Beta Agonists Part 1: Working to resolve the issue

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In August 2013, shortly after the Tyson announcement, Merck Animal Health announced its “Five-Step Plan to Ensuring Responsible Beef” (see sidebar), which includes numerous Zilmax animal- safety and well-being trials. As a first step, the company assembled an independent advisory board to provide action recommendations, says Merck technical services nutritionist David Yates, PhD.

The advisory board consists of 22 members including scientists, veterinarians, nutritionists, large and small cattle feeders, packers and other industry representatives. The company agreed to follow the guidance of the advisory board in executing the other steps in the plan. They held a two-day face-to-face meeting in September and have had regular conference calls since for ongoing input.

The first of the five steps in the plan was to develop a new Zilmax Certification Plan, outlining a new process for certifying or re-certifying feedyards to feed the product. In developing the plan, Yates says company representatives explained the existing certification process to the advisory board, then split the board into independent teams and asked them to develop recommendations. Based on their input, the company developed the new plan, which gained approval from the full advisory board. Training for certification will require participation of a feedyard’s consulting veterinarian and nutritionist along with the operation’s management. Once the product returns to the market, Merck will control the product and limit its use to certified feedyards.

Merck also initiated a field-surveillance program during August and September 2013, when feedyards continued to feed Zilmax, working with third-party auditors to evaluate mobility of cattle in anti-mortem pens at packing plants. They evaluated 31,000 head of cattle from 450 lots at seven packing plants. The cattle comprised a non-controlled sample of the overall population of finished cattle, including some that were fed Zilmax, some that were fed Optaflexx and some that received no beta agonist. Auditors used a lameness scoring system, with “1” representing normal and “4” representing severely lame, with “2” and “3” representing mild to moderate lameness, respectively. In this study, they found 92.2 percent of cattle had normal mobility, 7.1 percent had mild lameness, meaning a slight hesitance to walk, 0.57 percent scored “3” for moderate lameness and 0.08 percent rated as severely lame or reluctant to move. According to the advisory board participants, this type of surveillance for mobility scoring had never been conducted for fed cattle.

Stay tuned for more info on "Beta Agonists"

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Mi.  |  May, 08, 2014 at 09:31 AM

How many of the lame cattle were on beta agonist, and how many were from the control group?

sjoert zuidhof    
Missouri  |  May, 08, 2014 at 09:36 AM

Thank you for the introduction. I was looking for page 2 as I was missing a more detailed breakdown of the 31000 head motility observation study. I am looking forward to learn more.

c. andrews    
chicago-kansas  |  May, 08, 2014 at 10:57 AM

The profit must be extravagant to spend these funds to justify feeding such. Consumers are now speaking loud & clear they want holistic food.

Texas  |  May, 08, 2014 at 11:49 AM

I would also like to know out of those lame cattle would they classify them as being "Structurally flawed" Cattle that to straight in the shoulder, pasterns, and hock will show lameness as they gain weight and put on fat.

May, 13, 2014 at 11:34 AM

What effect do beta agonists have on people who consume the beef from the cattle that have eaten beta agonists as a feed additive? How much research has been done to determine the safety of beta agonists as they progress up the food chain in the human population? What effect might this additive have on people who have been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy or Parkinson's disease,rheumatoid arthritis or early onset ALS? Beef consumers will ultimately want to know such things. Ever since the initial report of BSE back in 2003, more and more consumers have been asking about and wanting to know what goes into their beef before it arrives at their table. The answers to such questions will affect market demand for beef fed beta agonists, like it or not.

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