Over the past month or so I’ve received a bunch of calls and emails asking me this. I’ll get the answer out of the way quickly: no, they are not. There are no mRNA vaccines authorized for use in cattle, at least not in the U.S. But the idea is clearly ubiquitous. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association recently issued a press release seeking to dispel the rumor. In researching this post I happened upon four other farmers who have written about it in response to customer queries. What I have not found is a source for the claim itself.
Each time someone has asked me about it, I’ve responded by requesting a link to an article or a podcast or a video. One customer sent me an article about RNA vaccine use in industrial pork production. I’ve had a few people mention instagram, but never the name of a specific influencer, while others cite pure word of mouth, which I obviously cannot check out. As far as I can tell it’s an almost entirely social phenomenon, spreading through ephemeral videos. When I write a post like this one I usually like to have a counterpoint, a document I can link to so readers can decide for themselves whether they find me or whoever I’m having a disagreement with more convincing. In this case I’m stuck shadowboxing with a rumor of a rumor.
So perhaps this is a good place for me to encourage radical skepticism as the appropriate default response to everything encountered online. Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time knows I have my issues with the industrial food system and the opacity built into it. I don’t think Cargill or JBS are eager to let you know what they’re up to. But this does not mean that all claims about big ag are true. When you hear something, especially something that confirms your preexisting views, I recommend taking a hard look at the quality of the evidence and the basic plausibility.
The unfortunate reality of online life is that your attention is valuable. So anything that scares you, gets you worked up, or feels like a shocking revelation might be true, but it also might just be an effort to get you to keep watching and sharing.
As I’ve said, in this case I can’t even find documentation of the claim. But as a farmer I can explain why I’m confident I would know if there was a secret campaign to mandate mRNA vaccination of cows. The beef industry has hundreds of thousands of independent farmers and ranchers raising cattle, which means administering a national program would be difficult even if everyone was on board with it. It would take a huge amount of coordination and monitoring. It would be completely impossible to do in secret. If it was happening, farmers would know, and we’d all be talking about it.
While I’m writing about a narrow and relatively niche ag topic here, the point is broadly applicable, and will likely become increasingly so. I am sorry to say it, but for all the good, interesting, funny, revelatory stuff you can find online, there’s a lot more that is misleading or outright fabricated. I can’t tell you how to choose what to believe and what not to, since I’m still figuring that out for myself. But wherever you land, I do encourage you to believe it with far less conviction.