WASHINGTON -- The discovery of a single cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the Canadian province of Alberta will not likely have a big impact on American beef sales -- provided there are no more cases reported, U.S. meat industry officials said.
Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, said polls tracking consumer reaction to BSE, or mad cow disease, in the years since the malady was first identified, reflect an ongoing confidence in the safety of the domestic beef supply.
"The only caveat I would offer is that this cow was not separated by an ocean from the U.S. supply; it was separated by a border," he told SN, distinguishing between the Canadian case and earlier instances of the disease in Europe, primarily Great Britain. "Whether this has any impact on the level of consumer confidence at this time, I don't know."
The timing of the report could not be worse, given the approach of Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer and a big grilling holiday. Government and industry officials stressed the United States tested nearly 20,000 head of cattle for BSE last year, and has had in place a three-pronged strategy focusing on strict import controls, feed restrictions and animal surveillance. The program has thus far kept the country BSE-free.
Nevertheless, the report was immediately felt on Wall Street, where stocks dropped sharply for meat-centered food companies and restaurant chains. The United States, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia also temporarily banned imports of Canadian cattle, beef and beef products.