So where’s the beef panic?
It will take more than a single Holstein with mad cow disease to keep consumers in Nevada County and around the nation from eating beef.
After more than two weeks since the emergence of the first case of mad cow disease in this country, prompting a widespread ban on U.S. beef overseas, the beef industry’s worst fears have not been realized.
Meat sales have not faltered at businesses such as PJ’s of Nevada City, the Tack Room Restaurant and Bar, and SPD’s meat counters.
At the Grass Valley SPD, sales have been stable and strong, Assistant Manager Rick Brumfield said. The grocery store put a flier on the counter informing patrons the wholesaler uses only beef raised in California.
Burger chains report no impact on sales and investors have returned to beef-related stocks after an initial sell-off, even sending McDonald’s higher than it was before the mad cow news broke Dec. 23.
The Tack Room Restaurant and Bar has not noticed any drop-off in business.
“If anything, it’s busier than usual the last few weeks,” Owner Barbara Martinez said.
Consumer confidence in U.S. beef remains high and statistically unchanged from September, according to a survey conducted Dec. 29-30 by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Eighty-nine percent of the 1,001 nonvegetarian adults interviewed in person and by phone said they were confident U.S. beef was safe from mad cow disease, and 75 percent said they were eating as much beef as a month earlier – the largest percentages in the seven years the tracking survey has been taken. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.
Industry observers and crisis management experts say the alarming news of Dec. 23 hasn’t developed into a full-blown scare because consumers quickly understood that the individual risk to humans remained remote.
Beef also benefited from strong public esteem, which public-relations executive Richard Laermer puts just a step below apple pie on the U.S. food chain.
“People are not going to give up hamburgers as easily as they’d give up, say, Perrier or Tylenol,” said Laermer, head of RLM Public Relations Inc., in New York and Los Angeles.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a threat because scientists say humans can develop a brain-wasting illness, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, from consuming beef products contaminated with BSE. But even that link has been challenged, and experts say the risk to individual consumers is minuscule, regardless.
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