Amid growing concerns about the use of antibiotics and hormones, USDA is preparing to stop packers from selling any meat from carcasses in which excessive residues of animal health products are found.

Under current rules, packers can throw out the part of an animal that is tested for drug residue, and sell the rest. The proposed new policy, which could become effective immediately, would require that the entire carcass be destroyed.

Industry officials say the new policy could have a significant economic impact on meat packers, since they typically work on a thin profit margin. However, as cost mounts and individual animal identification increases, you can bet producers will be held responsible for failure to comply with prescribed withdrawal time on animal health products.

Producers on every level of the food chain should keep in mind that rules governing allowable residues are in place to protect the safety, quality and integrity of beef. Make sure to follow all label instructions and have in place a Beef Quality Assurance plan to avoid sending beef to the packer before withdrawal requirements have been met.