by Steve Wagner
In general, learning experiences about agriculture somehow seem more effective when offered in an idyllic setting like a farm. The 2013 Pennsylvania Beef Producers Summit was held at the Masonic Village Farm in Elizabethtown, PA beneath a gray cloud bank that afforded light and sporadic rainfall during the first session in the farm’s barn. Gatherings like this encourage self-scrutiny, putting the industry under the microscope.
Under the blanket of Beef Quality Assurance, the first session was offered by BQA Specialist Nichole Hockenberry who began by asking if anybody knew why BQA was initiated in the first place. Not knowing how to cook is one reason. “Overcooking or undercooking,” said Hockenberry. “A study showed that one out of every four individuals that ordered meat, or beef, at a restaurant had some sort of unpleasant eating experience. That was often due to injection site lesions.”
Consumers, she says, are “concerned about the drugs that we give cattle, and how it affects the food that they are eating and feeding to their families. Medical communities and government agencies are also concerned about antibiotic use.”
On Feb. 17, 2008, Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company voluntarily recalled about 143 million pounds of raw and frozen beef products, now considered the largest meat recall ever in the United States. The Humane Society of the United States had alleged charges of animal cruelty and violations of the law at this California slaughtering plant. An investigator for HSUS videotaped workers abusing downed animals unable to walk into the kill pens on their own. “A black-and-white dairy animal had gone down,” Hockenberry explained. “It was lifted with a forklift. That image was plastered on TV over and over again. That is where the line gets blurred for the average consumer. It was blown out of proportion. It was an animal welfare issue; the animal should not have been handled that way. But food safety and animal welfare are not one and the same.” This one cow caused 143 million pounds of beef to become landfill material. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service had determined that beef products produced by the company were unfit for human consumption because the cattle had not received “complete and proper inspection.” Incidentally, an attendee at this seminar pointed out that HSUS “is not affiliated with most local humane societies.”
“You’ve probably seen some commercials on TV that has a sad-looking dog or cat,” said Hockenberry, referencing HSUS. “There are a lot of folks who will give money to that, thinking that the $20 or $30 a month is going toward your local dog or cat shelter.” It isn’t going there, other than maybe a smidgen. “The larger portion of that is to get rid of animal agriculture. HSUS is a scary group.”
The term “residue prevention” most often conjures up thoughts of oral and injectable pharmaceutical products, but they aren’t the only culprits. There is a term in the feed industry known as ‘extra labeling,’ which is use of a drug in a way or for a purpose not specified on the label, or more practically the documents provided by the manufacturer. “In the case of an adverse reaction the responsibility for any loss incurred rests with the veterinarian, not the manufacturer. Extra-label use is common in veterinary practice because of the large number of animal species being treated and because many of the diseases encountered in companion animals require drugs which have been registered for use only in humans.”
In other words, says Hockenberry, “a veterinarian is the only one who can say that you can go above and beyond whatever the label says.”
According to the Dairy Animal Care and Quality Assurance program manual, it’s important to follow the on-label guidelines for all feed additives, too.
Remember these key tips:
• Use only FDA-approved medicated feed additives in rations.
• Use any medicated feed additives in accordance with Food and Drug Administration Good Manufacturing Practices regulations. This applies to both suppliers and on-farm ration formulation.
• Follow Judicious Antimicrobial Use Guidelines (found on page 26 of the manual).
• Avoid extra-label use of feed additives, which is illegal and strictly prohibited.
• Strictly follow withdrawal times to avoid violating residues, keeping in mind that withdrawal times for meat are often longer than the withholding time for milk. Ensure that all additives are withdrawn at the proper time to avoid volatile residues.
• Keep complete records when formulating or feeding medicated feed rations. Records are to be kept a minimum of 24 months from date of transfer of ownership.
Remember, every dairy animal eventually becomes a beef animal and the time to consider withdrawal times is before a product is used.
Visit BQA.org to read more about residue avoidance and other Dairy Animal Care and Quality Assurance guidelines.
Beef and rumors of beef
by Steve Wagner