BSE, Mad Cow and Beef Steaks

I am sure by now you have heard about the BSE case found in a cow in California. BSE, often called Mad Cow, is a progressive neurological disease among cattle that is always fatal. It belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. This animal did not enter the food chain. Also note, that you cannot get BSE from milk. It is only found in the specified risk materials, or SRMs.

According to the USDA, SRMs are:

the parts of cattle that could potentially harbor the BSE agent in an infected animal. Research has demonstrated infectivity in the following tissues, at different times in an infected animal’s life: brain, spinal cord, retina, distal ileum, dorsal root ganglion, trigeminal ganglion and tonsil. In U.S. regulations, SRMs are defined as the brain, skull, eyes trigeminal ganglia, spinal cord, vertebral column (excluding the vertebrae of the tail, the transverse processes of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, and the wings of the sacrum) and dorsal root ganglia of cattle 30 months of age and older. SRMs also include the tonsils and distal ileum of all cattle. Source 

That probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but this brings me to my point. Sometimes we are unable to fill our customers’ orders with T-bone steaks. The T-bone is cut from the vertebrae of the animal. Our beef steers rarely are 30 months old, but the USDA inspector looks at the teeth of the animal to determine age. If the teeth show 30 months old, then we are unable to cut T-bones and the customers get a different cut.

family farm, BSE, mad cow, minnesota, steak, beef


Our beef steers are grass-fed most of their lives and only receive grain when they are very young. Grass-fed animals tend to grow slower. So there is a give and take. If you want an animal raised on pasture and grass and not on feed lot, you may have to give up your T-bones.

With Zweber Farms’ meats you can be confident that you are eating a wholesome, sustainably raised product. If you have any questions about BSE please feel free to ask us. I have been watching Twitter and it seems like a lot of misinformation is being passed around.

Tim’s editor’s note: He believes that the T-bone is an inferior cut anyhow. In his opinion you should just get a tenderloin and a strip steak. 

5 thoughts on “BSE, Mad Cow and Beef Steaks

  1. Brandy


    Thanks for the timely and informative coverage of a much misunderstood
    topic. BSE is out there and it’s bound to be found from time to time. This is why all the checks and double checks are in place.
    Also important to note is that the National Organic Program prohibits feeding rendered animal by-products to certified-organic livestock of any species. This banned feeding practice is thought to be the way that BSE is transmitted among animals.
    BTW, it was great meeting you and Tim last month. Thank you again for all that you do!
    Go Organic! Go Family Farms!

    Warm Regards,

    1. Zweber Farms Post author

      Thanks for the warm comment Brandy. This case was an A-typical form of BSE. We may never know what caused it, but thankfully the checks were in place to catch it. This is why it is important to fully fund USDA programs like this.

  2. Lisa-Marie Haugmoen

    Thank you for always providing informative information that always makes me think more about what I consume and where it comes from etc.. Love your site!

  3. Pingback: Organic Cows Don’t Eat Corn: Organic Myths Part 2 | Zweber Farms