September 29, 2009
by Darol Dickinson
When a critter is over 30 months of age the USDA has made a rule that the processing procedure can not saw the carcass down the middle. Slaughter must do two cuts on each side of the spinal column and not compromise the meat with the possible material from the spinal column. Supposedly if there is a contaminated BSE carcass it could affect the meat. These animals only get BSE after 30 months of age. On a fed steer we lose the T bone cut because the bone is lost in the cut.
That is the reason for source verification, to prove the animal is under 30 months.
NAIS proposed data is retained by USDA and not available for source verification unless the animal’s owner has a separate system of keeping records that they have access to.
Therefore: NAIS is useless for source verification.
Source verification is a small carrot that the declining beef industry uses to point to a flake of hope at the end of the tunnel. If everyone had source verification then there would be no premium for those who do. If cattle are over 30 months of age it is not an issue because the quasi premium of a few bucks wouldn’t be possible anyway.
Currently age verification is determined by USDA meat kill floor inspectors [mouthing] cattle. An inspector trained to visually evaluate can tell within one to 4 months a animal’s age by tooth development.
I process about 80 steers for our retail beef sales each year that are 26 to 32 months. I found some inspectors were guessing my 26 month steers at 30+ months and this loss of the T bones was costing me about $30 per carcass. I called the USDA people and cried foul play. He said; ”Tell me the age and that will be fine.”
All my steers are age number branded and we have a computer print out on every steer. Our cattle are numbered with the only method proven to be a permanent ID since before King David — fire branding.
- I send them a computer print out showing the
- birth date,
- pedigree records,
- vaccination records and,
- rate of gain.
We have about 20 items on our computer records of each steer that no one holds in a secret vault outside the USA.
The USDA inspector respects our proven honesty and I can send him a steer 29 months and 29 days with my computer records and he regards him as under, 30 months. This is not hard, just another USDA red tape issue.
Our total record system is for genetic improvement. It is vast and cheap and far more economical than NAIS, and the tags won’t fall off!
People who are amateur and who don’t raise cattle, fight to keep from knowing the truth. One individual called Senator Blanche Lincoln’s office this week and her staff says: “She only supports voluntary NAIS”, but the reason that she voted for NAIS funding is because: “Several producers enjoy receiving the value-added from the NAIS program.”
Just for the record, there is no NAIS document concerning value-added.
These people who think this system of NAIS and Premises ID is going to benefit them, can high center on theory and die on their own sword of stupidity.