Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Aug 29, 2008
by WLJ

ICE wants to work with meat packers

Addressing the meat industry on the thorny issue of illegal immigration and the difficulty for employers of securing a legitimate workforce, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Julie Myers said the agency and industry need to partner to ensure compliance with the related laws. Though she acknowledged that effective immigration law is lacking in the U.S., Myers said companies are best to approach ICE and demonstrate the intent to cooperate and legalize their labor forces prior to potential enforcement actions. Thus far in fiscal 2008, ICE has issued more than 1,000 individual criminal charges related to illegal employment, including 121 against either employers or managers.

AMS to educate on COOL

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will spend the first six months following official implementation of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on Sept. 30 conducting outreach at retail establishments rather than focusing on enforcement. AMS Associate Deputy Administrator Bill Sessions told attendees at National Meat Association’s summer conference that his agency will not enforce the law during the first six months. The goal, rather, will be to educate retailers about its requirements. Sessions said AMS has been writing up guidance documents, which should be distributed soon.

USDA schedules hearing on irradiated beef

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has scheduled a public meeting on a three-year-old petition requesting the approval of irradiation for use on the surface of chilled beef carcasses. FSIS will hold the meeting Sept. 18 at a location yet to be announced. The petition was submitted in 2005 by the American Meat Institute in an effort to further improve beef safety. Irradiation is a safe and simple process that uses energy to destroy E. coli O157:H7, salmonella, listeria and other harmful bacteria on food products. The energy passes through the product the same way as in a microwave oven. Food irradiation has been intensely studied and scrutinized for safety. The energy does not leave any residue nor does it cook the product or alter taste in any demonstrable way.

Wyoming Beef Council names USMEF rep

Wyoming Beef Council members have reappointed Irv Petsch as the Wyoming representative to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Petsch will serve a three-year term representing Wyoming on the USMEF Board. Contributions of Wyoming checkoff dollars provide for a Wyoming director to serve on the USMEF board. Petsch served the last three years as Wyoming’s representative to USMEF. During his first term, he was appointed to a USMEF steering committee developed to determine market availability and how to best use Beef Checkoff dollars to access foreign markets. In his role as USMEF director, Petsch will work to increase the value and profitability of the U.S. beef industry by enhancing demand for U.S. beef and beef products in targeted export markets.

New technology predicts tenderness

Fresh meat tenderness may be predicted using hyperspectral imaging, according to new research. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln project uses a combination of video image analysis and spectroscopy to determine the muscle profile and biochemical properties of a steak in order to predict how tender it will become during aging. The system, consisting of a digital video camera and a spectrograph, captures multiple images at hundreds of wavelengths with regular intervals, predicting with 77 percent accuracy which of three categories (tender, intermediate and tough) steaks would fall into once cooked and tested. The technology, still two or three years away from commercial application, would mean a boost to the beef industry as it would allow retailers to charge a premium for "guaranteed tender" meat.

FSIS launching new food safety assessments

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is rolling out a new methodology of conducting food safety assessments at 5,300 Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point meat processing plants aimed at improving the consistency of inspections and documenting findings. Under the new program, those plants can expect a random food safety assessment at least once every four years, creating a set cycle for all plants, which had not been the case in the past. A new set of questions will also provide a structure by which enforcement, investigations and analysis officers can better collect data for input in a database.