April’s BSE case in California, the fourth in the U.S., is a good reminder about just how many people are waiting and hoping the U.S. beef industry makes a mistake.
Last week, everyone was talking about the potential impact of the BSE case. The experts were almost unanimous that the impact would be minimal in the long term, once the initial reactions subsided. All in all, they were right.
Various governments did react to the news, some by sending delegations to assuage either their own domestic consumers or producers. Meanwhile, others, like Indonesia, which is engaged in a full-blown effort to bolster its own domestic beef industry, banned certain products.
Truth be told, however, Indonesia had already reduced its import quotas dramatically, with U.S. exports down 84% in volume through February compared to a year ago, and the number of imported cattle allowed from Australia having been almost halved. For Indonesia, the California BSE case was merely an excuse to do what it had already been hoping to do.
Meanwhile, the federal meat inspectors union claims the latest BSE case is a sign we need more inspectors, while the anti-meat groups say it’s proof we shouldn’t eat meat, and the anti-corporate groups claim it’s a symptom of corporate greed.
In the end, it appears that the world, for the most part, is responding to the science. However, that doesn’t mean the opportunists won’t use it for their own benefit. If nothing else, it reminds all of us just how many people are waiting and hoping the industry makes a mistake.