Locals say beef safe despite Mad Cow scare

By TV Hagenah

As much of the world panics about a recent Mad Cow disease discovery in Washington state, the area cattle community is taking a sit-and-wait approach.

“People around here know about ranching,” said Stella Watson manager of Tucumcari Ranch Supply. “They aren’t saying much of anything, they’re just watching what is happening.”

Watson said a great deal of the problem seems to be the media who she said is blowing the entire situation out of proportion with headlines on front pages and broadcasting stories on the subject constantly.

“(The media) just need to shut up.” Said Watson, “Right now people just need to let the government take care of the whole thing and not lose control.”

Much of her point of view was echoed by veterinarian James Tompkins who said that the media was indeed responsible for much of the scare that is happening regarding American beef.

“Scientifically, the people in the industry know that American beef is totally safe to the consumer,” said Tompkins. “It’s just that the media has taken ahold of the story and are going with it. One cow in Washington state can’t possibly effect the rest of the country.

Rancher and past-president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Phil Beddigan felt much the same as both Tompkins and Watson. He said he felt it all came down to the perception of the current situation.

“I’m sure they found a case of it (Mad Cow Disease) all right,” said Beddigan. “But Washington state’s a long ways from here. Food in the United States is the safest in the world. It always has been; always will be. You never know what they do in other countries.”

Because of that knowledge, Beddigan said he is a major supporter of American beef and feels that the investigating agencies involved with one case of the disease will prove the safety of the product.

“I know everything is safe,” said Beddigan. “They’ll (U.S. Government) trace it back and find out it’s safe.”

Most involved in cattle production feel that one of the current problems facing American ranchers in general is that a number of foreign countries have blocked all American beef from entering their countries. According to Beddigan, exports account for roughly 10 percent of the U.S. beef market.

“That’s all political,” said Tompkins about why the different countries are banning the importation of American beef. “We did it to them when they had their Mad Cow out breaks so now naturally they’re going to do it to us. It’s all political.”

Doddy Nunez, an employee at Ranch Supply said that area ranchers seem to be watching what the price line is doing as it relates to cattle and he points out that currently there has been no major drop in that regard despite specific countries refusing to buy American cattle.

Watson said one of the problems was that lack of knowledge on the part of individuals from east of cattle producing states — an important perception since Mad Cow disease was found in a dairy cow.

“Out here we know the difference between dairy cattle and beef cattle,” Said Watson. “But back east a cow is just a cow.”

Tompkins said that people who know beef production know that a single cow in Washington state has little to do with the reality of cattle production.

“I feel American beef is by far the safest on earth,” said Tompkins