Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jun 27, 2005
by WLJ

South Dakota plant delayed
Connecticut-based Ridgefield Farms will further delay breaking ground on a South Dakota beef processing facility until next spring. In addition, construction on a cattle slaughter facility has been pushed back another year, company officials said. In April, the company announced a six-month delay for starting construction on the proposed plant in Huron, SD, and five investors resigned from the company's board. The company is expected to spend approximately $20 million on the initial plant, plus another $7 million on technology. Originally the cost was expected to be around $42 million. Until it can build its own slaughterhouse, Ridgefield Farms will contract that function to local processors.

Midwest beef processors merge
Rosen Meat Group, Fairmont, MN, and American Foods Group Inc., Green Bay, WI, recently announced plans to merge the two companies and keep the name American Foods Group (AFG). AFG is known for producing ground beef products and deli meats, while Rosen is a manufacturer of steaks, ground beef and sausage. No layoffs are expected, and the new company plans to restore full-time work hours that employees from both companies lost after cattle supplies tightened due to a lack of Canadian cattle imports. Jobs are expected to be added once imports resume and additional Asian markets reopen to U.S. beef. The deal is expected to close sometime in late August. Collective sales between the two companies totaled more than $1.5 billion last year.

Tyson plant votes union out
The National Labor Relations Board has certified the February vote that decided to remove the Teamsters Union from Tyson Foods, Inc.= s beef processing facility in Pasco, WA, after 28 years. The union has objected to the vote, but withdrew their objections earlier this month and the vote was certified. Tyson said in a statement it is finalizing plans for a pay increase and other benefit enhancements for the 1,500 hourly production and maintenance workers. Those changes are expected to go into effect July 3. Tyson said about 70 percent of its 300 production plants are now non-union.

Cattle neglected at college farm
Ten cattle at a University of Wisconsin research farm died after apparently suffering from neglect over the winter, according to school officials. The cattle were fed a diet of poor-quality hay and corn silage in December and January that left them malnourished, Ben Miller, assistant dean at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said last week. The animals were housed at the university-operated Franbrook Farm where they were involved in predicting whether cattle give birth to twins. Six cattle died in February and March of complications during calving, while the others died of malnutrition. Communication problems between the researcher and the worker charged with caring for the animals were cited. The worker has since resigned.

Uruguay beef exports hit record
Uruguayan beef exports reached record levels during May, with export volume increasing 39 percent over last year, at 26,100 metric tons. The value of beef exports for May rose 48 percent, to U.S. $68 million. Over the first five months of 2005, Uruguayan beef exports totaled 119,000 metric tons worth $303 million, increases of 22 and 27 percent, respectively. The U.S. remained the primary destination for Uruguayan beef, accounting for 76 percent of the country= s May exports. The majority of that product was frozen, at 19,800 metric tons. During the first five months of 2005, exports to the U.S accounted for 74 percent of Uruguay= s exports, totaling 88,500 metric tons.

Spanish-language web site unveiled
The California Beef Council (CBC) expanded its Hispanic-based promotion efforts recently by launching a Spanish-language web site, Translated the web site name means A I like beef.@ The new web site includes beef recipes, nutrition facts and beef safety information. In addition, this year's CBC Hispanic marketing campaign also includes radio advertising and in-store retail promotions with more than one hundred Hispanic stores.

USDA certifies Greater Omaha
Greater Omaha Packing Co. received Quality System Assessment approval from USDA, which qualifies the company to export to customers in Japan when that market is reopened to U.S. beef products. The QSA signifies that a processor has ties with ranchers and feeders who maintain careful feed, age and genetic records of cattle and gives such companies an advantage when the border reopens. Harris Ranch Beef Co., Brawley Beef Co. and Packerland Co. have received similar designations.

Winn-Dixie closing 300-plus stores
Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. will sell or close 326 of its 918 stores, close three of its 10 distribution centers, sell off manufacturing plants and lay off approximately 22,000 workers. The closing distribution centers are in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Greenville, S.C. The retailer is attempting to emerge from bankruptcy protection and is expected to will see its gross sales dip from $10 billion last year, to $7.5 billion. The 22,000 layoffs account for about 28 percent of the company's employee base.

Giant Eagle opens super store
A prototype supermarket for Giant Eagle's new grocery concept opened last week in Pittsburgh, PA. The 24-hour, 86,000-square-foot store includes a prepared-foods department, an in-store cafe, a natural and organic section, a full-service dry cleaner and a child-care center. According to Kevin Srigley, Giant Eagle's vice president of marketing, convenience is the primary feature of the new supermarket, which houses a fully staffed meat department selling USDA Prime Beef, Certified Angus Beef, and natural beef. The store also offers 100 varieties of deli meats, salads, and antipasto items.