You may have heard the long, tragicomic story of Creekstone Farms, the Kansas meatpacker that way back in 2006 decided to test all its meat for mad cow disease. Creekstone wanted to sell to Japan, a huge beef market that was then barring American beef over mad cow concerns. But there was a tiny problem: The USDA, which was testing only 1 percent of cows and wanted to test even fewer, refused to sell the company its testing kits, which the agency has sole control over. It’s widely believed that bigger meatpackers, afraid that such testing would become mandatory, leaned on the USDA, which claimed the test wouldn’t work reliably on younger cattle. (The agency also says the light load of testing simply reflects the disease’s rarity, a somewhat backward argument.)
So Creekstone sued the USDA for access to the tests, and this week a federal appeals court reversed a lower court decision and ruled that the government can prevent Creekstone from testing. (For more on the legal issues here, see the Volokh Conspiracy website.) The case was sent back to the lower court; if there’s another chapter to this saga, we’ll let you know.