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Disease may beef up sales

RENO, Nev. (AP) – The catastrophic foot-and-mouth infestation sweeping the European livestock industry could benefit American beef growers, Nevada officials say.

”There seems to be some promise on the horizon for some expanded opportunities for meat exports since their own supplied are down in Europe,” said Doug Busselman, executive director of the Nevada Farm Bureau.

Though supplies of beef and lamb are dwindling in Europe as a result of the outbreak, the European Union refuses to allow the import of American beef because some of it is treated with hormones that expedite growth.



”There’s a large market available if they would just open the market,” said Betsy Macfarlan, executive director of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association in Elko.

Officials predict the disease will claim about 750,000 animals in Britain, and there have been limited outbreaks in other parts of Europe.



Fear over the disease has led some nations to ban meat and livestock imports from affected countries.

Macfarlan and Busselman said that despite the irony of the European Union’s mistrust of American beef versus the crisis in its own industry, they empathize with European growers.

”Your heart goes out to them for what they are having to deal with whether you agree with their politics or not,” Busselman said. ”There but for the grace of God go we.”

Foot-and-mouth disease – which strikes cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, pigs and cows – is easily spread by infected animals or carriers such as humans, horses and wild animals. The virus can also become airborne. Meat from infected animals is safe to eat.

Busselman said some Nevada ranchers are optimistic that the ban on importing U.S. beef ban might be eased, restoring the European countries as trade partners.

”That, of course, is a little bit tenuous,” Busselman said.

Even if Great Britain and other European Union countries resume accepting American beef, the impact would be far greater on other states than Nevada, with its 510,000 head of cattle compared with 14.5 million in Texas or 4.9 million in California.

Cattle added $136.5 million to Nevada’s economy in 1999, the last year for which figures are available. The casino win total on the Las Vegas Strip for just the month of January was about three times that.

Nevada’s ranching industry is more geared to cow-calf operations in which calves are raised to a certain age then shipped to other states to be finished for slaughter.

”Our actual meat production is of a more limited scale,” Busselman said.

AP-WS-03-29-01 1716EST


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