The discovery of a Holstein cow in the Pacific Northwest with Mad Cow Disease made many consumers put down that last bite of steak. after all, it’s hard to tell what’s in beef or dairy products without a high level of oversight. Mad Cow Disease is passed through animal byproducts used in feeding. As virtually every commercially raised animal is fed with other animal byproducts of some kind, it is hard to determine if and when another case of Mad Cow Disease might strike. the only beef that can be trusted is the certified organic variety. there is no mad cow disease to be found in organic beef.
To be certified organic, beef producers must follow a rigorous regime of documentation and care when raising and preparing beef products for the market. a cow certified organic in the United States is raised organically from the third trimester before birth through slaughter. This rule applies only to beef raised for slaughter. Beef used in organic dairy might be raised organically from a period after birth allowing a time in the animal’s life where contamination might occur. This was the case in Europe when a handful of cows on organic farm became ill with Mad Cow Disease. those cows had come to the organic farm after spending time elsewhere where commercial feed was used.
The Organic Beef Diet
While it is not allowed for commercially raised cattle to eat the brain or spinal tissue of other mammals, it is still allowable by the government to include other animal by-products in feed for these non-organic creatures including:
- Blood and blood products from cattle and other species
- Gelatin found in the hooves of cattle and other species
- Fats, oils, grease, and tallow from cattle and other species
- Milk and milk protein
- Rendered pork protein
- Rendered horse protein
- Rendered poultry wastes
- Poultry manure which may include cattle brain and spinal tissue found in chicken feed
- Human food wastes which may contain beef scraps
The food for cows raised by organically certified beef manufacturers is purely vegetarian. Section 205.236.c of the National Organic Program regulations requires that producers keep accurate and up to date records of the origins of the animals and code 205.103 requires the producer to maintain complete and timely records regarding compliance with the organic regulations. This means producers must document every food item they feed to their cows as well as any medications given to the animal.
Producers must disclose the amount and source of the animal feed, and organic cattle feed mills are under just as much scrutiny. there are no animal byproducts in organic feed and laws prevent feed mills from even mixing organic food in the same setting as non-organic. the feed mill which creates both products must maintain a separation between types of feed and have documentation to back up the claims. the careful record keeping and scrutiny by the government is your best option when it comes to feeling at ease with your next steak or hamburger.