BSE in US to accelerate organic beef growth

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Organic meat sales are set to surge in the United States as BSE
sparks consumers' fears for food safety, reports UK research
company Organic Monitor.

An unwelcome Christmas gift, late last month the US government confirmed the country's first mad cow case in a Holstein dairy cow in Washington state. US officials believe the 6 1/2-year-old cow was imported into the US from Alberta, Canada, in 2001.

The latest report from Organic Monitor shows that sales of organic meat products in Canada expanded by 35 per cent in 2003 mainly because of the recent BSE scare there. Many Canadian retailers reported record sales of organic beef this year due to BSE elevating consumer demand.

Sales of organic beef in the US could double in 2004 if suppliers can get sufficient volume into the retail trade, claims the report.

'Many consumers see organic beef to be safer than non-organic beef since organically reared cattle are not fed animal remnants. There have also been no cases of BSE reported on animals that have been reared their entire lives according to organic production methods,'​ adds the report.

Scientists hold the general consensus that the best way to prevent mad cow disease is to ban "high risk" material - the brains, spinal cord and other remains of an infected cow - from human food and animal feed.

Since August 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of cattle remains as an ingredient in feed for other cows, goats and sheep.

In contrast to organic chicken, organic beef is typically produced on a small-scale, distributed via inefficient supply chains, and priced three times higher than conventional beef, reports Organic Monitor.

Consumers also perceive organic beef to be very similar to natural beef, which is widely available in natural food shops. These are factors behind organic beef to have a mere 0.02 per cent share of the US beef market in 2003,'​ adds the report.

The US department of agriculture last week banned brains and spinal cord from older cattle from the food supply. Some lawmakers and consumer groups are calling for even tougher steps, such as banning the feeding of animal remains to all food animals.

Results from DNA tests of the Holstein dairy cow expected back this week will determine whether the animal was originally from Canada. US officials believe the 6 1/2-year-old cow was imported into the US from Alberta, Canada, in 2001.

In response to the announcement in December, more than two dozen countries, among them Japan, one of the top buyers of US beef - have banned US beef exports, worth an annual €3 billion.

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