Impacts of Foot and Mouth Disease reach Moffat County

Although Craig lies nestled on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains in the high country of Colorado, its agricultural impacts may be felt on the other side of the world.

With the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in England, companies throughout Europe that normally depend on British suppliers have turned to U.S. companies for help supplying meat that is no longer available.

"Overall, it has shown me that the food in the U.S. is the best in the world," said Gary Baysinger, owner of Mountain Meat in Craig. "There are 31 countries out there right now that are affected by this epidemic, but the U.S. meat industry still remains strong."

Baysinger has received requests from buyers as far away as Russia, who are interested in purchasing large quantities of meat even horse and lamb.

Alexander's Heating, a Kirkland, WA, based company is the contact for Russian buyers who are looking to purchase 200 metric tons of pork, 300 metric tons of beef, 50 metric tons of beef liver, and 100 metric tons of horse meat a month.

A metric ton equals 4,409 pounds of boneless meat.

"There is no way that a small meat processor like us could ever begin to fill an order like this," Baysinger said. "It is going to take a huge processor, someone like Iowa Beef Packing, to help these people out."

Although smaller meat-packing companies like Mountain Meat do not have the resources to provide that quantity of product, the residents of Craig will still be indirectly affected by a shortage of meat.

"The meat is going to have to come from somewhere, and with other countries aware that the U.S. food supply is consistently strong, a U.S. company will most likely fill the order," Baysinger said. "Consumers, though, are going to be the ones that are affected because, in the end, they are the ones that will pay higher prices at their meat counter."

The state of Colorado is taking few chances with FMD, and is doing everything possible to keep the disease from entering the state.

"It is no accident that Foot and Mouth Disease has not been found in this country since 1929," said Tom Compton, president of the Colorado Cattleman's Association (CCA). "The state and federal agencies continued vigilance and heightened public awareness are all helping to protect our nation's livestock.

"The state's prevention and response plan is just one more proactive measure to fortify our defenses."

FMD is caused by a highly contagious virus that rarely causes death in adult animals, but can cause fever, depression, nasal discharge, and even loss of appetite.

Other warning signs of FMD can include open sores on the oral cavity, throat, and teat.

The incubation period can range from two to 21 days, but usually occurs in the first three to five days.

FMD can also affect wild animals native to northwest Colorado, such as antelope, bear and deer.

The world-wide increased demand for U.S. beef should be beneficial to some northwest Colorado residents such as cattleman and sheep ranchers, many of whom have contracts with processors that extend through the end of the year.

However, for the average consumer, the future is not so bright.

"I think that this increased problem is definitely going to affect beef prices throughout the summer," Baysinger said. "I recommend that if people plan on doing a lot of grilling this summer, they think ahead, because it looks as if people are going to be paying much more for meat by this fall."

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