New Mad Cow 'Scare' Shouldn't Ruin Your Dinner

OMG 44

mad cowRemember mad cow disease? It's that infection cattle can get that basically eats holes in their brains. And there's a horrible human version (Creutzfeldt-Jako). And if you eat infected beef, you can get the infection. Oh yes, and it's fatal and there's no cure. We've had four cases in the U.S. since 2003.

Welp, mad cow is back! An infected cow was found in Central California yesterday. What does this mean for our beef? Is it safe? Should we be worried?

The good news is that it was a dairy cow, so there's no contaminated meat out there. The cow's meat never entered the food chain and you can't get infected from drinking the milk. Phew! The USDA "remains confident in the health of the national herd and the safety of beef and dairy products."

More from The Stir: Ground Beef Recall Reminds Us Cooking Meat Can Be Dangerous

Bottom line: Your meat is safe.

Here's the weird part, though. This was a rare spontaneous infection -- the cow didn't catch it from eating an infected cow. Oh, you didn't know cows were cannibals? They're not, naturally. But for a while there cows were fed beef byproducts to help fatten them up. Supposedly we're not doing that anymore. Oh wait, no we still do that, we just make sure none of the brain or spinal cord gets in there.

So I'm thrilled for yet another reminder that we're still forcing cows to live as cannibals. I'm sure it's "perfectly safe" just like pink slime, but ew. (One more reason to choose organic, just sayin'.)

Also, this spontaneous case means ... ZOMG, this thing can just "happen!" But hey, only four cases in the past nine years is almost zero. Right? Heheh, yeah, it's fine. It's all perfectly fine.

Do you think our meat and dairy are generally pretty safe most of the time?


Image via JelleS/Flickr

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Laura Desaulniers Lewis

I buy all of our meet from Whole Foods. Whenever there is one of these crazy outbreaks, I know that my kids are safe.

Whole Foods has really strict guidelines for their meet.

LizB86 LizB86

One of those four cases was my Aunt, who died of Creutzfeld-Jacob in July 2010. Her case was most likely also "spontaneously generated", since she had not traveled to Europe or been exposed to European beef since the early 1980s. It's a dreadful disease (although mercifully painless) and I hope the medical/scientific community figures out what causes and cures it before many others are struck down.

libby261 libby261

I have read that this disease is caused by an insecticide that is sprayed on the cows to prevent fly bites that mess up the hide that is sold for leather.  It is a symptom of the organophosphate manganese based insecticide poisoning.

Becca... Beccahairlady

LOL Laura. I also only buy my meat from Whole Foods.

nonmember avatar Michelle

It IS entirely possible for this disease to spontaneously generate, in both humans AND animals. This is random and isolated, and actually proves that the system we have in place for checking for this actually WORKS. HOWEVER, I need to heavily correct the author for the statement that it was a dairy cow and that meat never enters the market. I've got news for you--OH YES IT DOES. It may not enter the market as a beautiful steak, but I promise you it will wind up as ground beef. DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE WRITING THESE ARTICLES.

nonmember avatar Rebecca

Melissa-The author wrote that THE COW'S meat never entered the market, not that ALL dairy cows don't enter the market. Calm down.

Mrs.K... Mrs.Kubalabuku

I get my meat from the local meat market, who gets it from local organic farms.  Any time I wanted to I could drive out to the farm and see what they are doing, how the meat (pork, beef, chicken, rabbits, and duck) is being treated, and even select my own live animals for the butcher!

Bknot... Bknotnobody

I no longer eat beef. So I consider myself not too concerned, I also no longer drink milk. I eat cheese rarely, and that's about it. So if it spreads to chickens, or fish, then I'll be more concerned. Still scary though!

twins... twinsforlove

Unless you people are eating cow brains and spinal cords your safe. You can get diseases from eating anything fruit, veg, chips, soda really now people its all the same.

I came from Europe and we ate the meat all the time. THere are rules and regulations on how meat is handled and processed. If you buy from small local farms and places like Whole food market it is a lot safer because most of us small farms do "Organic" treatments meaning the cows are not fed any kind of steriods, antibiotics, or other animals.

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