Mad Cow Economic Impact

By: Justin Ware
By: Justin Ware

It's lunch time at the town line market in Wausau, and if the line at the meat counter is any indication, central Wisconsin residents aren't overly concerned about mad cow disease.

"As far as I'm concerned it hasn't been hurting our business at all," said owner John Jagler.

No sales or gimmicks are needed to sell beef at town line, where the managers say, if anything, their business has picked up since the mad cow case was detected on a Washington farm.

But the same cannot be said for the country's meat industry as a whole, and that is bad news for everyone.

"Well, the beef industry is the largest segment of the agricultural economy," said American Meat Institute CEO and President J. Patrick Boyle, "and the agricultural economy here in the United States is the largest component of our economy."

And that component is taking a hit. Since the mad cow case was discovered, 24 countries have banned beef from the United States, a loss that accounts for 90 percent of U.S. beef exports.

An economist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says the U.S. stands to lose at least $6 billion a year, all because of one sick cow, but those within the beef industry are staying positive.

In May, a Canadian cow was diagnosed with mad cow. Since then, Canada's beef industry and the consumer's faith in it have rebounded.

"And I think the markets are similar" said Boyle, "and I feel fairly confident that the American consumer will continue to buy and enjoy a very safe and wholesome beef here in the United States."

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