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Food companies vary their beef drug acceptance

Published on 13 August 2013

In the wake of Tyson Foods decision not to allow cattle finished on the beta-agoist supplement zilpaterol, other meatpacking companies are taking a different approach.


The Wall Street Journal reports that National Beef Packing Co. and JBS have both issued statements saying they will not stop buying cattle that use beta agonists.

In the case of JBS, the same issue raised by Tyson – that cattle are arriving unable to walk into facilities – was also noticed by the Brazilian-owned company, which is the largest meat processor in the world. But JBS officials said they will continue monitoring the situation. A company spokesman said it has not identified a scientific cause for the cattle's mobility problems.

The two companies are joined by Cargill, which has said it will continue allowing beef finished on beta agonist into its processing plants.

Meanwhile, Reuters is detailing more on the video seen by an invitation-only audience at last week's summer conference of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association held in Denver. The reporters questions some in attendance at the presentation from Dr. Lily Edwards-Callaway, the head of animal welfare at JBS USA. It describes the video as showing cattle "reluctant to move" at the plant.

Note: The Reuters report has links to video – but none to the actual video shown at NCBA.

Among those who did see the video, and was quoted, was Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University. Grandin told Reuters that the cattle appeared unable to move on their own and walked "like they're 90-year-old grandmothers."

On another front, the Mexican restaurant Chipotle is also reviewing some of its policies for beef cattle that use antibiotics – but in this case, to expand the purchase of cattle using it.

Chipotle has been one of the biggest critics of antibiotic use in beef cattle, with marketing campaigns assailing subtherapeutic use of antibiotics for disease prevention and to enhance weight gain.

Now the company says the supply of beef is growing tighter, and that it may expand purchases to include beef that has been treated with antibiotics for an illness, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

"Many experts, including some of our ranchers, believe that animals should be allowed to be treated if they are ill and remain in the herd,” the story quotes co-CEO Steve Ells as saying. “We are certainly willing to consider this change, but we are continuing to evaluate what’s best for our customers, our suppliers and the animals.” end mark