Beef farmer here hopeful disease cow incident in U.S. isolated case
By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The recent discovery of a case of mad cow disease in Washington State has sent waves into an already temperamental beef market.
Gail Peterson, Niles area beef farmer, said "It is a very volatile market, so it is hard to say how much this will affect business."
According to recent news reports, Purdue Agricultural extension agents have projected beef prices to drop 12 to 16 percent.
The $27 billion cattle industry, which is the largest sector of the U.S. agriculture, took a hit when more than two dozen countries halted the export of U.S. beef.
Peterson said around 10 percent of all U.S. beef is exported to other countries.
Peterson, who owns a 1,400-acre farm in Niles, said 2003 was a very good year and he has similar hopes for the new year.
Mad cow disease is a brain-wasting disease usually transmitted to cows via contaminated feed and has an incubation period in the animals of four to six years.
The scientific name is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and it is linked to a similar human form of the incurable, fatal disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Mad cow disease first appeared in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s.
In the 1990s, there was an outbreak of the disease in Europe that affected thousands of people and killed over one hundred. It also resulted in the slaughter of millions of cattle.
In May, Canada had the first reported case of mad cow disease in North America.
The recent discovery of the infected cow in Washington has led to a massive effort by the U.S. to determine the source of the disease and how to prevent any further contamination.
The USDA issued a Class II recall for the relevant facility's entire day's production, which was approximately 10,000 pounds of beef.
In addition, American officials have quarantined herds related to the case and will be forced to kill some of the cattle.
Peterson said the U.S. has been very careful with what is being fed to our cattle since the outbreak in Europe.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association will support aggressive steps to eliminate mad cow disease from the U.S. cattle population and said their system had worked in tracking down the case in Washington state.
Peterson seemed confident this was an isolated incident and that the beef industry would survive the scare.