Archive for Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Little local effect from mad cow scare

December 31, 2003

In the entryway of B&J Country Mart, a sign tells customers that the store only sells beef grown in the United States.

Clearly, the nationwide mad cow scare has hit home.

Last week, a Holstein cow butchered in the state of Washington tested positive for mad cow disease.

By the time the diagnosis of mad cow disease was made, there was the possibility that ground beef from this cow, which had been imported from Canada in 2001, had been shipped to eight states.

Kansas was not one of them.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is associated with a rare and fatal brain-wasting disease in humans, known as Creutzfeld-Jakob disease.

Dennis Meacham, meat market manager at B&J for 10 years, said customers have been inquiring about mad cow disease.

But he said, their concerns hadn't sliced into sales of beef -- at least not yet anyway.

"If they're worrying about it, it would reflect in the sales, and the sales of beef are still way up there," said Meacham, who raises cattle at his farm north of Topeka. "If they were having a problem about the beef, they would switch to pork, and they haven't."

Because of the large volume of beef produced in the Midwest, there's only a slim chance that Kansas grocers would carry beef from Washington, where the infected cow was detected, Meacham said.

"In this five-state area, there are the biggest beef producers in the world," Meacham said. "Texas is number one, Kansas is second. ... We're going to get our beef from this area."

Even so, Meacham said, the scare will hurt the industry.

For instance, Japan bought more than $1 billion worth of U.S. beef last year.

Meacham said he plans to continue eating beef, despite the mad cow scare.

"It's just extremely rare," Meacham said. "If you go out here and walk across the street or try to cross the street in downtown Tonganoxie, you're in a lot more danger than you are from this meat."

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