Creekstone Farms sues USDA for refusing to allow mad cow testing

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, an organic meatpacking company based in Arkansas City, Kansas, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for what the company claims is threats by the USDA that it would face prosecution if it proceeds with plans to test nearly 100% of its beef for Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease or BSE.

The USDA position is that allowing any meatpacking company to test every cow would undermine the agency's official position, a position that holds to random testing as a scientifically adequate measure to assure safety. It also claims that 100% testing does not ensure food safety because the disease is difficult to detect in younger animals.

The USDA currently tests about 1% of cattle slaughtered in the U.S. The USDA's objection is believed to be the result of pressure from larger meatpacking operations. In 2004, the president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association told the Washington Post that "If testing is allowed at Creekstone, we think it would become the international standard and the domestic standard, too." Creekstone Farms says tests cost about $20 per animal, increasing the cost of beef by about 10 cents per pound.

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