The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Aug. 27 a proposed rule to amend the federal meat inspection regulations to initiate a complete ban on the slaughter of cattle that become non-ambulatory after initial inspection by Food Safety & Inspection Service inspection program personnel.
This proposed rule follows the May 20 announcement by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer to remove the provision that states that the FSIS inspection program will determine the disposition of cattle that become non-ambulatory disabled after they have passed ante-mortem inspection on a case-by-case basis. Under the proposed rule, all cattle that are non-ambulatory disabled at any time prior to slaughter, including those that become non-ambulatory disabled after passing ante-mortem inspection, will be condemned and properly disposed of.
"To maintain consumer confidence in the food supply, eliminate further misunderstanding of the rule and, ultimately, to make a positive impact on the humane handling of cattle, I believe it is sound policy to simplify this matter by initiating a complete ban on the slaughter of downer cattle," Schafer said.
The American Meat Institute issued a statement commending USDA for its action.
"The proposed rule banning non-ambulatory cattle from the food supply will ensure long-term consumer confidence in the industry and our products," said J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute.
Under the proposed rule, cattle that become non-ambulatory disabled from an acute injury after ante-mortem inspection will no longer be eligible to proceed to slaughter as "U.S. Suspects." Instead, FSIS inspectors will tag these cattle as "U.S. condemned" and prohibit these animals from proceeding to slaughter. Establishments will be required to notify FSIS personnel when cattle become disabled after passing ante-mortem inspection.
Of the nearly 34 million cattle that were slaughtered in 2007, less than 1,000 cattle that were re-inspected were actually approved by the veterinarian for slaughter. This represents less than 0.003% of cattle slaughtered annually.
Comments on this proposed rule must be received on or before Sept. 29. Comments can be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. All submissions received must reference FSIS and include docket number FSIS-2008-0022.