What's in the Stew?

Here's how some of the animals that regulators ordered destroyed on a small farm in Michigan ended up in the food chain

It seems logical to assume that if a disease is considered dangerous enough to require quarantining farms and destroying animals, then the condemned animals would be incinerated or otherwise destroyed to prevent their meat from reaching consumer markets. Not so.

According to Michael Vanderklok, TB eradication coordinator for the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA), "If an animal that has not had a [positive] reaction on a test" is condemned, "we can send it to a USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] slaughterhouse." If the meat passes inspection, out it goes into the food chain. The idea behind the practice is to help reimburse the USDA for its indemnification costs to farmers like Douglas Kirkpatrick, whose Michigan farm was quarantined after one of his herd tested positive for bovine TB. Vanderklok won't comment on the Doug Kirkpatrick case (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/9/07, "When Disease Hits a Small Farm").

Shipped Out

Kirkpatrick says 12 of his 55 cattle were completely destroyed and disposed of. He kept eight to butcher for his family and any customers that might be interested in purchasing the beef. He says he alerted customers to the outbreak of disease, though he doesn't feel there's any danger to people from their meat. Few made purchases under those circumstances, he says.

Kirkpatrick shipped the remaining 35 cattle ordered destroyed to a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse. Two of the cattle, he says, were discovered after slaughter to have bovine TB. The meat from these animals was cleared for human consumption only after cooking, so likely wound up in a processed product like canned beef stew. Meat from the remaining 33 animals went out into the marketplace.

While Kirkpatrick's customers were notified about the meat's history, the consumers of the other 35 animals had no such notification.

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