The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that its new rule on rendering practices for dead cattle will go into effect on Monday, April 27, but farmers and livestock renderers will have until Oct. 26 to comply. 

In its announcement, the agency denied a request for a 60-day delay in the effective date of the rule entitled “Substances Prohibited from Use in Animal Food or Feed.” The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation was one of the organizations that sought more time to consider the unintended consequences to the cattle industry. 

“We’re disappointed by this announcement on many fronts,” says Bill Bruins, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. “First of all, the FDA gave people just seven days to submit their comments about whether or not to delay the rule’s implementation. Secondly, it is unfortunate that the agency has decided to not take the time to consider how this is supposed to work on farms in the real world.”

The FDA reports that it received comments from over 400 organizations and individuals on the proposal to delay the rule. Those in favor of a delay cited the need for more time to identify alternative methods of disposal of dead cattle. Those opposed to a delay primarily cited a heightened risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to U.S. consumers and cattle from imports of live Canadian cattle (particularly those over 30 months of age). The FDA did not say how many comments were in favor or against the delay, only that it was “based on the significant number of comments that oppose delaying the effective date.”

“We are most upset that cattle owners and renderers will soon have to bear the costs of this regulatory overreach,” Bruins says. 
Designed to prevent the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), dead cattle 30 months of age or older must either be disposed of outside of the animal food chain, or the brain and spinal cord must be removed before rendering. 

“Not only is it estimated that farmers will soon be charged between $100 and $150 per animal to have a rendering company stop at their farm, but rendering companies will also have the increased burden of trying to determine the exact of age of dead cattle,” Bruins says. 

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s written comments to the FDA said that risk factors for BSE were overstated and needed to be reevaluated before the rule takes effect.

Since BSE was discovered in the United States, nearly 900,000 tests have been conducted since June 1, 2004  to determine whether BSE is an issue in the United States.  To date, only two animals have tested positive for BSE under the program and both cases were in animals born before the United States banned the practice of feeding recycled ruminant protein to other ruminants. 

“The FDA is adopting this punitive rule in an attempt to get to absolute zero, but doing so is not only unattainable but it’s an economic disaster,” Bruins says.

WFBF supports strengthening the ruminant feed ban in order to eliminate possible loopholes that might allow specified risk materials (SRM) to reach ruminants through misfeeding or cross-contamination.  Due to negligible chance of discovering BSE, WFBF believes that SRM could be included in pet food without a significant health risk. Better labeling, which is not part of the rule, would also help farmers with compliance, Bruins said. 

Source: Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation