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USDA Bans Downer Cows

The Agriculture Department has announced a ban on cattle too sick or injured to walk from entering U.S. slaughterhouses

The Agriculture Department has announced a ban on cattle too sick or injured to walk from entering U.S. slaughterhouses.

The move comes months after the largest beef recall in American history.

Following a 60-day enhanced surveillance period of how packing plants treat and handle cattle, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced May 20 that USDA will begin working on a proposed rule to prohibit the slaughter of all disabled non-ambulatory cattle. He says it means the end of exceptions to the so-called “downer rule,” enacted in 2004 after the first U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy led countries to ban U.S. beef imports.

Current USDA rules allow the slaughter and processing of some downer cattle if they had passed a pre-slaughter inspection.

On April 22, The American Meat Institute (AMI) along with the National Meat Association and the National Milk Producers Federation petitioned USDA to end the option to have a second inspection that could allow healthy but non-ambulatory cattle to enter the food supply.

AMI President J. Patrick Boyle told reporters, “Allowing the current rule to remain in force could ultimately undermine the confidence of U.S. consumers and foreign customers, in markets that are proving difficult to reopen in the first place.”

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