Mabton, Wash. -- Following the nation's first case of mad cow disease, the industry should prepare itself for potential animal disposal problems, according to Rocky Ross, manager of a wildlife area in Yakima Valley. In December, a Washington state dairy cow had tested positive for mad cow disease. More than 40 countries then banned U.S. beef products. And in January, 449 calves were killed and sent to a state landfill because investigators were unable to determine which was the offspring of a cow diagnosed with the disease.
To ensure the safety of the nation's meat supplies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture subsequently banned slaughtering cows that cannot walk unaided and is promoting a national animal tracking system. But, Ross says, this could require farmers focus additional testing at rendering plants, which will increase disposal costs.
Farmers who have dead animals rendered typically pay the cost of transportation, which generally ranges from $25 to $55. The costs will trickle down, and if farmers are not able to pay for disposal, it could lead to illegal dumping, he says. Already, many landfills do not accept animal waste.