“Regulatory capture” is what we call a situation in which an industry has taken practical control of a government agency and used it to serve its own – rather than the public’s – purposes. This has happened to varying extents with most Federal agencies (say, the FCC and FEC). Few industries, however, have managed to do it to the extent that the meat industry has done it. There are, literally, shelves full of books on this subject, but a recent court decision upholding a USDA decision boils it down for us:
A federal appeals court says the government can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease. Because the Agriculture Department tests only a small percentage of cows for the deadly disease, Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows. The government says it can’t.
Larger meat companies worry that if Creekstone is allowed to perform the test and advertise its meat as safe, they could be forced to do the expensive test, too.
Yes, the agency charged with ensuring your meat is safe has been used to ensure that no one is allowed to voluntarily test all of their meat for safety, because it might turn out that the public wants it.