US – Tyson Fresh Meats will suspend purchases on cattle fed the growth promoter Zilmax from September 6 because of welfare concerns over cattle lameness.
Animal health experts have suggested the problem of non-ambulatory and lame cattle in feedlots could be caused by Zilmax, a feed efficiency supplement containing zilpaterol hydrochloride.
However, accusations are not definite and Tyson has announced the suspension as an ‘interim measure’.
A letter to the industry reassured that the decision does not relate to food safety. They said the decision is purely down to concerns over cattle health.
Merck Animal Health, the manufacturer of Zilmax growth promoter, has stated it remains confident in the safety of the product.
A Merck spokesperson commented: “We are surprised by Tyson’s letter. We are confident that, based on all of the available data on Zilmax, the experience reported by Tyson is not attributable to Zilmax.
"Indeed, Tyson itself points to the fact that there are other possible causes and that it does not know the specific cause of the issues it recently experienced."
“We will continue to work with Tyson to help it identify those other causes. Again, we are confident that the totality of our data does not support Zilmax as being the cause of these experiences, and we remain confident in the safety of the product.”
John Gerber, a cattle buyer at Tyson said: “This is not a food safety issue. It is about animal well-being and ensuring the proper treatment of the livestock we depend on to operate.”
There is no suggestion from rival agrifoods company Cargill that it will follow suit.
Cargill said: "Cargill has not experienced an animal well-being incident that could be directly linked to the use of Zilmax."
Animal welfare is a top priority and the situation will be mointored closely, Cargill concluded.