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Beef industry keeps trust strong at table

Progressive Cattleman Editor David Cooper Published on 01 August 2011

As much as I can guarantee that we Americans love our hamburgers, I can say with equal certainty that Germans relish their cucumbers.

So it was with some fascination I watched that country – one at the forefront of the organic food revolution – abandon one of its culinary staples during this spring’s deadly outbreak of E. coli.

Sales of cucumbers plummeted as the epidemic claimed 48 lives and sickened close to 4,000 people. A good portion of those had Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome, a fatal condition that attacks the kidneys.

Eventually officials traced the outbreak to an organic farm that produced not cucumbers but bean sprouts from bad seeds grown in Egypt, although not before the crisis spun the country’s agricultural economy into a tailspin.

Before health officials could definitively locate the source, Germany’s neighboring countries closed off trade to several vegetable products. In Russia, vegetable imports from the entire European Union were banned for several weeks.

Whether it’s an outbreak of E. coli, salmonella or, as beef producers have learned, a mad cow disease scare, underestimating a diligent food safety system is a round of Russian roulette.

While it’s true there is much to be afraid of in an era of big government, scaling back food safety inspection isn’t one of them.

The government’s funding for inspections and high safety standards is essential for an economy driven by consumer goods.

Given how little most consumers know about the origins of food production, the nation’s inspection system does more than just watch for unsavory food pathogens – it also protects ranchers who rest their credibility on raising safe quality products.

But food safety is a mandate that belongs to ag production as much as it does to government, and the beef industry has the credentials to show it’s willing to belly up to the bar.

The Beef Quality Assurance program is just one essential part of that longstanding effort to promote the best and safest husbandry practices and the cutting-edge elements of food science.

The demand for beef domestically, and especially of late in foreign markets, has surged drastically, based largely on the reliability of safe and quality beef products.

At any stage of the BQA protocols you’ll find producers who apply the principles of good animal care and the most current science.

And they do it not because it’s proven to be profitable, but because it’s the right thing to do.

That’s why this month’s issue of Progressive Cattleman focuses on food safety and BQA together, and provides tools toward achieving both of those worthy goals.

Quality beef cattle require quality feed, and today’s producer must be just as vigilant with his inputs as he is with a final product.

Stories in this edition help you monitor feed sources, follow implant procedures and utilize the most of your hay and summer annual forages so that healthy cattle become a healthy food source to feed families.

Finally, this edition also gives you the tips to address the ongoing debate between traditional beef as opposed to grass-fed, organic and natural beef niches – all of them viable and attractive to consumers – and all of them healthy and nutritious.

Producers in agriculture have a vital stake in food safety, because it’s one of the rare things consumers purchase and put directly into their mouths.

If the past is any prologue, the beef industry is doing an increasingly better job each year of keeping that trust strong at the dinner table.  end_mark

 

 

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David Cooper
Editor

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