NCBA weighs in: Tyson to no longer process Zilmax-fed cattle
August 28, 2013
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) believes in Tyson's right to make individual company decisions that they feel are in the best interest of their business. We do not have all the details regarding the animal welfare concerns cited by Tyson in the letter to their cattle suppliers. However, we take every report of animal welfare issues very seriously.
We have expended significant resources to address questions about the use of beta-agonists relative to animal welfare concerns. We convened experts across the beef supply chain who have conducted extensive research on beta-agonists and engaged cattle feeding and animal health experts who have many years of experience using these products. We will continue these efforts until we have solid answers to these questions. In the meantime, we believe these products can be used responsibly when managed properly.
NCBA commends Merck Animal Health for taking meaningful action to address questions about the impact of Zilmax on animal welfare. America's farmers and ranchers take animal care very seriously and support Merck's efforts to ensure that Zilmax can be used responsibly to raise beef without compromising the health and well-being of cattle.
Beta-agonists, like Zilmax, are FDA-approved feed additives that, when added to feed in small amounts at a specific time in their lives, help cattle make the most of the food they eat resulting in more lean muscle instead of fat. Extensive research shows that beta-agonists are metabolized quickly by cattle so they are not stored in the body and therefore are not present in the meat. Beta-agonists are approved for use in the United States, Canada, Australia and two dozen other countries across the developed world.
Cattlemen and women believe in making decisions about the use of animal health products like beta-agonists based on science, not speculation. At this time, there is no scientific basis for saying the use of beta-agonists caused the animal welfare concerns cited by Tyson in their decision to stop buying cattle fed Zilmax.
However, when concerns about the use of beta-agonists and cattle well-being surfaced in sporadic anecdotal reports, NCBA convened the world's top animal welfare experts, including Dr. Temple Grandin, to review the science and compare it to real-life observations. Over the past several months we have reviewed numerous scientific studies, gathered input from cattle feeders using the products, and sought to understand any possible correlation between the use of beta-agonists and reported animal welfare issues.
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Our goal is to fully understand how the use of these products impacts animal welfare in real-life conditions. If this process determines the current use of beta-agonists is compromising animal welfare, we will take appropriate action to ensure that every animal raised for food receives the proper care it deserves.
The five-step plan announced by Merck today will accelerate this process while ensuring that every feedyard worker handling Zilmax is properly trained and certified to use the product. In committing to retrain and recertify every customer using Zilmax they are going above and beyond what is required to ensure their product is used responsibly.