Meatpacker to Sue for Right to Test Meat

Discussion
Mar 24, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all the cows it processes for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease. There is one problem, however. The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) has said no.


As a result of the USDA’s action, Creekstone is suing the Department for the right to test its beef.


John Stewart, chief executive officer of Creekstone Farms, told The Associated Press, “Our customers, particularly our Asian customers, have requested it over and over again. We feel strongly that if customers are asking for tested beef, we should be allowed to provide that.”


The government’s position is that the testing is not necessary while other packers are concerned what demands for more testing will do to their costs.


A spokesperson for the USDA, Ed Loyd, said, “There isn’t any nation in the world that requires 100 percent testing.”


J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, said, “The U.S. risk of BSE is miniscule and declining, our proactive prevention strategies have worked and the safety of American beef is assured.”


Currently, about one percent of all beef slaughtered in the U.S. is tested for BSE. The government recently announced plans to scale that back even further. 


Moderator’s Comment: Should companies such as Creekstone Farms be allowed to exceed federal testing requirements for BSE or other factors if it chooses
to do so? What impact would giving Creekstone Farms approval to test all its cattle have on domestic and export markets for beef?

George Anderson – Moderator

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21 Comments on "Meatpacker to Sue for Right to Test Meat"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

Absurd. It gives the distinct impression that the government is afraid of what more thorough testing would find. What other possible logical conclusion could be drawn?

Kara M. Maciel
Guest
Kara M. Maciel
14 years 11 months ago

This company is doing the right thing, especially from a legal liability standpoint. Many federal laws should provide a floor, not a ceiling, and companies should be encouraged to be proactive and protect consumers by taking an aggressive stance in testing. Certainly if government testing raises questions in the future, companies who go above and beyond and perform their own quality assurance tests will in the forefront with consumers and the courts.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

Creekstone’s request is brave and brilliant! If they are prevented from doing the right thing, they look like heroes. If they’re allowed to do it, they can charge premium prices for a commodity. This is a no-lose proposition.

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

This is another position where government has overstepped its boundaries. We should not have to have government approval to further test a product prior to offering it to our customers. This is a great position for the meatpacker to protect itself, promote its beef as safe, and assure their customers that they are adding more value than their competitors. Furthermore, this serves as a great defensive move, considering the government’s record of testing.

Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 11 months ago

I can only say WOW! While I appreciate the government’s concern for the costs that might be required to passed on to the consumer, what gives them the right to tell a company they can’t exceed the requirements? Are they afraid that the company may find more cases of mad cow and have a negative impact on the beef industry? By exceeding standards, isn’t that how some new safety innovations come about? What would have happened to seat belts and shoulder harnesses for cars if a company said…don’t need to do anything…it already meets federal standards! This is an abuse of power. Creekstone, sue the hell out of them to protect your rights! Good Luck!

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

Unless the FDA would be having to shoulder more cost (not if Creekstone is paying for the tests) or if additional testing is somehow harmful (haven’t heard anything about that), why should Creekstone not be able to do additional testing? I can’t think of any other area where the government forbids additional testing.

Matt Werhner
Guest
Matt Werhner
14 years 11 months ago

It seems the U.S. Agricultural Department is preventing Creekstone Farms from going to market with a premium and safe product. The Department could possibly foresee an increase in consumer demand for tested meat, therefore giving Creekstone Farms a marketable advantage, ultimately resulting in the competitive response of additional testing throughout the industry leading to price increases. Big Deal – consumers are requesting this and will spend more if necessary on safe product. Isn’t one of the Department’s primary functions to promote product safety? Thanks a lot Big Brother! Go get ’em Creekstone!!

Tim Duthie
Guest
Tim Duthie
14 years 11 months ago

While the impact of finding the first cow infected was devastating to the beef industry in Alberta and Canada, I do not support 100% testing of all cattle for BSE. It is not scientifically necessary. I do not like the prospect of continuing the overblown issue of BSE in the media.

HOWEVER, any company should have the right to put their own quality and testing requirements on their brand of beef. This allows them to make their brand stand out and be properly compensated for it. Domestic and International consumers that are willing to pay a premium benefit the entire industry.

Greg Coghill
Guest
Greg Coghill
14 years 11 months ago

I’m glad that others share my opinion. I cannot understand how the government could intervene in such a way, limiting a company’s choice to operate how they choose, especially considering that it is a safety issue. In defense of the FDA, BSE has been exaggerated to a degree, and I suppose that panic in the American population could disturb the industry in drastic ways, possibly in a negative way for everyone. Regardless, I still don’t feel it gives the FDA the right. I think they are afraid to test the herds in places like the “carnage factory” off Highway 5 in central California in fear of what they might find. Go Creekstone!

Carol Willson
Guest
Carol Willson
14 years 11 months ago

I’m am thrilled (!) that the Meatpackers are in support of doing 100% testing of all cattle. Please note that it is NOT just the unhealthy appearing animals who could harbor the BSE prion. This protein can rest dormant in an animals body for many, many years before rearing it’s ugly head and mutating. The ONLY way to be sure that an animal does or does not have BSE is through the testing of brain matter from each and every animal! Please do NOT be lulled into thinking that cattle who appear healthy, are. It’s a false sense of security that our country has been given and it’s a sad statement of our government…and of the cattle industry. My father died from the human version of Mad Cow… CJD. It’s a very, very horrific way for someone to die. And, quickly! Even England is waiting to see if there will be an epidemic of BSE down the road due to the great potential of dormancy of this disease.

scott cain
Guest
scott cain
14 years 11 months ago

Maybe the government is afraid its USDA label would be devalued. Who wants to buy second best meat?

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
14 years 11 months ago

Creekstone is definitely doing the right thing and I agree that they will win either way. I also appreciate this story bringing this issue back in the headlines so it will be harder for the USDA and the beef industry to ignore. I feel that we are not being adequately protected by our government on this issue that they are only interested in protecting the profitability of the beef industry. And I don’t understand why more people aren’t concerned about it. Bring up this subject at a party and you’ll feel that you are the only person worrying about it.

If we are testing 1% of the cows and have found three cases, how many would we find if we were testing them all? Would it be 300, or more, or less? How can this be grounds to test less? I’m sure the government doesn’t want any company to “rock the boat” by discovering more cases than they are. Why are industry profits more important than our health?

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

Looks like Creekstone found a flaw in our government and will take advantage of it for some good press. I wonder if Creekstone is really interested in testing the beef or if they are more interested in the good press they will receive? Regardless, changes need to be made, and probably will be made. I have to give Creekstone a lot of credit.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
14 years 11 months ago

As a follow up, John Stewart was quoted as saying that it would cost about $20 per cow or about 10 cents a pound. That seems like such a small price to pay for added safety against this disease. I can only speak for myself, but I would pay for it.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
14 years 11 months ago
Not a single response, as of this time, saying that USDA should be allowed to stop Creekstone’s testing. The USDA says Creekstone’s testing is “not necessary,” but there is no logic to NOT ALLOWING further testing if it is only a matter of not being necessary. Obviously, there are other reasons behind the USDA position that the USDA is not stating. There is possibly zero chance that the USDA would ever say what those reasons are. And that is a classis example of a Defense Structure at work — in this case, the USDA blocking the flow of information to the public that is both important and uncomfortable to the USDA, information that would put the USDA in a very poor light. It appears that the USDA has a very strong and very active Defense Structure, which must by definition cause the USDA untold problems and waste of tax dollars. Perhaps it will be of interest to you all to learn that our measures of Defense Structures in organizations have shown that overall, federal government… Read more »
Todd Huston
Guest
Todd Huston
14 years 11 months ago

Why is it that Republican administrations are only proponents of “letting the free markets rule” when it does not effect the cash flow of their favorite special interests and lobbyists? Well I guess that is a very rhetorical question. Just another example of our industry’s being hurt by a short term profit focus. It is strikingly similar to GMs argument that they cannot increase SUV mileage because it would cost them too much money right now – what GM and any company focused on the future should ask is “how much more will I sell if I do this right for tomorrow’s consumer?” That used to be the American way – now it’s only “how many can I sell this quarter?”

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

Having made my contribution early in the day, I’ve just been back to see what others are saying and would love to hear from the silent 3% who support the USDA position. Come out, come out, whoever you are.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 11 months ago

There have been far too many instances in recent years of governments protesting way too much and then being caught out. If Creekstone wants to test, then let them. How dare any government insist that they are right, right or wrong, and not let those who want to be certain prove their responsibility. Oh, sorry, did I use the R word just then? The one that we are all so frequently encouraged to abide by? Or does that not apply to government? GO CREEKSTONE.

Daryle Hier
Guest
Daryle Hier
14 years 11 months ago

You’ve got to be kidding! The government usually wants to be involved in every instance of life but not when an individual business wants to go the extra mile – for the betterment of health? With the organic and fresh food business booming, what superior proof that the public is willing to pay for the extra costs. This is an exceptionally valiant attempt by Creekstone and everyone should applaud their fortitude.

Craig Miller
Guest
Craig Miller
14 years 11 months ago
Exceptionally savvy marketing by an outfit capitalizing on emotional sensitivities of some shoppers. One need only visit their home page to understand precisely who they are targeting: “To meet the needs of consumers searching for beef raised humanely and without added hormones and antibiotics, Creekstone Farms Natural Black Angus Beef was launched. Our natural beef offers you and your family the same consistently outstanding flavor you have come to expect from Creekstone Farms, but it is raised in an environmentally friendly manner, without the use of antibiotics or added hormones. The cattle are also source verified and fed a 100% vegetarian diet.” And their consultant who is an animal rights advocate (click here) Not passing judgment one way or the other; just putting a few tidbits out for discussion. While I agree the gov’t would be better off out of most affairs, I have no doubt that the tacit implication from an outfit who 100% tests would be that others are letting bad beef through and it is going to kill your children (worded subtly,… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 11 months ago

Since when do we have to ask the government’s permission to market a product? This is a marketing, not a regulatory issue.

The government is NOT requiring this testing. The packer is proposing the testing as a means of marketing his product. He is positioning this testing as a benefit to potential consumers/customers. What is the difference between this and having a product certified as organic, or reducing cholesterol and stating it on the package? Message to Washington – GET THE HECK OFF OUR BACKS! No one ever envisioned a Federal Government becoming this intrusive!

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