How the largest beef recall in history effects pet owners

How the largest beef recall in history effects pet owners

The current beef recall – the largest beef recall in history – brings up the importance of SRMs again. Below is additional information on SRMs with regards to pet food.

You have probably heard about the beef recall. The major networks have aired a video provided by The Humane Society showing downed cattle – sick/diseased cattle unable to stand – being shoved with a fork lift into the slaughter area (if you are courageous, link to the video is below). It is extremely difficult to watch and frightening to think that a unscrupulous meat processor would ignore safety protocol and endanger U.S. citizens by processing sick or diseased animals into human food. Pet owners should take special notice of this story – because even though it is illegal to process downed cattle into human food – it is legal and common practice to process downed cattle into pet food.

The FDA considers downed cattle SRMs – Specified Risk Materials. SRMs are known risks to spread mad cow disease and it is illegal for SRM animals to be processed into the human food chain as well as being processed into ruminant (cattle, sheep, pig) feed. It is however, legal and common practice to process SRM animals into pet food. Sick and/or diseased cattle – considered as a Specified Risk Material by the FDA are not destroyed (or illegally used in human food) they are legally processed into pet food. Mad cow disease has already crossed species into cats in the UK and mink worldwide. Are U.S. pets next?

When the FDA was considering a change in the pet food regulations, members of the cattle industry, rendering industry, pet food industry, and various other organizations lobbied the FDA either for stricter/safer regulations to protect pets – or lobbied against it.

A letter dated August 13, 2004 from the Humane Society of the United States wrote in favor of a ban of all SRM material in all foods – human, ruminant, or pet foods. “As the country’s largest animal protection organization…we are deeply concerned about the potential impact of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) on animal health. The removal from animal feed of downers, dead stock (animals that have died on the farm), cattle showing signs of a CNS disorder, and cattle who appear rabies-suspect but test negative would add another important layer of protection since these animals have a greater incidence of BSE than the general population. There is strong evidence that cats are susceptible to BSE and we therefore urge the FDA to prohibit immediately the use in pet food of any SRMs, downers, dead stock, or cattle showing signs of a CNS disorder or testing negative for rabies. There have been confirmed cases of Feline Spongiform Encephalopathy in approximately 100 cats in Europe. Since the FDA is charged with ensuring the safety of the food cats consume, we feel it would be reckless not to prohibit the inclusion of the high risk materials enumerated above in pet food.”

One of many opposing the FDA’s consideration to prohibit SRMs in pet food is Garth Merrick (of Merrick Pet Foods) in his letter dated July 28, 2004. “ANPR’s proposed rule to prohibit SRM’s from all animal food including pet food and prohibiting materials from non ambulatory cattle and dead stock from all animal feed creates the below listed consequences of disposal of pounds that previously could be manufactured into animal feed. SRM’s in cattle under 30 months of age have been estimated to be 20 pounds per head. In Texas there are four packing houses processing approximately 100,000 head per week times 20 pounds equals 2,000,000 times 52 weeks equals 104,000,000 of product that no one has discussed what to do with. If you cannot render it for feed to be fed to chickens, swine or pet food, then you have destroyed a system that currently works. We are the original recyclers. These numbers are only for Texas; when you consider the other lower 47 states, the consequences are inconceivable as to what the health hazards could be if these products are not processed the way they are currently being done.”

No decision has been made by the FDA to ban SRM materials from use in pet food or pet treats.

Whose side are you on? If you are sitting on the fence, giving consideration to the expense of the proper disposal of SRMs – I urge you to watch the Humane Society’s video, notice the health conditions of the downed cattle, and then decide.

Even if you are a non pet owner reading this article, I’m doubtful you would think sick, diseased, dying animals are safe to feed pets. Personally if a livestock animal has been declared a Specified Risk Material – I don’t care who has the expense of disposing of the material – just don’t use pet food as the ‘disposal method’. Pet food becomes the profitable disposal method. SRMs are sold to pet food manufacturers providing revenue for a product that is otherwise un-sellable. Those pet food manufacturers that purchase SRM materials obtain ‘meat’ at hugely discounted prices. By no means could SRMs be profitable to the pet or the pet owner.

By products, meat and bone meal, meat meal, animal digest, and animal fat are all ingredients that could be processed SRM animals. Please read your pet food and pet treat labels!

This particular issue – downed cattle being allowed into pet food – is one of the issues that I address in the petition to the FDA. If you have not already done so – please take a few moments and add your name and a comment (if you wish) to the petition at the Truth About Pet Food blog page…


It will take all of our combined efforts – and probably a little more – to get the changes that our pets deserve. Please help by signing the petition.

Wishing you and your pet the best,

Susan Thixton

Truth About Pet Food

Petsumer Report

More articles on pet foods and pet treats can be found here:

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