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Beef in Taiwan: Tongues, tails and testicles

US beef imports rear a very ugly head. Cow patties are on the menu, too.

"They didn't talk to the legislature or people first. They didn't communicate," said Chu. "The people's feeling is that the government doesn't respect us, and that it's trying to sneak these products into Taiwan."

Chu ticked off a list of concerns about U.S. beef. He said there was no cure for vCJD, and that consumers couldn't avoid risks by skipping beef, since tainted beef parts could make its way into other products.

Moreover, he said, the large-scale U.S. beef industry, with its huge machinery and chemical fertilizers to grow cow feed, is environmentally unfriendly. "It takes up so many resources," he said. "It's such a wasteful product."

Meanwhile, U.S. beef exporters, powerful U.S. politicians in beef-exporting states and U.S. trade officials have grown increasingly frustrated with Taiwan and other Asian trade partners. Trade officials this week said they were "deeply disappointed" at Taiwan's planned inspection process, and other U.S. officials insisted American beef is safe.

No vCJD cases have been linked to consumption of U.S. beef. (Of three known U.S. cases of vCJD, two were "likely exposed" in the United Kingdom, and the third was "most likely" infected as a child in Saudi Arabia, according to a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet.)

And American officials cite a 2007 ruling by the World Organization for Animal Health that U.S. beef was safe for export "provided that certain slaughter and beef processing conditions are met." They note that there's been no case of mad cow disease in any U.S. cow born after 1997.

But it's hard to convince the Taiwanese public, especially when they can watch a cow-dung-burger-eating protester instead.