Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on April 19, 1996. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Negative Reports Anger Cattle Producers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The cows may be mad in England, but in the United States, it's the cattlemen with reasons to be angry.
Dr. Charlie Forrest, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said fed cattle prices are down $6 to $8 per hundredweight from this time last year. Calf prices are down about $25 per hundredweight.
"The mad cow scare has not yet had much of an impact on the U.S. cattle market, but higher grain prices and large supplies of cattle have," Forrest said. "There are concerns that some regions of the country may run out of grain before the next harvest."
Beef production was up 7 percent for the first quarter of '96 compared to year-ago figures. Forrest explained that whether cattle are needing grain or grass, feed supplies are short.
"Feed lots have to reduce the price they pay for feeder cattle because of the prices they must pay for feed," Forrest said.
The economist said England's mad cow scare only recently became an issue. The British Ministry of Health issued a statement on March 20 reporting the possibility of a link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as BSE or mad cow disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
A recent Oprah Winfrey show discussing beef and mad cow disease has been blamed for some initial negative effects on market prices and has resulted in strong criticism from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Dr. Richard Hopper, extension veterinarian at MSU, said BSE affects the central nervous system of cattle. There have been no cases of BSE in U.S. cattle or in cattle brought to this country before an import ban began in 1989. As a precautionary measure, cattle imported from Great Britain prior to the ban will not enter the food chain.
"The epidemic of BSE peaked in Great Britain in January 1993 at almost 1,000 new cases per week. Now, fewer than 300 cases are occurring each week," Hopper said.
The veterinarian said officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have monitored the BSE situation carefully and taken aggressive steps to ensure the safety of U.S. beef.
"American beef is the safest in the world," Hopper said. "The BSE-causing agent is not found in beef or milk -- British, American or otherwise -- so there is no evidence of a direct link to consumption of beef products and any human brain disorder."