Yes. You read that right.
The government is seeking to reverse a lower court ruling allowing Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef from conducting more comprehensive testing that would satisfy the demand of customers in foreign markets, and more than a few of us here at home.
Currently, less than 1% of the cows processed in this country are tested for the disease under guidelines set forth by the department of agriculture. The government argues that more widespread testing would not guarantee food safety and might frighten consumers if false positives are reported.
"They want to create false assurances," Justice Department attorney Eric Flesig-Greene told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Russel Frye, the attorney for Creekstone contends that the Department of Agriculture regulations covering the handling of domestic animals does not prohibit an individual company from going above and beyond when testing for mad cow, because the test is conducted after the animal is slaughtered. Frye argued that the agency has no authority to prevent companies from exercising higher testing standards to reassure customers who want more stringent guidelines applied.
"This is the government telling the consumers, `You're not entitled to this information,'" Frye said.Creekstone's push for wider testing has prompted opposition from large packing companies because they are afraid that they will be forced to apply with more rigorous standards if Creekstone gets away with this blatant act of corporate responsibility. If Creekstone's standards were universal, the price of meat would increase a few cents per pound.
Chief Judge David B. Sentelle seemed to agree with Creekstone's contention that the additional testing would not interfere with agency regulations governing the treatment of animals.
"All they want to do is create information," Sentelle said, noting that it's up to consumers to decide how to interpret the information.
Last years ruling buy the district court in favor of Creekstone was supposed to take effect on June 1, but the appeal by the DoJ on behalf of the Dept of Ag has delayed the testing so far.
So where are the free-market whack-jobs on this? Doesn't this company have the right to operate at a higher standard than the law requires? If I am willing to pay a few cents more per pound, then why am I denied that right as a consumer?