Portrait of Mad Cow in Nebraska.
. . . Uh, there wasn’t one! As of 2014.
In December of 2003, a dairy cow in Washington State was found to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Because this illness may cause an animal to behave strangely and lose muscle control, consumers knew the disease by another disturbing nickname, "Mad Cow Disease". As of 2014, there had been no instances of Mad Cow Disease in cattle in Nebraska.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) took a number of steps to insure the quality of American beef. They commissioned a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Assessment to determine both the potential and actual threat to Americans. That study suggested that the physical threat was minimal and that if certain measures were taken, instances of the disease would be rare.
In a USDA news release, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns (former Governor of Nebraska) announced that:
". . .the most likely number of cases [of BSE] present in the United States is between 4 and 7 animals. Therefore, USDA concludes that the prevalence of the disease in the United States is less that 1 case per million adult cattle, based on an adult cattle population in this country of 42 million animals."
– No. 0143.060, dated April 28, 2006
The biggest problem with BSE was not the threat to public health, but with trade. With the discovery of that one diseased animal, 30 countries quickly placed embargos on American beef: they stopped buying it. Because Nebraska led the nation in beef exports, the impact of BSE on the state’s beef economy was dramatic.
There were other challenges that the Beef State faced as it stepped into the 21st Century. For example, e. coli (a form of food poisoning) brought scrutiny to the way products like hamburger were processed.