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Cattle producers to fight bad mad cow publicity

Friday, January 2, 2004

PIERRE, S.D. -- Cattle producers in South Dakota plan to give away discount coupons and talk with grocery store shoppers to encourage them to keep eating beef despite the first U.S. case of mad cow disease. South Dakota Cattlemen's Association president Brian Brockel said producers hope to convince people that beef is safe and persuade nations that have banned imports of American beef to reverse their stand. Otherwise, prices will fall from recent highs, and that will hurt farmers and ranchers, he said. A sick cow slaughtered in Washington state on Dec. 9 was discovered to have mad cow disease.

Humans who eat brain or spinal matter from an infected cow can develop a brain-wasting illness, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. During a mad cow outbreak in the 1980s, about 150 people died of it in Britain.

But Brockel said Americans do not eat those parts of cattle.

His group plans to give away $5 coupons, called Beef Bucks, next week that can be used to buy beef products at Kessler's Grocery in Aberdeen, 200 miles northwest of Sioux Falls.

Farmers, ranchers and businesses had donated $1,500 as of Tuesday to pay for the coupons, said Maria Tussing, communications director for the Cattlemen's Association.

Members of the group also will try to reassure shoppers that beef is safe. The store is donating prime rib so producers can give people samples of the meat.

The Wyoming Beef Council, meanwhile, has launched a campaign to provide information about mad cow disease to grocery stores, meat counters and restaurants. The council's executive director, Ann Whittmann, said she has been in touch with beef retailers by phone and e-mail and through mailings.

"No one has indicated there has been any type of decline in demand in this area," she said.

Several states with large cattle industries, including Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, say they currently have no plans for a promotion like the Beef Bucks.

"Consumer demand has held up pretty good," said Crystal Bryant, spokeswoman for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers.


On the Net:

South Dakota Cattlemen's Association: http://www.sdcattlemen.org


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