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Beef safe, local authorities say

by Susie Vasquez

Professionals involved in agriculture and meat processing in Northern Nevada say the risk of contracting mad-cow disease is extremely low, if it exists at all.

David Theiss, owner of Butler Meats in Carson City said there is little danger, but his business has increased following the discovery of the disease in a Washington dairy herd.

“My customers all say the same thing,” he said. “They’re coming to my shop to buy their meat. It’s a scary thing for them.”

Butler Meats deals only with USDA choice meat from Nebraska and employees grind and cut everything on the premesis.

Theiss said customers shouldn’t panic, but they should know where their meat comes from no matter where they buy.

For example, a store with meat cutters on staff is important because most of the meat is processed on-site.

“Wal-Mart doesn’t hire meat cutters,” he said. “Everything is processed elsewhere.”

State Veterinarian Dr. David Thain said he doesn’t believe there is any risk. The meat from Washington was distributed in a number of states, including Nevada.

“There’s no risk involved with the meat coming out of that plant,” he said. “The meat was voluntarily recalled, meaning there’s no health risk. It’s unfortunate that the news media feels otherwise.”

Transmitted by a small protein called a prion, the disease is limited to nerve tissue, the brain and spinal chord. Extensive research in Britain after the initial outbreak in the 1980s revealed no sign of the disease in those nerves found in muscle.

Meat at the Washington plant was properly handled, with the brain and spinal chord removed, Thain said.

Some dairy cattle from Washington have been distributed to Nevada dairy herds and an investigation is under way to determine the risk, Thain said.

“They’re scattered all over (Nevada),” he said. “Cattle move around all the time.”

Bob Butler, meat specialist for Wolf Pack Meats in Reno, said he doesn’t have any concerns about Nevada’s beef supply. The incubation period for the disease is 36 months and Nevada cattle are slaughtered when they’re 30 months old.

“In Nevada we slaughter younger cows, so I feel there’s no problem,” he said. “But when we do harvest again, we’ll make sure the head and spinal chord are completely removed and denatured.”

Contact Susie Vasquez at svasquez@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.