The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with USDA and Merck and Company to collect information about Zilmax – a cattle feed additive – to determine if it is unsafe. Merck and Company has temporarily suspended Zilmax sales in the U.S. and Canada – and Tyson Foods announced earlier this month it would stop accepting beef from cattle fed Zilmax – after observing animals arriving at slaughter facilities having trouble walking or moving. Tyson says its rejection of Zilmax-fed cattle is based solely on animal welfare – not food safety – and that the company had no idea what was causing the animals’ behavior – but animal health experts suggested the use of Zilmax as a possible cause.
The cattle industry – however – is wondering how this will affect beef markets – since Zilmax has been proven to boost carcass weights and lean-meat yield. In its livestock, dairy and poultry outlook report last week – USDA suggested impacts on beef supplies could be reduced if feeders switched to a different additive – Optaflexx – and lower corn prices allowed feeders to feed cattle heavier weights. However – some analysts estimate a switch from Zilmax to Optaflexx could reduce carcass weights by six to eight-pounds. Last year – average fed-cattle carcass weights increased nearly 19-pounds compared to 2011 – which correlates with the adoption of beta agonists – such as Zilmax.
FDA has received a very small number of reports of lameness or lying down in cattle fed Zilmax – according to Reuters – and it will review additional information about the additive – then notifying Merck and the public if it is found to be a safety concern.
Source: NAFB News Service