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Mad Cow Disease

Experts believe that mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is nearly always caused by feeding cattle the rendered remains of sick animals. That practice was banned in the United States in 1997, and after the recent discovery of an infected "downer" cow in Washington State, slaughtering cattle too sick to walk and selling the meat for human consumption was stopped also.

But it's not always possible to know which animals are infected, especially since the U.S. screens only one in 1,700 cows of the 34 million cows that are slaughtered each year. That's why your safest course is still to eat organic or 100 percent grass-fed cattle, says Michael Hansen, senior research associate at Consumers Union. By law, organic cattle are never fed animal remains. One hundred percent grass-fed animal are similarly low-risk as they spend their whole lives on pasture. "Natural" beef from cattle aren't fed any animal by-products also have less chance of exposure.

If you do opt for conventional beef, keep in mind that mutant prion proteins, found primarily in the brains and spinal cords of infected cattle, are thought to be most dangerous to humans. During slaughter and processing, this infected material can accidentally become mixed into clean meat products-particularly if the producers use "advanced meat recovery," which mechanically removes meat from bone and tissue.

School lunch programs, McDonald's, and other fast food companies don't use meat processed mechanically, but supermarkets across the country sell millions of pounds of it daily.

Lower Your Risk Of BSE


  • Precooked or bulk-packaged hamburger patties
  • T-bone or Porterhouse steaks and other meat cuts that contain a bone or vertebrae
  • Hot Dogs
  • Deli Meats
  • Corned Beef
  • Pates
  • Sausages


  • Chuck, round, or sirloin steak ground on the spot for you by the butcher
  • Boneless steaks such as filet mignon, rib-eye, and flank steak.
  • Hot dogs and deli meat made from cattle fed no animal by-products (such as those made by Applegate Farms)

    Recommended Herbs

    Milk Thistle
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