Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an issue that has received a lot of attention recently. As one of the country’s leading providers of venison we are just as concerned about CWD, if not more so, than you the consumer. We believe Broken Arrow Ranch offers some of the safest meat available, and we are proud of the customer service record we've earned since our founding in 1983. I can appreciate your concern over CWD and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), and encourage you to research this matter further until you are convinced of the safety of our venison products. The following article details what is currently known about CWD, why Broken Arrow Ranch’s venison products are safe, and provides some alternatives if you are still not convinced.
About Chronic Wasting Disease
CWD is a nervous system disease that affects deer and elk (usually over 18 months of age) causing weight loss and various neurological changes (such as altered head and ear orientation, an unsteady gait, decreased fear of people), progressing to eventual animal death. It is a member of a family of related diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion diseases. Different animal families have different TSE's affecting them: bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, scrapie in sheep, transmissible mink encephalopathy in minks and CWD in deer. A human TSE exists, and it is termed Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). It occurs worldwide, generally in older individuals (usually over 65 years of age), at the rate of about one case annually per 1,000,000 people.
Regarding CWD specifically, a study by the World Heath Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has found:
- No scientific evidence has been found that CWD can be transmitted to humans.
- No link has been found between CWD and CJD in humans (the human TSE).
- CWD infected deer and elk have existed in a geographic pocket on the Colorado/Wyoming border for over 50 years, with no apparent association of CWD with other TSEs of man or other animals.
CWD is a disease that is limited to deer and elk and that has not been shown to be transmittable to humans. Consider the following practical, but unscientific, analysis... CWD has been a "known" disease since 1967. Each year hundreds of thousands of deer are harvested and consumed by hunters in the US. During the last 50 years since CWD was identified there have been ZERO cases of CWD being transferred to humans.
Why Broken Arrow Ranch’s Venison Products Are Safe
We can assure you that our venison products are perfectly safe, but our assurance is not enough. We would like you to be just as confident. Here are some reasons why we are so confident in the safety of our products:
All the animals we harvest are done so under the full supervision of a Texas Department of Agriculture State Meat Inspector. Prior to harvest the animals are observed live for any signs of disease or unhealthy behavior. After harvest the viscera, glands, and meat of every animal are thoroughly inspected for signs of disease or illness. CWD is not tested for specifically, since there currently is no field test available, but the overall good health of the animal is assured.
All our venison products come from free-range, truly wild animals. They are not penned nor farm-raised and live their lives as wild animals do. The free-range nature of the animals we harvest allows healthy animals to avoid infected animals, as nature intended. This is in direct contrast to farmed animals that are kept in confined spaces where healthy and infected animals are kept in close proximity and the potential for disease to spread increases. A sick animal is typically isolated from other animals and usually lays dormant in a protected area until it gets better or dies. As a consequence of these natural actions sick animals normally are not seen and, thus, self-exclude themselves during our harvesting operations.
Besides providing higher quality meat, our unique field harvesting technique offers some additional safety benefits. Our technique is to traverse large ranches in a vehicle familiar to the animals and harvest the animals from long distance with a single head-shot from a suppressed rifle. The primary goal of this unique technique is to harvest the animals in as humane and stress-free a manner as possible. It also allows us to observe each animal individually for healthy behavior. The onset of symptoms from CWD and other diseases can often be observable by a change in "normal" behavior (staggering, decreased fear of humans, etc.). Sick animals would be identified though our ante-mortem inspection and would not be harvested.
The specific species of animals we harvest provides additional protection from CWD. To date CWD has been found in native species such as elk, mule deer, white-tail deer and the related species of sika and red deer. Our retail venison products come from the non-native species of axis deer and nilgai antelope. CWD has never been found in any of these exotic species we harvest.
Axis deer and Fallow deer, two of the primary deer species we harvest, are not susceptible to CWD.1, 2 Neither are South Texas Antelope (Nilgai) antelope since they are in a different animal family from deer.
For these reasons we are confident in the safety of our venison products. Our kids eat this almost every day and I still sleep very well at night!
We believe Broken Arrow Ranch offers some of the safest venison available. However, if you still wish to enjoy wild game, but are not convinced of the safety of our venison from exotic deer then I can recommend our South Texas Antelope and Wild Boar products. CWD is limited to the Cervidae (deer) family of animals. South Texas Antelope is in the Bovidae (antelopes, cattle, gazelles, goats, sheep, etc.) family and Wild Boar is in the Suidae (hogs and pigs) family. Neither of these animal families has ever been identified as carrying CWD nor is it even suspected to exist in these families.
We appreciate your concern about CWD and the safety of venison products. We also hope that the information provided above is sufficient to earn your confidence in our products. If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact us.
Links to more information about CWD
Center for Disease Control - Search for Chronic Wasting Disease
1http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/cwd/downloads/cwd_program_standards.pdf, May 2014
2"Failure of fallow deer (Dama dama) to develop chronic wasting disease when exposed to a contaminated environment and infected mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)." Rhyan JC1, Miller MW, Spraker TR, McCollum M, Nol P, Wolfe LL, Davis TR, Creekmore L, O'Rourke KI. National Wildlife Research Center, US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services, Fort Collins, Colorado 80521, USA. July 2011.