Creekstone Farms to Challenge USDA's Decision to Decline Private BSE Testing

DENVER - Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC, a privately held producer and processor, said Friday it will aggressively challenge USDA's decision last week not to allow it to voluntarily test all of its cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) commonly known as mad cow disease.

Creekstone Farms submitted to USDA a request to conduct private testing at its Arkansas City, Kansas processing plant on Feb. 19, 2004.

The USDA, which is under pressure from some lawmakers and consumer advocates to expand its testing program, refused the license request from Creekstone Farms.

"We are looking at what the consensus of international experts is when it comes to testing, and that consensus is that 100 percent testing is not justified," Agriculture Department spokeswoman Alisa Harrison said late Thursday. "That's why we feel at this time we cannot grant Creekstone's requested timeline for a decision."

Creekstone officials, who have held ongoing meetings with the USDA since the company filed its request, said they were surprised at the USDA's decision.

"We are extremely disappointed but nonetheless relieved to finally have a response from the USDA," said John Stewart, c.e.o. of Creekstone Farms. "We now know where USDA stands, but are surprised it took them six weeks to respond with a 'no' to our request."

The Kansas-based company says it is "100 percent committed" to conduct BSE testing at its plant in order to reverse embargoes and allow its beef back into Japan and other export destinations.

Questioned as to whether or not Creekstone will pursue legal challenges to the USDA's decision, Stewart said his company is considering numerous options in order to challenge the USDA's authority and have not ruled out potential legal action. "We have a back-up strategy in place and over the weekend we will be finalizing our plans which we will unveil early next week," Stewart said on Friday.

Creekstone Farms, with sales and marketing offices in the greater Denver, Colorado area and processing facilities in Arkansas City, Kansas, distribute their Black Angus beef through traditional retail channels and in many fine-dining restaurants across the country.
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