business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got a number of emails yesterday about our story concerning the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is within its legal rights to prohibit meatpackers from conducting their own tests for mad cow disease.

The case stemmed from an effort by Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to test all of its cows and then advertise the fact that these animals had been determined to be free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Larger meatpackers opposed the Creekstone program, saying that it would force them to also perform the expensive testing.

MNB user Jerome R. Schindler wrote:

This was a 2-1 decision and centered on interpretation of the Virus-Serum Toxic Act.

One way this could be resolved is if our spineless incompetent worthless Congress would amend the law to tell the court whether the language of this Act was meant to ban this testing. That would save both this company and the U.S. Government many thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Congress does this all the time. Remember the federal long distance tax issue? The law said the tax applied to calls billed based on time and distance. The IRS said that meant "time or distance". Millions were spent on litigation and on the administrative costs of issuing refunds after the court held it meant "time AND distance". In the meantime Congress sat on its hands when it could have passed a law clarifying what it meant. There certainly would have been a better use for the millions of tax dollars spent on litigation and administrative costs.

Did I mention that I think our Congress is spineless, incompetent and worthless?


Got it.

Another MNB user wrote:

Why in the world would I trust private testing paid for by the folks who want to sell their beef?

I understand the issue here is that smaller meat packers want to differentiate their product and I actually find it quite amusing that in this case it's the big guys who are complaining about cost given how many times small farmers/producers have been saddled with disproportionately high costs to comply with regulations, but I wonder if there isn't an upside to this - if the USDA doesn't want to allow private testing, then perhaps it's an opportunity for the call to be made for the USDA to toughen up its own testing.


One MNB user wrote:

This is exactly why I choose not to eat meat! In my opinion, it is all one big fat money making government conspiracy. There is no way that I am going to trust any government official that tells me what products are safe for me to feed my family. Don’t even get me started on the whole rBGH thing.

And to add fuel to the fire, I just finished reading the book “Skinny Bitch” (very easy and quick read). I highly recommend this book to everyone (even the men) because is had quite a bit of useful information on how messed up our government is when it comes to managing the things that we put in our mouth. What a complete mess!


I can't even imagine what carrying a book by that title around would do to my tough guy image.

Another MNB user wrote:

The saddest part of the inspection issue is that most of the public will never know about this court decision because it will not be reported in the major outlets. However, there is an answer – Don’t eat meat!

MNB user John Tatum wrote:

I can see how the court would uphold the USDA’s right to adjust the labeling on any marketed product including any statements that the additional testing provided any benefit. But, I cannot see how the USDA can stop a company from performing the testing on its products. Does this mean that the government can restrict testing on private products or that ‘beef’ is not a private commodity?

There is no question in my mind that Creekstone can justify the expense of private testing by using the results to differentiate its products.

It also seems to me that when private testing takes place, it should adhere to objective and high standards.

But neither of these two statements make me think that Creekstone, or any other supplier, ought to be prohibited from private testing and then from publicizing the results.




On another subject…. MNB yesterday noted that Russia has decided to bar 19 US poultry producers from exporting their products to that country, saying that the companies were not meeting Russian food safety standards.

While the Russian government says that the decision has nothing to do with increased tensions between Russia and the US over the recent war in Georgia, US experts were not entirely sure that this was the case.

I commented: Call me crazy, but when Russia starts questioning US food safety procedures I have to think that something is wrong in the space-time continuum.

To which one MNB user responded:

Suggest you read up on our chicken processing facilities sometime. .. And Russia is not a third world nation in its technology and standards by the way. We seem to have competed with them on occasion on some very high tech matters if I recall. While there is some good possibility that they cut off our chicken for political reasons, kinda disappointed in your reactionary ugly American response. We are not so innocent and they are not so backward as you make out.

I’m not sure I was being reactionary. My intention was to point out the irony. But your point is taken.

KC's View: