Just in time for Halloween, one of the world’s top email hoaxes has again arisen from the grave. First appearing in 2002, the email is a chain-style communication designed to encourage recipients to boycott McDonald’s, claiming that the fast-food chain sources its beef from South America.

The email exhorts recipients to send the message to 10 others, and those 10 to each send to another 10. “By the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will have reached over 3 million consumers!” it says.

The email has appeared under the attribution of both the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and a Texas A&M University professor, both of whom have disavowed the email. But the email continues to resurface every two years or so. One of the latest versions is currently circulating in Canada and claiming that Canadian McDonald’s is sourcing South American beef.

Here is the 2004 e-mail:

McDonald's claims that there is not enough beef in the USA to support their restaurants. Well, we know that is not so. Our opinion is they are looking to save money at our expense. The sad thing of it is that the people of the USA are the ones who made McDonald's successful in the first place, but we are not good enough to provide beef.

We personally are no longer eating at McDonald's, which I am sure does not make an impact, but if we pass this around maybe there will be an impact felt. Please pass it on.

Just to add a note, all Americans that sell cows at a livestock auction barn had to sign a paper stating that we do not ever feed our cows any part of another cow. South Americans are not required to do this as of yet. McDonald's has announced that they are going to start importing much of their beef from South America.

The problem is that South Americans aren't under the same regulations as American beef producers, and the regulations they have are loosely controlled. They can spray numerous pesticides on their pastures that have been banned here at home because of residues found in the beef. They can also use various hormones and growth regulators that we can't. The American public needs to be aware of this problem and that they may be putting themselves at risk from now on by eating at good old McDonald's.

American ranchers raise the highest quality beef in the world and this is what Americans deserve to eat. Not beef from countries where quality is loosely controlled. Therefore, I am proposing a boycott of McDonald's until they see the light.

I'm sorry but everything is not always about the bottom line, and when it comes to jeopardizing my family's health that is where I draw the line.

I am sending this note to about 30 people. If each of you send it to at least 10 more and those 300 send it to at least 10 more … and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will have reached over 3 million consumers! I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you?

Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on.

Now, For Some Facts. Here’s what BEEF magazine published on this matter back in 2004:

“First of all, McDonald's buys almost 1 billion lbs. of beef from U.S. producers each year.

“Second, there has been a serious shortage of lean beef trimmings in the U.S. due to fewer beef and dairy cows going to market. Ground beef accounts for nearly 50% of total red meat consumption, and lean ground beef is clearly preferred by the retail customer.

“The McDonald's proposal two years ago was actually to test a small amount of beef from Australia and New Zealand in some of its markets. Those countries export fresh, frozen and chilled beef to the U.S. under an already established tariff rate quota (TRQ) system. This system caps the amount of beef imported from all countries not included in FTAs.

“With regard to South America (a moot point in this argument), a couple of points need to be addressed.

“Virtually all South American beef is produced without ‘growth regulators.’ It's why Brazil and Argentina can export beef to the European Union. Also, more than 90% of Brazilian and Argentine beef is grass-fed. That means the concern about feeding animal by-products is a non-issue.

“Because of foot-and-mouth-disease issues in Argentina and Brazil, fresh beef from those countries is not eligible for export into the U.S. Only thermally-treated, processed beef from Brazil or Argentina (the primary South American beef producers) is allowed for U.S. import. When was the last time you ordered corned beef at McDonald's?

“It is possible to import fresh beef from foot-and-mouth disease-free Uruguay, which has a 20,000-metric-ton slice of the TRQ pie.

“Perpetuation of a false and ignorant hoax does nothing to help anyone in the U.S. cattle business. What we need is accurate information and qualified opinion, not emotional rhetoric like this chain letter spews.

“Should our first desire not be that all people worldwide have at their disposal an adequate supply of safe, wholesome and good-tasting beef to mix into their diets?

“Then, let's duke it out for market share. With people eating beef, U.S. producers can prosper in a global marketplace.”