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In the aftermath of a scandal over a video showing employees abusing downer cows in a Chino California meat plant that led the USDA to recall 143 million pounds of beef, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer yesterday announced a total ban on slaughtering cows too sick or weak to stand.
Schafer, who said that the cows must be able to walk into a slaughterhouse, said that the move was intended to increase consumer confidence in the quality and safety of the food supply by eliminating confusion over the current policy on why some downed cows were being allowed into the food pipeline.
The new rule change prevents an exception -- which critics commonly refer to as a "loophole" -- that allows a certain number of downer cattle into the food supply if they pass veterinary inspection.
The American Meat Institute (AMI) applauded USDA's response to a petition it filed on April 22, together with the National Meat Association and the National Milk Producers Federation, requesting that the department end the option of having a second inspection.
At the time, AMI president J. Patrick Boyle said it "makes good sense" that the provision that allows non-ambulatory cattle to be reinserted for slaughter be rescinded. "Allowing the current rule to remain in force could ultimately undermine the confidence of U.S. consumers and foreign customers, in markets that are proving difficult to reopen in the first place," said Boyle.