New USDA rule to ban downer cows from slaughter - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/17/09

New USDA rule to ban downer cows from slaughter

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - President Obama says food safety is a continuing concern, and new USDA rules could keep some beef from making it on to your menu.

This final rule, announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, would prevent "downer" cattle from entering slaughterhouses and possibly ending up on your plate. "We don't want any downer cows going into the food chain," says Veterinarian Dr. Louis Farr.

Dr. Farr says a "downer cow" is a general term for cattle that cannot walk. Downer cows could be suffering from more than just a broken leg and the USDA says this is a precautionary step to eliminate mad cow disease from entering the food chain. "It's in the best interest of slaughterhouses and packers to get cattle there ambulatory, in other words not injured."

The new rule would remove any cow that suffered injuries after initial inspection, and inspectors would be forced to tag these cattle as "U.S. Condemned" prohibiting them from slaughter. "It doesn't matter if they can't walk on the kill floor then, they have to be euthanized," says Dr. Farr.

Video from an undercover investigation by The Humane Shelter of the United States shows downer cows, in this case, being forced into slaughter even though they can't stand on their own. "If the animal broke a leg, might condemn that quarter because of hemorrhage or possibly bleeding but the rest of the animal is good to go into the food chain," says Dr. Farr.

In his weekly YouTube address President Obama said food safety is a continuing concern. "As part of our commitment to public health, our Agriculture Department is closing a loophole in the system to ensure diseased cows don't find their way into the food supply."

Dr. Farr sees this rule as more for animal rights than food safety and believes the U.S. has the safest food in the world. "We all want humane treatment of animals, but cattle have been developed to feed mankind."

Tuesday afternoon NewsChannel 11 spoke with Lubbock Feeders over the phone and they say the new rule won't change the way they do business, they already comply.

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