Farm Aid Issues Consumer Alert: Take Steps to Ensure Your Meat is Safe

Mark Smith
Office: (617) 354-2922

SOMERVILLE, Mass.-In the wake of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement Monday confirming a third case of mad cow, Farm Aid today released tips to help consumers make decisions when purchasing beef that will ensure the meat they select is safe for them and their families.

"This week's confirmation of a third case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease should serve as a reminder for food buyers to know as much as they can about the food they buy," said Mark Smith, campaign director for the family farm organization Farm Aid. "To help guarantee the safety of beef, food buyers should learn where the meat is from, who produced it, and how it was processed. Buying directly from family farmers helps preserve the integrity and safety of our food supply."

Farm Aid outlined steps that food buyers can take to minimize exposure to mad cow disease:

  • Learn as much as you can about the meat you buy. Ask retailers and butchers questions about how your meat was produced and processed. Where did the meat come from? Where was it processed? How were the cattle raised? Try to learn who produced your food, and choose meat products that come from family farmers and ranchers you can trust.
  • Try to buy directly from farmers or ranchers in your area. Many areas have local meat lockers that take pride in their cleanliness and safety record. Support local butchers and lockers that source their products from local farmers and ranchers they know and trust.
  • Buy organic or grass-fed beef. Organic beef cattle are raised on organic feed that strictly prohibits animal by-products linked to the spread of BSE among livestock. Meat processing facilities that are organically certified use strict protocols that separate organic meat from conventional meat, limiting any chances of contamination with infected beef.
  • Be an active food shopper. Tell your local grocers and restaurants that you want them to source their food from family farmers, and support those that do.
In addition to taking steps to ensure purchased meat is safe, consumers can demand change in the food system on a federal level.

"This most recent discovery of mad cow disease presents an opportunity for policymakers to make decisions that protect citizens and our food supply. Our elected leaders must hear a loud and clear call for safe food and safe farming practices," said Smith. "How we respond to this new challenge will help create a future of healthful food produced by family farms."

Concerned food buyers should call their state representatives in Washington to demand that the USDA take immediate actions to safeguard our food supply:

  • Immediately ban feeding all blood, manure, chicken coop and slaughterhouse waste to all animals. This is a critical and necessary step to stop the possible transmission of mad cow disease to other farm animals used for human consumption.
  • Immediately ban the Advanced Meat Recovery System. This technology in the butchering of livestock is considered by many experts to be responsible for contaminating meat cuts with tissue from the cow's central nervous system.
  • Test all cows destined for the food supply. Now is not the time for the USDA to scale back their BSE surveillance program. The conformation-dependent immunoassay (CDI), developed by the Nobel-prize winning scientist Stanley Prusiner, could test 2000-8000 samples a day with a turn around time of five hours, in contrast to the current USDA test, which takes seven days. Other countries test every cow - the United States should too.
  • Immediately enforce existing antitrust laws that break up the power and counter the influence of large meatpackers on food policies. Four corporations now control more than 80 percent of the meat packing industry. Large food corporations exert tremendous influence over food safety policies. Food and farm policies should serve the interests of consumers and producers - not the interests of the giant packer and processors.

Visit for more information on mad cow disease, supporting a family-farm food system, or for contact information for state and federal representatives.

Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised awareness about the critical role of family farms and raised more than $28 million to build and strengthen family farm food production. Through public education and direct grants, Farm Aid promotes sustainable agriculture, fights factory farms, advocates for fair farm prices, and provides disaster assistance and credit counseling to farm families.