USDA's Latest Plan -
Mad Cow Fuel

Wired News
WASHINGTON -- Cattle brains and other remains that may carry the deadly mad cow disease would be turned into biofuels under a plan announced on Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Cattle brains, skull, eyes, spinal column, small intestine and other parts suspected of harboring mad cow disease were banned from human consumption in December as a safety precaution, shortly after the discovery of the first case of mad cow disease in the United States.
Some consumer groups have called on the Bush administration to go a step further and ban these "specified risk materials" from swine, poultry and other animal feed made from ground-up cattle remains. All cattle parts already are banned from cattle feed to protect against the spread of mad cow disease.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering tougher regulations on animal feed since finding the brain-wasting disease in the United States. One month ago, an agency official said the FDA was considering banning specified risk materials from poultry and swine feed.
Under the new USDA program, a $50 million loan guarantee program would be set up to help small businesses in rural areas develop ways to turn cattle brains and other high-risk parts into a "bio-based source of energy."
Bill Hagy, a deputy administrator at USDA's rural development agency, said the purpose of the pilot program was to gauge commercial interest and to solicit ideas for alternate energy uses for the cattle parts.
"There are incinerating facilities out there that possibility could, with some retooling, be able to accommodate the need," Hagy said.
But Hagy said he did not know whether the pilot program was aimed at finding new uses for the risky cattle parts if they are banned from all animal feed.
A spokeswoman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said her organization supports the USDA pilot program.
A wider ban on the high-risk cattle parts has been watched closely by the U.S. soybean futures market. With tight soy supplies in the United States, a significant change in animal feed rules could have a big impact on products that could be used as a substitute in animal feeds, such as soybean meal.
Currently, the carcasses of cattle slaughtered at U.S. packing plants are typically sent to a separate rendering plant to be made into food for other animals, cosmetics or other materials. Last year, the United States slaughtered more than 35 million cattle.
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