No need to fear beef |

No need to fear beef

While I understand somewhat Ms. Owsley’s decision to choose to eliminate beef from Aspen’s elementary and middle schools menus, I am compelled to respond to her decision.

According to the article in The Aspen Times, Ms. Owsley states, “I know the government says beef is safe, but I don’t believe the government has much credibility right now.”

I beg to differ.

According to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, the following facts about America’s beef supply have been given:

The BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) surveillance and protection systems continue to work, and the U.S. beef supply remains safe and wholesome. The Food Safety Inspection Service has been working since 1906 to keep diseased meat out of the food supply.

USDA tested 20,526 animals for BSE in 2003. This is more than 45 times the number of tests required of the U.S. as a minimal risk country according to the international standard.

Testing in the United States is based on a 95 percent confidence rate of finding BSE if it exists in one in one million cattle. Eighty percent of the beef involved in the recall associated with the index cow was sold in Washington and Oregon.

Because the infectious agent (central nervous system tissue) never entered the human food chain, the risk to human health associated with this meat is practically zero. Consumers should continue to eat U.S. beef with confidence.

Here’s why: The central nervous tissue from this animal, which scientists recognize as the infective material, did not go into the food supply. According the Food Safety Inspection Service, the beef from the animal poses virtually no human health risk. The BSE agent is not found in meat like steaks, roasts or ground beef. It is found in central nervous system tissue such as brain and spinal cord.

All U.S. cattle are inspected by a USDA inspector or veterinarian before going to slaughter. A multi-year risk analysis conducted by Harvard University reported “the U.S. is highly resistant to any introduction of BSE.”

Harvard’s report also said, “Measures taken by the U.S. government and industry make the U.S. robust against the spread of BSE to animals or humans should it be introduced into this country.” Federal inspectors ensure that central nervous system tissues or specified risk materials do not enter the food chain.

American beef farmers and ranchers were enjoying a much-deserved and slow-in-coming elevated market price for their cattle. Many families have been affected by low cattle prices, drought and financial woes. In past years, many of those families have had to give up and sell their businesses and land that had been in their possession for generations.

Please continue to eat beef and don’t buy into any panic or chaos formed from an isolated case of mad cow disease. Beef ” it’s still going to be what’s for my dinner!

Susan R. Higgins

A concerned Texas rancher visiting Aspen/Snowmass