Florida Beef Industry Surviving Mad Cow Scare

Many feared the initial diagnosis would lead to lower prices for beef, and lower demand too, but there's good news for ranchers in Florida and Georgia. Prices are lower, but not as low as originally predicted.

Cattle auctions over the last few days for Florida and Georgia ranchers brought some relief. Prices are still being called "steady", despite concerns about mad cow. All over the country, cattle ranchers are afraid beef prices may collapse because of a confirmed mad cow case in Washington State, but lifelong Florida rancher Payne Midyette is grateful it hasn't happened.

"Prices are down, but not as much as people expected. It could be a lot worse," says Midyette.

"Florida has been largely unaffected. There were no cows tested in this state. We do a lot of testing. Our food supply is safe. We're very pleased the consumers have responded," says Terry McElroy of the Florida Department of Agriculture.

In response to the mad cow scare, the USDA has banned high-risk body parts of cows, including the brain, eyes, tonsils and lower intestines.

"These cuts of beef are exotic, and sort of novelty items. These are cuts that have a higher likelihood of having problems," says McElroy.

Over all, ranchers say things could be a lot worse. A report from a Georgia cattle auction says that fewer cattle were sold. However, the price for the cattle was close to what it was before the confirmed case of mad cow out west.

There were reports out of Colorado Monday talking about a possible new method to test cattle for mad cow while the cattle are still alive. Until now, the only way to test an animal for the disease was after they were dead, because brain tissue was needed for the test, but Colorado scientists say they've found a new way to test the cow's blood while the animal is still alive.


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