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Mad Cow conderns led to rule temporaily stopping some beef processing

Friday, January 23, 2004



Mad Cow Disease has affected at least one Clay County butcher.

No, the disease has not surfaced here, but the State Board of Animal Health told Chris Styleburg to stop processing beef for a week. Styleburg has owned Jack's Fine Foods, 117 E. National Ave., in Brazil for the past six years.

A week ago, Jerry McClure, area supervisor of the state board, showed up at Jack's and told Styleburg he must stop butchering beef for local farmers. The reason was to take precaution against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), better known as Mad Cow Disease.

McClure's instructions came from his boss, Dr. Paul Dieterlen, director of the Division of Meat and Poultry, State Board of Animal Health.

Dieterlen has been involved in weekly, and sometimes daily conference calls with the Food Safety Inspection Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Indiana agency is funded in part by the U.S.D.A and is required to adhere to its instructions, Dieterlen told The Brazil Times on Friday.

The instruction affecting Styleburg and other butchers around the state came from the U.S.D.A. to the state board after U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman said BSE diseased cattle must be kept out of the food chain.

That meant the 140 butchers in Indiana, including Styleburg, could no long process beef that had been slaughtered on the farm, because the butchers could not verify the cattle were free of BSE.

Rep. Andy Thomas (R-Brazil) came to Styleburg's rescue, the Brazil butcher said.

"Andy has been a big help (dealing with the state)," Styleburg said Friday afternoon. "I called his office Thursday (Jan. 15) and by Saturday (Jan. 17), he was in my store and helping me."

Styleburg processes beef for "quite a few" local farmers, though he could not say offhand how many. He had 17 cows scheduled to be butchered when he was told he must stop.

So far, he has lost the business of butchering two cows to a Clay City processor, costing him $500. He doesn't know if he will lose more money or not.

Dieterlen said the rules are applied uniformly to all butchers in the state. The Times could not contact the Clay City processor on Friday for comment on why they continued butchering when Styleburg was told to stop.

The board rescinded its order Thursday, but gave Styleburg specific instructions.

He must now have a letter from each farmer, stating that the beef was standing at the time of slaughter. Mad Cow Disease manifests itself when the animals stumble and fall.

The letter must also state the age of the beef. If the animal was older than 30 months, Styleburg can butcher it, but he must cut the steaks into New York Strip instead of T-Bone. The reason is that the backbone, brain, eyes, tail and other parts of the carcass must not be used for human consumption. They are considered to be BSE specified risk materials.

Dieterlen said the change came this week because he and other state agency directors told the U.S.D.A. the rule was impossible to enforce.

"We absolutely cannot police this," Dieterlen said.

He was also concerned about Styleburg and other butchers who relied on their processing activities for income.

As a result of the pressure from the states, the USDA softened its rules, allowing processors to obtain written statements from the farmers who slaughter the animals.

The order to stop butchering farm-dressed cattle came just as Styleburg's business was picking up. More people seem to be buying beef from local farmers, rather than the big corporate operations, Styleburg said. He believes it is a matter of trust -- people think the locally grown, cornfed beef is safer than the large production farms that may use steroids and not be as familiar with the history of each animal.

After Styleburg butchers the beef, it is returned to the farmer. Dieterlen said the beef is to only be used for consumption by the farmer and not sold to other consumers.

Styleburg is happy he can butcher for local farmers once again.

"Everybody involved has been very helpful," he said. "That includes Andy Thomas, Dr. Paul Dieterlen and Jerry McClure."

But, Indiana's butchering industry is changing. Concerning the rule change concerning farm-dressed beef, "That could change again," Styleburg said.

But, Dieterlen went one step further. "I can tell you, it will change," he said.

Jack's Fine Foods' retail operation was not affected by the order. The beef Styleburg sells from his meat case was not affected by the rule flap.

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