The fiasco footage of the horrific treatment of downed cows at a California packing plant -- video that is still being replayed on national and local news -- has angered nearly everyone in the beef industry. None are madder than Temple Grandin.
The Colorado State University animal scientist/behaviorist and the nation's foremost designer of animal-handling systems was boiling over after seeing the video that helped lead to the nation's largest beef recall, some 143 million lbs.
The video led network and cable newscasts much of the past week. Cattle prices didn't react negatively to the recall. But the industry must be concerned about public opinion.
"I'm frustrated that the public only sees the horrible stuff," says Grandin. "This is just the worst. The forklift moving the cow is much worse than 'The Meatrix' (series of anti-animal agriculture films)."
The recall was issued by USDA Feb. 17. James O. Reagan, chairman of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and vice president of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council, issued the NCBA response:
"... This recall is happening, out of an abundance of caution, because the company did not follow regulations for handling non-ambulatory cattle," he says. "We support USDA's recall as a precautionary measure.
"At the same time, we can say with confidence that the beef supply is safe. We have multiple interlocking safeguards in place in every beef processing plant in America so that if one is bypassed, the other systems continue to ensure the product we serve our families remains safe.
"The ban on non-ambulatory or 'downer' cattle is one of many steps in a robust system to produce safe beef, but it is not the only step taken to ensure the safety of the beef supply...."
Grandin's has long called for the industry -- producers and feeders -- to start doing a better job of telling the true story of how ranches and feedyards use good animal handling practices.
NCBA offers video testimonials from ranchers and feeders through its www.beeffrompasturetoplate.com site. Grandin wants more exposure.
"We need to get on YouTube (www.youtube.com, the popular Internet video site)," says Grandin, who has several animal-related videos on the site. She stresses that there are hundreds of pristine ranch and feedyard scenes that can help educate the public on how cattle are handled in humane way.
"Conditions in the industry have improved and we need to be telling people about it. We need videos of cowboys working cattle at the ranch. We need a Texas feedlot tour on YouTube to show good examples of animal handling and animal welfare."