Mad Cow Updates & Good News For Restaurants - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

01/06/04 - Nacogdoches

Mad Cow Updates & Good News For Restaurants

by Donna McCollum

Mad Cow Latest

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says they have confirmed the cow in Washington state that tested positive for mad cow disease did come from Canada. Tests show DNA from that cow matches the DNA of a bull from a dairy farm in Alberta, Canada.

The test results mean investigators in the U.S. and Canada will now intensify their search for the source of the infection. It most likely came from contaminated feed in Canada where the cow was born in 1997.

It's the first-ever case of mad cow disease in the United States. But the USDA insists that American beef is safe.

Since that case of mad cow disease surfaced two weeks ago, more than two dozen countries have banned the import of U.S. beef. And those bans are causing an oversupply of beef here at home.

Positive side of mad cow?

As a result, beef prices are coming down. That could end up to be good news for restaurant owners and ultimately the consumer.

The sizzle of grilled hamburgers can be heard on a daily basis at Butcher Boy's Smokehouse and Deli in Nacogdoches. Hungry customers show no real concern of mad cow disease as they wolf down burgers.

In the last year owner Billy Huddleston has paid a premium to fill those appetites.

"Beef, especially your prime cuts like your steak cuts were as high as I've ever seen them in the 20 something years I've been working. They were extremely high," said Huddleston after taking a break from cutting beef steaks.

But the cost of meat is beginning to come down. Huddleston is still cautious.

"If the prices go down of course it will help the restaurants, but we'll just have to wait and see when that is," said Huddleston. 

Meat processors busy

Meat processors such as Clark's Meat Service in Nacogdoches have already noticed a pick up in business. They're serving ranchers who see it pays more to put their beef in the freezer rather than on the auction block.

"Anytime prices become lower for beef cattle people tend to butcher their own cattle because it becomes economically more feasible for them and also with the recent mad cow disease scare they have more confidence that they've grown their own cattle. They know what they're getting," explained Owner Mark Clark. 

Yet U.S. consumers are still going after the beef. Sales of hamburgers and steaks have been holding steady. And Huddleston has noticed no drop in business since the mad cow case in the U.S. was first detected.

Wholesalers are noticing lower beef prices, but it may be another month before you see significant drops in beef prices at the grocery store. Those in the industry say it takes several weeks to complete the cycle of meat pricing from the auction block to the meat counter.

For more information about mad cow disease go to www.bseinfo.org

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