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Mad cow disease doesn't deter locals from eating beef

January 04, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ and RICHARD BELISLE

andrews@herald-mail.com
waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Asked for their thoughts on mad cow disease Saturday, a sample of Tri-State residents responded: "Where's the beef?"

As in: This is not such a big issue.

And: If it's not local meat, there's no danger.

Only a few people surveyed said they haven't been eating beef since the Dec. 23 announcement that a cow in Washington state tested positive for mad cow disease. However, all of those people said they rarely or never ate meat even before the announcement.

Those who are meat eaters, though, said their dietary patterns will continue as usual.

"I'm going out to buy a taco now and it has meat in it," said Fred Allen, 45. "I'll leave it in the hands of the Lord and the government. The government was quick in finding the source of it. We'll be fine."

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Allen said business at the steak restaurant where he works in Martinsburg, W.Va., hasn't been affected.

Al Kaldy, 78, of Hagerstown is relying on the government to tell him when it's not safe to eat beef. "If it's really serious, the government would let us know."

"I trust the U.S. Department of Agriculture," said Joyce Nale, 51, of Waynesboro, Pa., who also is not eating differently.

"I just don't think it's that big of a concern," said Terry Kreigline, 44, of Waynesboro.

Joe Matthews, 74, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., suggested that the media is giving the issue more splash than it deserves.

"Every week they need something to sell newspapers," he said. "They pick on some obscure medical survey and that's the news. Remember when you couldn't eat eggs?"

"You need food to survive," Roland Cumberlander of Greencastle, Pa., said. "I don't know what's going on in the media. They tell you what's healthy and what's not."

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, attacks cattles brains.

Animals can develop the disease by eating contaminated meat and bone meal, but such feed has been banned in the United States since 1997. Agriculture officials believe the diseased cow in Washington state was born in Alberta, Canada, before then.

Mad cow disease can be fatal in humans, but some experts note that the infected cattle parts are not typically food products. "I don't think people are eating fried brain or spinal cord," Washington County Agriculture Extension Agent Don Schwartz said last month.

"I think as long as meat is prepared properly, and you keep away from certain parts, like the central nervous system, you're OK," Brad Newcomer, 27, of Smithsburg, said Saturday.

Several people surveyed said they feel safe because the diseased cow was not in this part of the nation.

"It's out there, not here," Mark Coleman, 44, of Waynesboro, said.

"It's not gonna hit around here," Melissa Ebaugh, 26, of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., said.

Joel and Barbara Summers of Maugansville said they buy their meat from a local butcher, so they aren't worried about the disease.

"It hasn't changed for us," said Carol Pierce, 51, of Hagerstown. "I have no problem buying beef."

"If I want a piece of beef, I'm going to buy it," said Betty Harper, 71, of Falling Waters, W.Va. "If you pray over your food before you eat it, the Lord will take care of it."

Those who have shied away from beef for a while say they have even less to worry about.

"I eat mostly fish," Larry Ervin of Falling Waters, W.Va., said. "I used to eat steak all the time, but I bet I haven't had three steaks in the last 10 years."

George Smith, 52, of Hagerstown, said he has a heart condition and only eats beef twice a week. Saturday apparently was one of those times. "I just fixed eight pounds of steamers for a party I'm having tonight," he said.

Nancy Wesson, 56, of Shepherdstown, was one of the few people who seemed hesitant now that mad cow disease has reached the United States.

"I don't eat that much beef, but I wanted a hamburger the other day and I said to myself I'd better be careful where I get it," she said.

Wesson said she buys her meat from a local organic grower.

"We lean toward being vegetarian," said Theresa Jackson, 50, of Waynesboro.

She said that she and her husband, Michael, 52, decided to eat mostly fish and chicken - practically no beef - when they started running in the 1980s.

Colleen Tracey, 41, who lives outside Shepherdstown, said she and her husband are vegetarians. Her children, Pelle, 9, Fiona, 6 and MacFergus, 2, have never had meat. "It won't affect us," Tracey said.

Amy Williams, 39, who, with her husband, owns A Fertile Place Custom Pork on W.Va. 45, east of Martinsburg, said people seem to be buying more pork than ever. "But it's hard to say at this point if it's due to mad cow disease," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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