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January 15, 2004
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I'm mad about mad cow disease.....and not just because the American Beef industry is getting its just desserts. No I'm mad because I've had to endure news story after news story documenting the plight of one, poor, diseased 6 year old Holstein cow, and how that cow has put our ostrich like meat makers on the defensive and costing these (anything-for-a-profit cattlemen over 3 billion dollars in exports)....and it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

For years they've told us there's nothing to worry about in America from Bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Try saying that after a couple of martoonis and a few forkfuls of filet. Yeah they tried convincing us and only our all-too-willing elected officials (and the USDA) bought it. Of course they bought it because they're bought and paid for....but that's another story.

No our cattle was too good and our processing methods too sterile for such a scourge to affect all that tasty beef-eatin' that makes us great. Well it turns out that we're not so great, at least when it comes to keeping bits of spinal cords and nerve tissue out of our Big and Tasty's. It seems that years ago, the big 5 meat processors lobbied the USDA to accept what's known as Advanced Meat Recovery Systems---which advanced their profits by steam blasting every small bit of tissue from the bones and carcasses of slaughtered and often, injured, cattle. The trouble is that this high-pressure hosing results in lots of non-muscle nerve tissue ending up in the vat with all those bits and pieces that work their way into your Double-Double. Before you know it: Bingo, you've digested diseased bits o'brain and spine matter, and might have to wait, like uh 6 years before you know whether this disease has incubated in your very own nervous system. Sounds pleasant doesn't it?

Because of the dire stakes, and because Americans love a good panic, we've endured night after night and loop after loop of that poor stumbling Canadian cow that started the whole mess. The good news is that you're more likely to be hit by lightning or win the lottery than you are to be infected by this loathsome disease. And the USDA finally showed some gumption because of the public relations disaster (not because of the public health risk), and finally banned the use of sick and diseased downer cattle as filler fodder for your Whopper du jour. The lessons learned have been: greed is not good-especially when it involves grinding up grotesque animals, and if you want to avoid digesting things that are best not spoken of-a filet of sole will do quite nicely.

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