New case of mad cow a first since 2011
Ranchers in Alberta are on high alert as regulators have confirmed a single beef cow has been infected with mad cow disease, which could hurt efforts to improve the global health risk rating of Canadian cattle and the demand for domestic beef in key export markets.
Canadian ranchers still harbour painful memories of 2003, when regulators found a cow in Alberta was sick with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly called mad cow disease. At that time, 40 countries placed export bans on Canadian beef.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed the first new case of BSE in a cow since 2011 but said, “no part of the animal’s carcass entered the human food or animal feed systems.”
Mad cow disease is usually contracted when a cow consumes protein from the brain or spinal cord of an infected sheep or cow, which was how this most recent cow became infected with BSE, the CFIA confirmed Friday afternoon.
While the agency said it did not expect the case to affect Canadian beef exports, data from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada show that year-over-year beef and veal exports plummeted more than 17 per cent the last time a cow infected with BSE was identified in 2011.
“It could create a bit of a backup that could affect the supply (of beef ),” the general manager of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Rob McNabb, said in an interview. He said that in the short term, the price Canadian ranchers receive for their beef could fall, as importers wait to see the results of the CFIA’s investigation.
The first new case of mad cow disease comes on the heels of a banner year for Canadian beef producers.
The most recent market update from industry organization Canada Beef Inc. shows that domestic producers exported $1.77 billion worth of cattle and beef in the first 11 months in 2014, which was a 45 per cent increase over the same period the previous year.