Mad Cow Yet to Impact Tennessee Beef Prices

KNOXVILLE — Recent concerns about diseased cattle have not yet had a major impact on Tennessee beef prices, a University of Tennessee animal science professor said Tuesday.

Dr. James Neel said discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalothapy, or mad cow disease, in Washington State did not seem to affect local cattle sales Monday.

“We had a sale yesterday in Sweetwater, Tenn., and it did not seem to have any negative effect on prices there, but we do not know what the long run effect is going to be,” Neel said. “I’d say if we do not find any other incidence of BSE we probably are going to get along fairly well.

“Unless something happens again, (consumer concern) is probably going to ease off here in a month to 45 days.”

Beef-related stock prices dropped initially after the Dec. 23 announcement of the infected cow, but have rebounded some this week, Neel said. Futures markets for beef, however, continued to drop this week, he said.

With beef sales traditionally low during the holidays, the full impact of the mad cow disease will be probably not be determined until early 2004.

Neel said some analysts predict market declines up to 30 percent.

“There is really no foundation for this statement, except the declining futures prices and gut feeling,” Neel said. “Again, if other cases turn up, it could be a fast, wild ride. This will be a wait-and-see situation.”