After weeks of deliberation, the USDA decided not to approve Creekstone Farms' request to voluntary test all slaughtered beef for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
The Kansas-based processor had been given assurance from Japanese and South Korean governments that they would reopen borders to the company's beef if tested 100% of the animals.
"We are looking at what the consensus of international experts is when it comes to testing, and that consensus is that 100% testing is not justified," Agriculture Department spokeswoman Alisa Harrison told the Wall Street Journal late Thursday. "That's why we feel at this time we cannot grant Creekstone 's requested timeline for a decision."
In a Meatingplace.com article, a USDA official said that the agency reached the decision "after weeks of spirited debate on the issue, but decided in the end that allowing Creekstone to test would set a 'bad precedent' for the rest of the industry."
Many industry players also feel that testing for BSE should be done as a method of surveillance, not for marketing purposes. National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) CEO Terry Stokes says it is the responsibility of the USDA to test for BSE for surveillance only.
Meatingplace.com conducted an industry opinion survey of 308 members in early March to determine the level of support of private BSE testing. The survey found that if and when private tests are approved by the USDA, 46.8% of beef packers would consider 100% testing themselves.
Not all respondents agree with Creekstone's approach to gain access to foreign markets. Thirty percent of beef packers and processors oppose the company's plan, answering it "sets a dangerous precedent and BSE testing should only be done under USDA watch."