Current Weather
The Spy FM

So, Who Sent Those Sick Cows To The Slaughterhouse?

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
August 23, 2012

Federal regulators and fast-food companies reacted with unprecedented speed this week to the release of an undercover video that animal rights activists shot inside a California slaughterhouse. The video, which we’ll warn you, is pretty graphic, shows employees of Central Valley Meat Company using electric prods repeatedly on cattle that appeared unable to get to their feet. That’s a violation of rules that are supposed to keep sick animals out of the nation’s meat supply.

The USDA shut down the facility and started an investigation. Major customers, including McDonald’s, stopped buying the company’s products.

For all the outrage aimed at the slaughterhouse,what about the dairy that sent cows to slaughter, even though they appear to be barely able to stand? The episode shines a harsh light on one corner of the beef industry: The part that slaughters cows that have spent most of their lives producing milk.

Slaughtered dairy cows account for about six percent of all beef production in the U.S., and about 18 percent of ground beef, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. But unlike cattle that are specifically raised for beef, they often do not arrive at slaughterhouses in top physical condition. They are older, they have given birth to several calves, and they have been bred and raised to convert feed into milk, not meat.

When a milk-producing cow runs into health problems — anything from udder infections to sores on her feet that make it difficult to walk — a dairy farmer may be tempted to just ship her off to slaughter. And the problem ends up in the hands of slaughterhouses that specifically handle “culled” dairy cows, like Central Valley Meat.

The result: Stomach-churning videos like the one released this week. Even when those videos don’t show evidence of a health risk to consumers, they can be devastating to individual businesses and even the entire beef industry.

Many people in the industry now are trying to convince dairy farmers never to send another ill, lame, or otherwise incapacitated animal off to slaughter.

Veterinarian Richard Wallace, who spent 15 years at the University of Illinois before joining Pfizer Animal Health in 2010, has led the campaign. “Slaughter is not a place to dump animals,” he says.

He tells dairy farmers to think of their older cows differently — not as “cull animals,” but as potentially valuable beef cattle. And instead of going directly from milk barn to slaughterhouse, Wallace says farmers should coddle those animals for a few weeks. After ending their milk production, the cows should just get to rest and eat. The result, Wallace says, is a healthier cow, higher-quality meat — and more profit for the farmer.

As for cows that have really serious health problems, “if she’s too sick to go to the feed pen, then she’s too sick to go to slaughter,” Wallace says. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center