Mad Cow Disease

101 Things to do With Cow Parts

Cows are usually thought of as a source of food or a fabulous clothing accessory. Some of the most supple leathers in the world come from cows and are used by the likes of Gucci, Prada, and Coach. Such food products that generally come from cows are hamburger, steak, and milk. What most consumers do not know is that all parts of the cow are utilized for other products from the ears to the hoofs. Unfortunately, there are many diseases that can be passed on through the many products that contain cow parts. One of these diseases is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as BSE. With the possibility of BSE in thousands of everyday products, it could be detrimental to consumers.

In order to fully comprehend the impacts of mass parts of cows being used and their threat to society, the background of bovine spongiform encephalopathy must be explained and understood. BSE , as explained by the Center for Disease Control (CDC 2002), is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that results from infection by an unconventional agent (CDC). This agent is an abnormal protein in a cow called a prion (Klinkenborg). This usually kills the animal. However, it can take years to incubate in the cow.

The most infectious parts of the cow, when infected with BSE, are the brain and spinal cord. Some of the less infectious parts but still pose a potential risk are the adrenal glands, pituitary gland, spleen, tonsils, placenta, lymph nodes, ileum, which is part of the colon, dura matter, and cerebrospinal fluid (Klinkenborg).

When a cow is slaughtered, most of its meat is used for human consumption. However, if you were to try to reconstruct a cow piece by piece, you would have to look in places like your garden, medicine cabinet, and parts of your car to find parts of the beast. When you go in your bathroom and glance around at your toothpaste, shaving cream, shampoo, lotion and soap. These all contain cow parts in some way, shape or form. When a woman puts her makeup on in the morning she is possibly applying infected prions along with her eyeshadow and lipstick. Zits may not be the worst of a teenager’s problem when he treats himself with his zit cream at night. He also could be rubbing BSE into his face.

Herapin is a frequently prescribed anticoagulant drug. Thousands of people take it everyday. This, however, is made from the lungs and bovine mucosa of the cow; potential carrier parts of the infected protein prion. The adrenal gland is used to make steroid drugs and the pancreas is used to make insulin, a drug that millions of diabetics take on a daily basis. The dura matter of a cow is also used as an implant in brain surgery (Klinkenborg). This might seem alarming due to the fact that , as aforementioned, the cow brain is a higher carrier of infected prions. Ultimately, we are taking the infected brain of the cow and implanting it into human brains.

The brain and the spinal cord of the cow are not the only sources to be concerned about when it comes to BSE. Tissues from the brain and spinal cord can contaminate other parts of the cow. Stun guns are usually used to neutralize the cows for the slaughter house. When the cows are stunned, the pressure of the shock can potentially spread prions from the brain tissue into other tissue areas of the body, which are in turn used for thousands of products. However, the practice of cow stunning, according to Dr. Tracy Hampton is now prohibited.

The number of cattle with BSE has reportedly declined, according to MAFF, UK. The peak of infectious cows was in 1992, with 36,681. As of 1996, only 7,202 were reported to be infected (Ratzan). This however is only the reported number of cases, not the actual number of BSE infected cows. There is of course the number of cows with BSE that were never caught. These are the ones that could have potential infected consumers.

An obvious use for the cow is clothing. Everything from shoes and purses to belts and jewelry can be made of leather. New York based designer Marc Jacobs has designed a fashion staple of this supple leather. The “Stella” bag, available in seven different colors, retails for $1,200 (WWD). The leather is of the finest cows and it is said that the cows used for these utilitarian bags are kept away from any sort of barb wired fence, in order for their skin to be flawless. The skin of a cow can be damaged if they are kept fenced in with barbed wire due to the penetration of the skin if they rub against it. Thus decreasing the quality of the leather. Maybe Marc Jacobs has made a portable and fashionable version of BSE. As long as celebrities keep wearing them, they could be free advertising for BSE.

Dogs could also be at risk for infected prions of cows. Dog food contains a low amount of ground up cow parts, in order for it to get its texture. Dogs also chew on everything from reconstructed cow ribs to the hooves. According to the FDA, “âÂ?¦cow components are often used simply because cows are very large animals and there is much material available”. However, there is no data supporting the transmission of BSE to dogs via dog food or chew toys.

Gelatin is a substance derived from the collagen of a cow. Cosmetic uses could include beauty masks and protective creams. Sunscreens also fall under this category. There are also some industrial uses for gelatin. One use is money. Gelatin is bound into the coating of bills to ensure its “crispness”. There could now be a negative conatation to a crisp new dollar bill. Gelatin is also used for the glues that are used to make paper and cardboard. Your economics textbook might have BSE, considering that the binding glue holding those pages together contains gelatin as well (Klinkenborg).

Even though virtually every product a consumer uses has some form of cow in it, the government assures the American public that there is nothing to worry about. They stated that contracting BSE from eating beef in the United States is highly unlikely (Hampton). However, the USDA has instituted measures to decrease the risk to the public. Sick cows are now banned from human consumption.

There are now safety measures being taken to ensure the safety of humans and other animals of BSE. Meat from cows that have been tested for BSE must be held until the tests that were taken have been confirmed as negative (Hampton). There is also a new technology that will remove the muscle tissue, an infectious part of the cow, from the bone of beef carcuses, according to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. Veneman also announced the appointment of an international panel to review the actions that have been taken by the USDA and see if they are viable and effective.

Despite the scare of BSE via cows, most consumers have not panicked to epidemic proportions. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 17% of people polled said they cut back on meat consumption due to BSE. Only 6% said it was a “crisis” and 12% said it was not a problem (Hampton). There are still, however, some Americans who are cautious when it comes to eating beef, especially in foreign countries.

In an excerpt of his book “The Trembling Mountain” Dr. Robert Klitzman, and American doctor, was in England hiking with some old British friends. After a long day of hiking they went to a restaurant to have a well-deserved dinner. All of his companions ordered a large steak. He was shocked and asked them if they were worried about mad cow disease, a form of BSE. According to them, all the sick cows had been killed and eating meat was a British tradition. Dr. Klitzman, however was aware of the mass spread of BSE in England via cows. He is a prime example of a cautious American in a foreign, meat eating country. However, according to the Center for Disease Control, has told travelers to Europe that “..the current risk of infection of BSE is extremely small, if at all”.

Foreign farmers are making haste though, when it comes to BSE cases. An estimated eight hundred cases were reported in the European Union in one year after the BSE outbreak in Britain. Statisticians say, however, that based on the rate of cases in Britain, the EU number of cases should have been above two thousand (Rhodes). With the recurrence of the disease and social concern, as well as loss of profit with import/export beef, some countries took the better safe than sorry route. Many European countries slaughtered entire herds with little or no monetary compensation from the government when a single BSE case appeared. In France, they had a “condition” called “tractor disease”. This was when the farmers got a cow with BSE, they would buy a tractor to dig a hole and bury it.

Ultimately, every last scrap of cow gets used somewhere, somehow. The blood of a cow and its cells are in many industrial and household products (Klinkenborg). Plywood glues and adhesives have these cells in them because it helps bind the molecules that make the adhesives stick. Fertilizer for flowers also contains cells from the blood of cows. Many gardeners do not even realize that they are sprinkling their gardens with bovine serum from the blood of cows (Klinkenborg). Fatty acids are also utilized in many products such as tires for cars and lawnmowers and candles. The fatty acids used
include oleic acid, azelaic acid, and stearic acid. Crayons also have fatty acids of cow in them. This could be a potential risk to children and might not make crayons “non-toxic” after all.

Fishing line, face wash, chewing gum, food packaging, sweetener, antifreeze, synthentic oil, toothpaste, and sugar. These are everyday items that all of us use. If one realized the mass amounts of products they themselves were using with cow parts, they might think twice about saying what a waste it is to eat a cow and then get rid of it. All parts of a cow truly are used to make our everyday lives more convenient and productive. However, with BSE a potential threat to humans and other animals, it would be quite a task to eliminate or recall all of the products with some sort of cow part in it. Hopefully, we will have control over BSE and the proteins that contain it. This way, society could freely use products we love and eat food we crave. For now though, we are to be cautious of the meat we eat as well as its origin and continue to hope that farmers and scientists can get this threat under control.

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