Great commentary in your December issue (“Terrorism is terrorism,” page 4). I run a hobby Web site http://soliah.com, which along with Jack Golan's (Sacramento, CA) site: http://lektrik.com/sinc/ reports everything we can find on the Kathleen Soliah (aka Sara Jane Olson) and the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).

The Soliah case is far from over. A side effect of her stalling 2½ years is that it allowed the prosecution time to go over the old SLA evidence. A quarter century ago, the SLA murdered a mother of four depositing the church collection, Myrna Opsahl. Police have uncovered a lot of new evidence, so there is now a good chance that this long-dormant case will now be prosecuted within a year.

It looks like the prosecution will happen on the Opsahl murder, but the prosecutors still need a nudge so publicity always helps. The Opsahl family are the nicest people you can imagine.

On our Web sites, we occasionally do links to the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Your industry is, as you pointed out in your column, susceptible to domestic terrorism. Occasionally checking our Web sites may give you material.
Greg Lane
Minneapolis, MN

Dairy And The Checkoff

After reading your article in the September issue of BEEF (“Get busy on the checkoff,” page 12), I can only wonder if you think it's fair that dairymen are expected to pay $1/head into the beef checkoff when the animal is sold to another dairyman for dairy purposes and not for slaughter?

I have no problem with the checkoff when an animal is going to slaughter, but when she's going into another dairy herd it seems unfair. After all, you never see any money from the beef industry going to dairy promotion.
Lanny Sutton
lannys@iopener.net

Wes Ishmael responds:

Wonder no more. I do support dairy producers paying the checkoff, even when a dairy animal is sold for dairy purposes. Here's why:

Depending on whose statistics you use, 20-25% of annual domestic beef production comes from dairy cattle. Even though “beef” might be considered a by-product of milk production by dairy producers, that's lots of tons of beef that competes with non-dairy beef. It seems only fair that everyone benefiting from the promotion, product enhancement, consumer education, expansion of export markets, etc., paid for by checkoff dollars, should support the program.

As for paying the checkoff on an animal heading across the fence rather than the market, beef producers do the same. Back when the program was developed, folks didn't think it was fair for only the last owner of the animal to pay for a program that benefits everyone.

Finally, keep in mind that at last count there were 19 dairy producers on the Beef Promotion and Research Board that administers the checkoff program by law. So, while dairy producers do pay the checkoff, they also have a voice in how those dollars are spent.

A Change In Terminology

A recent article reported that IBP, due to the decline in Japanese demand for beef, decided to not “slaughter” cattle on Monday, Dec. 17. My comment is that we should try to use the term “process” instead of “slaughter.” Some old terms in agriculture need to be turned out to pasture, so to speak.
John Remster
remsterfarms@aol.com

No Fan Of Irradiation

There's an old saying my mother repeated quite often as I was growing up some 60 years ago. “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” From our home-butchered and processed meats to her daily baking, cooking and canning, mom practiced “clean.”

In his December article “Irradiation Gets A Boost,” (page 14), Joe Roybal writes that consumers are rushing to board the irradiation bandwagon. Yet, he ignores the potential consumer backlash. E.coli exists in fecal contamination, not in the meat itself. Irradiated manure is still manure.

When consumers wake up and realize they are eating irradiated manure burgers so the meatpacking cartel can increase chain speeds and profits, the entire beef industry may suffer a tremendous backlash.

Cleanliness, especially with food, is a standard that should never be relaxed.
Stephen Anderson
Alma, KS

Editor's note: Irradiation of all uncooked food products, not just ground beef, is neither a silver bullet nor a substitute for other food safety efforts. It's simply another tool to be used along with all the other current and future tools to help guarantee a safer food supply to American consumers.

The adoption of irradiation doesn't mean the end of food safety innovation. Seventy years after the advent of pasteurization, is there manure floating in the carton of milk consumers buy at their grocery stores? How many folks today would even consider drinking unpasteurized milk?

Irradiation is approved for use in 40 countries worldwide. It has the unqualified support of virtually every reputable entity genuinely interested in promoting public health through food safety. Numerous studies show that once educated about the benefits and safety of food irradiation, the vast majority of consumers prefer irradiated products.

Our position is that the beef industry should take the lead in working with public health agencies and groups, processors and retailers to educate consumers on the benefits and safety of food irradiation. We need to do this not because it's good for producers, processors or retailers, but because it's the right thing to do for consumers.

We Want Fair Trade

Out in the country, most producers are not opposed to the checkoff. Provisions should be made, however, for a referendum every few years to force the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to be more accountable to the producers who are paying the money. It is just good business.

Keep pushing for country-of-origin labeling (beef raised, fed and slaughtered in the USA). We produce the best beef in the world here in America, so why should our businesses be threatened by inferior beef from other countries? If we are going to have free trade, then there must be some control to make it fair.
Phyllis Gilbert
Ludlow, SD

Editor's note: The mechanism for a vote already exists. The checkoff law stipulates that the U.S. secretary of agriculture can call for a referendum after being presented with a petition carrying the valid signatures of 10% of producers paying into the program. If checkoff opponents can't even raise that 10% level of support for a referendum, then why should the industry expend the time and expense of a vote?

Time For Individual ID

The cattle industry should make the necessary changes to implement an individual animal identification (ID) system that would track an animal from the producer to the processor. If this change were to take place, brucellosis vaccination and testing would no longer be needed. In most of the country, brand inspection could be replaced by a complete animal ID system. Health inspection, as we know it, could be eliminated.

At this time, brucellosis is mostly a political disease. It hasn't been a human threat since milk pasteurization has come into use.

Brucellosis was also a serious animal disease 70 years ago. It's since been eliminated from all but a couple of places in the U.S.

If brucellosis is no longer a threat to people or cattle, why do we keep vaccinating and testing for it? The two main reasons are the infected Yellowstone bison herd, and the identification that vaccination and test tags give regulatory agencies. The animal ID is used for trace back of other diseases.

Veterinarians do health inspection for most of the cattle that cross state lines. Health papers aren't of much value for disease prevention. The real value of health papers is for trace-back purposes if a problem is found later.

In much of the U.S., there is no brand inspection. Parts of the West need to keep brand inspection, but the rest of the country would be better served by an individual animal ID system that could track an animal through its entire life.

A good animal ID system could be put in place with the money that is now being spent on brucellosis vaccination and testing, brand inspection, health inspection and current animal ID.
Jerry Meyring
Alliance, NE

A Cookoff Suggestion

I question what the cookoffs do to promote the sale of beef in any form. Have you ever done any surveys asking how many times these winning recipes are used?

To sell more beef, you need recipes using those food items households have on hand. With busy lifestyles, and even those who have the time to prepare their families meals, most people are not going to use those fancy dishes for their “every day meals.” If we want to sell the meat, we need to do it every day, not just for those “special” times.

Why not have a contest with the recipe selling the most meat win the prize, not the one that looks the greatest, has the fanciest name and requires ingredients that take an extra trip to the store to find.

We need to see better returns for these checkoff dollars that are being used so carelessly. This may be attracting media attention, but not at the rate that Oprah and other anti-meat activists are.
Millie Rogers
Ree Heights, SD

Where's The Payoff?

In 1979, at the top of the cattle price cycle, we sold our 500-lb. calves for $1/lb., and we bought a brand new supercab pickup for $12,500. We had no beef checkoff back then.

This fall, 22 years later and again at the top of the price cycle, similar quality 500-lb. calves went for 96¢/lb., and we are supposed to be elated with the price. A new supercab pickup would cost $30,000.

Our operating expenses have increased considerably from 1979 to 2001. Explain to me again how much the beef checkoff is helping us!
Mike and Elaine Smith
Prairie City, OR

Send reader letters, with name and address, to BEEF, 7900 International Dr., Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55425; or e-mail beef@primediabusiness.com. BEEF reserves the right to edit for length.