No holiday from beef consumption | TahoeDailyTribune.com

No holiday from beef consumption

Jo Rafferty, Tribune staff writer

Last week will be remembered for having measurable snow on Christmas for the first time in more than 20 years, the threat of terrorism all over the world, earthquakes, bombings, plane crashes and disasters of all types and – of all things – mad cow disease.

On Dec. 23, federal officials made public that the brain-wasting disease was apparent in a slaughtered cow in Washington state. By Thursday, it had received preliminary confirmation by British scientists, while at the same time most of the South Shore was settling down from their Christmas scramble. Final test results on the Canadian cow are expected soon, officials said.

Restaurant owners and employees say with the interruption of the holidays, it’s too soon for any changes to be seen in sales of meat or to forecast the future. However, owners and managers have had it on their minds.

Bill Carland, general manager at Beacon Bar & Grill, said he expects meat prices to go up because of the incident, but hasn’t heard anything.

“I’ve been thinking about it the last couple of days,” Carland said. “I’ve been thinking about serving more game meat, stuff like that.”

Mark Baumann, executive chef at the Swiss Chalet, said it’s too early to tell what’s going to happen.

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“That just happened a couple days ago,” he said. “If you have one cow with that disease, everyone’s going to get scared, I guess. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen. They’ll probably drive up the price of meat. Guess we’ll just have to eat more fish.”

The Swiss Chalet buys its meat from The Barkley Co. in South Lake Tahoe. Owner Buck Barkley said the company purchases its meat from Colorado and California sources. He’s received questions from customers “only because of what they’re seeing in the media.”

With beef in question, one would expect a chicken restaurant’s sales to rise.

Fast food restaurant KFC at Highway 50 and Ski Run Boulevard has been experiencing much the same business last week as in previous years, in fact a little less because of the snow, according to Manager Steve Teter.

“Because of the influx of tourists in the holiday period, it’s hard to judge with any accuracy,” Teter said. “There are so many other variables in play.”

Burger King Manager Debbie Shipp said at the Lake Tahoe Boulevard location the beef is not purchased in the United States.

“I’ve had a lot of veggies (vegetarians) lately,” she said. “I think that’s a trend in tourists. Everything is business as usual.”

Mark Cohen, owner of Overland Meat for 18 years, said he is not worried since his beef is all natural. The disease is spread by eating feed that includes parts from an infected cow.

Overland beef is purchased from Oregon Country Beef, raised on “cooperative member ranches on a vegetarian diet.”

“No animal byproducts are ever used,” states an Oregon Country Beef newsletter.

Cohen said customers have asked questions, but at the same time they are still buying beef. In fact he nearly sold out his prime rib selection on Friday.

“My customers deal with Overland over a period of years because of the trust factor,” Cohen said.

Up until last week, mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was a malady limited to other countries, most recently making headlines in Britain.

To date 143 deaths have been attributed to the disease, 153 people worldwide have been reported to have contracted the human form of the illness, called Creutzfeldt-Jakob, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.