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Cow Brain: It’s What’s for Dinner!

May, 2005

You’ll probably want to finish your lunch before reading this…unless it’s a hamburger.

The Washington Times reports that U.S. agriculture officials are investigating claims that cow brains, spines and “other risky materials that could carry mad cow disease” might be entering the human food supply “in violation of agency policy.”

And don’t even get started on what “agency policy” does allow. According to the Consumers Union, loopholes in the feed ban currently permit “cow’s blood, poultry litter and plate waste from restaurants” to be fed to cattle that ends up on our plates:

Calves taken from their mothers are fed milk replacers which often contain cow’s blood added as a cheap protein supplement. Poultry litter, which contains chicken feces, feathers, sawdust, and uneaten feed containing cow parts, and plate waste from restaurants such as leftover steaks are added to cattle feed as well.

Not lovin’ it? These practices are currently under public comment, and the chance of mad cow contamination is still quite slim. But it’s worth keeping the issue in mind, considering our Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns likely won’t be reminding you. As governor, Johanns opposed the Department of Agriculture’s policy of informing the public when the nation’s beef supply may be contaminated, and asked the DOA to reconsider their policy of announcing when initial tests of cattle show they may be infected with mad cow. (Johanns’s position ran counter to the conclusions of the USDA inspector general, which found the agency isn’t doing enough to protect the public from mad cow contamination.) Check out for more.