Canadian Officials Urge Focus on Cow's Feed

Canadian officials downplayed the significance of the origins of a Holstein infected with mad cow disease (search), saying Monday other factors need examination before concluding a Canadian farm was the source.

Canada's minister of agriculture said finding the source of the animals feed was also important.

"Finding out where the cow came from is only one aspect. It's equally important to find out in fact where the feed came from that gave the cow BSE and also particularly where that cow contracted it," said Agriculture Minister Bob Speller at a press conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

He also said it was essential to ensure proper tagging and slaughterhouse procedures were followed, and that Canada and the United States have begun separate DNA tests, but did not know when results could be expected.

The remarks were his first since the U.S. Agriculture Department announced Saturday it believed the sick cow found in Washington came from a farm north of Edmonton, Alberta.

On Monday, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein urged countries to resist "worldwide panic" and lift their bans on U.S. and Canadian beef due to the minimal risk of contracting bovine spongiform encephalopathy from one cow.

He added that the USDA's announcement angered him because the North American beef market was too integrated for that distinction to matter.

"An American bull sniffing a Canadian cow doesn't ask for that cow's national identity," he told reporters in Calgary, Alberta.

"I was frustrated to see that there was premature fingerpointing."

Canada's beef industry, particularly Alberta's with more than half of the country's 13.5 million cattle, suffered a huge blow after the discovery in May of a Black Angus cow infected with mad cow disease. Producers lost $1.45 billion in exports so far, according to the Canada Beef Exporter Federation (search).

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (search), is a concern because humans who eat brain or spinal matter from an infected cow can develop variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (search).