Market For Downer Cow Beef Is Dying
People STILL sell this meat.
For Human Consumption.
You just don’t know about it.
More and More supermarkets are refusing to purchase any meat made from what’s commonly called a “downer cow”.
Our KIRO team 7 investigation uncovers that customers are starting to ask tough questions about where their beef comes from.
Downers are cattle that can’t walk on their own into a slaughterhouse, and are banned for sale in many Washington sale barns.
However, with proper inspection, it is legal to slaughter them for food.
When Federal meat inspectors do their jobs, they’re suppose to ask themselves this question.
“Does it meet the consumers expectations?”
In the case of most downer dairy cows, USDA inspectors have been saying yes.
Consumers however don’t usually agree.
Some of the biggest beef buyers in the country, such as Safeway, Albertsons, and the federal school lunch program, all refuse to buy any beef derived from dairy cows that arrive at slaughterhouses in “downer” condition.
For example, Safeway tells KIRO Team 7 Investigators:
“We have very high quality specifications for our ground beef. Our Suppliers sign agreements so they do not sell products to us from downer cattle.”
Safeway’s response comes after KIRO Team 7 Investigators videotaped downer transactions at Midway Meats in Chehalis.
Last fall, we aired a series of reports raising questions about inspection and humane treatment of dying, sick or crippled dairy cattle.
University of Washington marketing guru Richard Yalch says big meat buyers have started taking a tough-and-very-public stand against downer meat, or risk alienating customers.
“Most supermarkets want to talk about ‘We have the best meat’, best this, best that. Taking meat from a sick or hurt animal would certainly counter that kind of claim.”
The majority of consumers we talked with say even if these crippled or sick cows were properly inspected, they’d prefer to eat beef from a healthier source.
“It shouldn’t go in at all, it should be destroyed.”
“I think it’s pretty sad. There need to be more investigation into this kind of thing if the product is eventually coming to consumers.”
And if downer meat continues to be mixed into our food, many beef eaters who watched our investigation support “labeling”.
“I think all of our food should be labeled. Whether it be genetically engineered or of substandard quality, or something different that what we expect as average consumers. We deserve to be protected with that kind of disclosure.
Adam Karp agrees. He’s an attorney for Pasado’s Safe Haven, the animal rights organization credited with helping pass Washington’s Cruelty to Animals law. They should know that downer cows are being included in the product. They should also be aware that the animal in the product may not be humanely slaughtered.
He says there is a national movement to outlaw the use of downers for human consumption. However, a dwindling marketplace for the product might end the sale of the meat long before we see any new regulation.
We asked Midway Meats, the Washington State Beef Commission and the Dairy Products Commission to talk to us regarding this story and they refused. That entire group has been complaining to KIRO-TV about unfair coverage of this topic.
WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO. PLEASE DONATE TO http://www.nodowners.org/ SO THEY CAN CONTINUE TO ERASE THIS INSANITY. PLEASE AT LEAST…ASK YOUR OWN GROCER IF THEY USE THE MEAT OF DOWNER COWS? OR ANY OTHER ANIMALS? YOU COULD EVEN SEND THEM A LETTER AND ASK THEM TO RESPOND IN WRITING. THIS IS EASY STUFF. JUST GET UP PLEASE. HELP US.
Please donate so they can continue to push.
Indiana: A downed cow was left for hours in distress in a stockyard parking lot. When the stockyard owner failed to take responsibility for the animal, law enforcement called a veterinarian who examined and then euthanized the cow. State’s action: Charges were filed, but the matter was not prosecuted. Although the humane society continues to receive complaints, the stockyard continues to operate with impunity.
New York: Two downed cows were left for hours in a stockyard parking lot. One died from her ailments, while the second was dragged onto a truck at the end of the day. State’s action: Charges were filed and the District Attorney’s office prosecuted the case. Approximately two and a half years after the incident, after numerous discussions with the defendants and their attorneys, the District Attorney’s office concluded that “the current situation as it relates to the subject problem is filled with competing interest [and] uncertainty as to rights and responsibility… At present, many of the people involved are uncertain as to what they can or should do as to animals in this situation”. The matter was referred to mediation, and no penalties were assessed.
Texas: One end of a chain was attached to a stationary post, while the other was fastened around the neck of a disabled cow in a transportation trailer. As the truck drove out from under the animal, the cow was dragged across the floor of the trailer, up a cleated ramp, and dropped approximately four feet to the ground. The cow remained alive and conscious for approximately 2 days before being destroyed. State’s action: None.
Downed Animal . . .
Just the words produce an image of a suffering, sick animal. Sadly, this nightmarish vision is all too real every year for untold numbers of animals at stockyards, slaughterhouses, and production farms. The meat and dairy industries call them “downers”- animals so diseased or badly injured that they cannot even walk.
Many segments of the meat industry deal in “downers” because they can still sell them for human consumption. Profit, not humane considerations, guides industry practice and downed animals suffer gross negligence and abuse at livestock facilities across the country.
Fortunately, reforms stipulated by the USDA have, for now, stopped the worst abuses of downed cattle at stockyards and farms, following the discovery of a BSE-infected dairy cow in Washington state in December 2003.
The resultant, USDA-mandated ban on the slaughter of downed cattle for human consumption has prevented countless thousands of downed cattle from being dragged, bulldozed or otherwise abused to move them alive to the slaughterhouse.
However, the current USDA ban does nothing for animals other than cattle, and for countless sheep, pigs, and other farm animals who become downed every year, the misery continues. These downed animals may lie in alleyways, without food, water or veterinary care, until it’s convenient to take them to slaughter.
In some cases, downed animals die of neglect. If they are still alive to meet the slaughterhouse truck, they are typically moved by the easiest, but least humane ways, which can include being dragged with chains and being pushed with tractors or forklifts. These practices cause injuries ranging from bruises and abrasions to torn ligaments, broken bones, and dislocated joints.
Fortunately, the incidence of downed cattle abuse appears to be declining since the USDA ban on their slaughter for human consumption.
For those cattle who do become downed on the farm or at the stockyard, on-site euthanasia no longer presents an economic loss.
However, as fears over “mad cow” disease begin to fade in the public’s mind, cattle industry lobbyists are continually maneuvering to weaken the USDA’s ban. In recent legislative sessions, they have managed to introduce legislation that will allow downed cattle to be slaughtered for human consumption. Although the bill died in the last session of Congress, we must continually guard against industry efforts to undermine downed animal protection.
In the meantime, the meat industry will continue to use and abuse livestock who are “downers” until we pass laws to ban downed animal cruelties for all farm animals. The Downed Animal Protection Act, a federal bill which applies to all farm animals, has been introduced repeatedly (and defeated) in past legislative sessions, and we expect it to be reintroduced during the 109th Congress as well.
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