Mad about cows 

Our food chain in general, and the beef industry in particular, are fraught with USDA-sanctioned madness, says a former meat inspector. Mad cow, mad sheep, mad elk. Even mad kitty cats. On Sunday evening at St. Patrick Hospital, Dr. Lester Friedlander, who blew the whistle on Mad Cow disease 12 years ago, spoke to a group of 25 in a lecture he facetiously called “As the Stomach Turns.”

Friedlander recounted anecdote after anecdote of his tenure as a USDA meat inspector. The tales do not add up to a better burger. For each carcass, says Friedlander, inspectors are allowed only 15 seconds of inspection. Friedlander witnessed cow carcass abscesses bursting over meat that was then hosed off, wrapped up and shipped to the consumer. He encountered supervisors who were more concerned with falsifying inspection documents than protecting consumers from possible cow cancer. Just two weeks ago, he says, a cow in Texas with symptoms of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy was sent straight to the rendering plant without testing. Now, the USDA has gagged the inspectors, according to national news media.

Although cows are no longer fed directly to cows, Friedlander explains the crazy-protein cycle: The meat is turned into food for hogs and chickens. The abnormal protein that causes the madness doesn’t die or disappear. Then, the hogs and chickens are fed to cows. The mutant protein remains alive and well.

Friedlander asked the group if it realized that Montana’s representative, Denny Rehberg, was behind a bill that would lawfully place downer cows into the food stream.

“Downer cows should never be used for human consumption,” says Friedlander.

In some cases, he says, a downer cow will be dragged on a chain by its hoof to a barn and left there for days. When the downer cow fails to up itself, it’s sold. He believes that downer cows, which can be sold for $10 or $15 each (compared to $400 for a healthy cow), are still sold on the black market.

Friedlander does not inspect meat for the USDA anymore. His supervisors told him he was too good at the job, he says.

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