13 January 2004

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

In "The Cow Jumped Over the U.S.D.A." (Op-Ed, Jan. 2), Eric Schlosser suggests that the United States Department of Agriculture promote beef while a new agency ensures safety.

That is a terrible idea. It is because of the agency's vigilance that the United States has avoided until recently a case of mad cow disease. And when the case arose, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman and the experts at her disposal were able to prevent wide distribution of the meat, as well as public hysteria. The U.S.D.A. took extraordinary precaution by issuing the recall of the meat and has begun putting further safeguards into effect.

Mr. Schlosser tries to scare people away from fast-food restaurants by saying they rely on dairy cattle, which are at highest risk for the disease. But as the author of "Fast Food Nation," he should know that chains like McDonald's and Wendy's do not buy beef from "downer" cattle.

American Farm Bureau Federation
Washington, Jan. 2, 2004