On the television show “Boston Legal,” William Shatner’s character was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but refers to it as Mad Cow. This is because many people who have Alzheimer’s are suspected to actually have the human version of Mad Cow Disease. Unfortunately, a diagnosis can only be made after death.
Mad cow disease is a fatal disease that slowly destroys the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) in cattle. It also is known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.
People cannot get mad cow disease. But in rare cases they may get a human form of mad cow disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is fatal. This is still sometimes referred to as Mad Cow Disease is humans even though it is not correct.
It may also surprise you to know that Mad Cow Disease is a much bigger problem than originally thought, and the problems is growing due to poor handling of the animals in traditional slaughter houses. Fornunately, organic meat may be the answer.
Most of the animals that humans eat do not normally eat animal products. For example, cattle are ruminants that normally eat grasses and shrubs. But because animal by-products are cheaper and approved by the FDA, that’s exactly what most cattle is fed. Organic cattle, however, are fed organic grown grasses.
The FDA banned the feeding of cattle brain and spinal tissue to cattle in 1997, but still allows the following materials to be fed to non-organic cattle:
- Gelatin (rendered from the hooves of cattle and other species)
- Fats, oils, grease, and tallow (from cattle and other species)
- Poultry and poultry by-products
- Rendered pork protein
- Rendered horse protein
Again, these items are being fed to cattle that are naturally herbivores, not carnivores. None of the items listed above may be fed to organic cattle or any other organic livestock. Breeding and husbandry of organic cattle, swine, poultry and other livestock must meet strict National Organic Program Standards for livestock origin, feed, health and living conditions.
The USDA’s meat inspection program is over 100 years old. Organic meat has more stringent inspection standards because it is certified organic by a third party organic certifier accredited by the National Organic Program of the USDA. This extra step helps to ensure that meat is safe to eat.