Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mad Cow in Pet Food?

A new law passed in the US requires animal rendering plants to remove brain and spinal tissue from animals prior to rendering.

Watchers and readers of "All Creatures Great and Small" will recall the knacker buying dead animals off of farmers. In more recent times in this country, farmers have to pay the company to collect the dead animals.

The rendering company then cooks the animal down and separates the result into different parts-protein, fat, etc, and then markets the by-products. The by-products are used in animal feed (although US regulation prohibits rendered cow from going into cattle feed as a current mad cow preventative_) the protein can still go into pet food and other livestock feed-chickens, pig, etc.

The trick with mad cow is that it is a prion, and is not destroyed by heat. So, if a chicken were to be fed protein contaminated with mad cow, and then the resulting litter-yes, that's right, some cows are fed chicken excrement-the prion could find its way back to the cow.

Years ago a Countryside magazine contributor pointed out that sheep should not have their feed measured with the same container as the dog-because scrapie, the sheep version of mad cow, could be passed through the residue in the container.

The by-products of rendered dead cows are also used in cosmetics including, but not limited to, toothpaste and lotions for human use.

The new regulations are to ensure that any possibly contaminated tissue (brain and spinal tissue) are removed from the carcass before rendering.

Well, that's good. The news is reporting that farmers are going to see an increase in costs of dead animal removal, as rendering plants pass those costs of precaution to the farmer. Many farmers might decide to compost, bury, or drag into the back 40, those dead cows, instead of rendering them.

In the meantime, since I know firsthand that composting and burying is an adequate solution, I am more concerned about the fact that I have been letting my kids handle the dog, cat, and chicken food as part of their daily chores. As a precaution, I am now handling the pet feed-much to my childrens horror after I relayed the story and the reason why I have now taken over those duties. Now I just need to scrape(pardon the pun) up the funds to buy some galvanized cans to get the feed out of the house-since I am worried that the dust might be carrying mad cow prions.

Hopefully not for long, with the new regulations...

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