solution to Crisis Facing Dairy, Pork, and Poultry Producers

American farmers and producers providing critical food assistance to fellow struggling Americans

Washington, DC - The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) this week released a proposal to address the critical economic situation of American dairy, pork, and poultry producers, while simultaneously providing much-needed nutritional assistance to Americans facing hunger due to job loss and other economic hardships.

“Each and every day, we watch as producers in our states go out of business. The current oversupply in the marketplace is causing dairy, pork, and poultry producers to accumulate debt as never before,” said NASDA President Ed Kee. “I am pleased we came together as a national organization to offer a solution to assist our producers. At the same time, our plan will provide vital aid to those Americans also greatly affected by the economic downturn.”

To date, a number of potential solutions have been proposed to help these industries survive this economic downturn and gain a solid footing for the future. Individual producers, through no fault of their own, are going out of business. Before it is too late for many producers, NASDA is proposing a bold solution: a plan to take extra inventories off the market to reduce supply, all while providing vital nutritious, protein-rich foods to those who are unable to afford them, which is in more demand now than ever before. As of July 2009, there are nearly 36 million Americans currently participating in the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – over a 23% increase from just a year ago.

Leonard Blackham, Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food, and leader of the NASDA working group, explained, “By removing these excess products off the market, and placing them into food assistance programs, we will quickly stabilize the prices for these products, allowing the producers to break-even, or perhaps even make a profit on their farms. Simultaneously, our fellow citizens struggling to put food on their table will find themselves with more opportunities for healthy, protein-rich meals.”

The NASDA plan would establish a tiered-purchase program for the dairy and pork industries, as well as a one-time purchase of turkey products. For dairy, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) would begin with a purchase 75 million pounds of cheese and additional dairy products, as determined by USDA. This would be done in three equal stages over a 120-day period, or until the target all-milk price of $16/cwt – the cost of production – is met.

To deal with the excess product in the pork sector, a purchase by USDA of cold storage inventories of pork would be implemented over a 180-day period, or until a target price of $49/cwt was realized. Each tier would consist of 100 million pounds of pork products. USDA would also make a one-time purchase of 100 million pounds of turkey products.

“To ensure these products reach those who truly need it, the aid will be distributed through food assistance programs, which could include food banks, the school lunch program, and a SNAP-PLUS program, as well as foreign military food assistance in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Steve Troxler, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture. “Under SNAP-PLUS, an additional allotment to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), at an amount to be determined, would be allocated for beneficiaries of the program to purchase meat and dairy products at private grocers. Using the system currently utilized across the nation, participants would be given separate electronic benefits transfer cards to spend solely on these products.”

Through product purchases to reduce the oversupply on the market, NASDA’s proposal will help farmers and producers recover from severe economic hardships. At the same time, the proposal will help put much needed food on the tables of the countless American families struggling to make ends meet. NASDA calls upon Congressional leaders and Administration officials to step up to the plate and take the Meat the Need proposal into consideration to improve the lives of millions of Americans.

NASDA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association that represents the commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the state departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories. As regulators of significant aspects of our nation’s agriculture industry, NASDA members are actively involved in ensuring the safety of an abundant food supply, protection of animal and plant health, stewardship of our environment, and promoting the vitality of our rural communities.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Diagnosing and Mis-Diagnosing CJD

November 17, 2009 in Features
Dr. Gott: Rare, degenerative brain disease is fatal
Peter H. Gott, M.D. The Spokesman-Review
Tags: advice Dr. Gott health syndicated columnists

DEAR DR. GOTT: In reading your column about the 72-year-old man with ALS, I have
some questions. My husband, also 72, was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease. The physicians were not positive but indicated he had the earmarks for
it. His death certificate lists the disease as the cause. The family anticipated
an autopsy after his death, but it was not allowed because the coroners refused
to do it due to the seriousness of the disease. Without the autopsy we are not
sure of the actual cause of death.

My husband's symptoms were very similar to the ones discussed in your article. I
particularly noticed the statement about a "gene mutation." My husband's doctors
mentioned a gene mutation.

He endured many tests. My entire family experienced an emotional roller coaster
daily due to physicians indicating medicines would be able to help him lead a
somewhat normal life. The disease progressed rapidly, leaving no time to arrange
things. He was not allowed to die with any degree of dignity. After his death it
was even worse due to the seriousness of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. No one
wanted to be involved.

DEAR READER: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare, degenerative brain disorder
that is always fatal. In the United States, there are about 200 cases a year. It
typically occurs later in life and progresses rapidly. Onset of symptoms usually
begins around age 60, with about 90 percent of sufferers dying within a year.

There are three categories of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The first and rarest is
acquired, which is contracted by exposure to brain or nervous-system tissue,
usually through certain medical procedures. Since first being described in 1920,
less than 1 percent of cases have been acquired.

The next is hereditary, accounting for 5 to 10 percent of all cases. This is
diagnosed when the sufferer has a family history of the disease and/or tests
positive for a genetic mutation associated with it.

The final and most common category is sporadic. This variety accounts for at
least 85 percent of all cases. It occurs in people who have no known risk
factors, genetic mutations or family history for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Symptoms usually begin as problems with muscular coordination, impaired vision,
memory, judgment and thinking, personality changes and rapidly progressive
dementia. Many sufferers also experience depression, insomnia or unusual
sensations. As it progresses, mental impairment becomes severe. Most develop
involuntary muscle jerks and may go blind. Eventually, the ability to move and
speak is lost and the patient enters a coma.

Symptoms can be similar to those of other progressive neurological disorders but
there are unique changes in brain tissue that can be seen at autopsy. It also
typically causes a faster deterioration of abilities than other neurological

There is no treatment at this time that can cure or control the disorder.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease cannot be transmitted through the air, by touch or
through most other forms of casual contact. This means that unless you have
direct contact with contaminated brain or nervous-system tissue or have a family
history or gene mutation, there is little chance of developing the condition.

I understand your concerns about not having a proper diagnosis and autopsy. I
also understand the coroners' concerns about performing the autopsy. Other more
qualified professionals, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
should have been called in to handle the situation.

If you want to learn more about this disease, go online to the National
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (which is part of the National
Institutes of Health) where you can read and print out the Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease fact sheet at cjd/detail_cjd.htm.

Dr. Peter Gott is a retired physician and the author of the book "Dr. Gott's No
Flour, No Sugar Diet." Readers may write to Dr. Gott c/o United Media, 200
Madison Ave., Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10016.\