BEEF bits

Jan 16, 2009

BEEF bits

Exports to Korea expanding

Checkoff investments have been helping the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) promote U.S. beef with South Korean butcher shops and neighborhood restaurants since early September. Meanwhile, South Korea’s three major discount retailers—E-Mart, Home Plus and Lotte Mart—resumed sales of U.S. beef on Thanksgiving Day in Seoul, giving an enormous boost to U.S. beef throughout that country. Company representatives say sales of U.S. beef provide value and convenience, and help stabilize consumer prices.

USMEF is providing promotional support to all the chains and believes initial sales at these three major retailers will prompt sales at other retail outlets.

Brazilian packer files bankruptcy

Brazilian beef company Arantes Alimentos Ltda. has filed for protection from creditors under the local equivalent of the U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy law, the company’s lawyer said recently. The company made the filing with a local court in Mato Grosso state under a Brazilian law known as the Judicial Recovery Act, said lawyer Geraldo Gouveia Jr. The filing will protect the company from creditors relating to debts worth 1.5 billion reals ($646 million), according to Gouveia.

“Arantes was expanding too aggressively through acquisition,” he said. “With the current crisis, the company suddenly faced credit restrictions.” Gouveia added that “the company has also seen a reduction in sales and it has posted losses from financial market derivatives.” Arantes is one of the 10 largest Brazilian beef exporters, with a daily slaughtering capacity of approximately 5,500 head of cattle at seven slaughterhouses.

States get BQA certified

The checkoff’s first National Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Train-the-Trainer Certification Program held via the Internet was conducted Dec. 1. Thirty-five BQA state coordinators participated in the program, which featured presentations from Drs. Bob Smith, Dee Griffin and John Maas of the BQA Advisory Board on national BQA guidelines and standards for national certification recognition. Presenters also visited with state coordinators about consumer expectations of producers in the information age. As of Dec. 15, coordinators in 13 states had already completed all course work and fulfilled requirements to be a state with the ability to nationally certify their producers in BQA.

Consumers confident in beef

Consumer confidence in beef has been on an upward trend for the past five years, and a November checkofffunded survey gives further foundation to that movement. The checkoff-funded food safety tracking survey found that 91 percent of consumers have “strong confidence” in the safety of steaks/roasts and 84 percent have “strong confidence” in the safety of ground beef— both historic highs. Consumer confidence in the safety of steaks and roasts currently is statistically on a par with confidence in fruits and vegetables, which are at 90 percent “strong confidence.” Confidence in ground beef safety is higher than consumer confidence in chicken. About half of consumers, however, believe that recalls and illnesses from foodborne bacteria are increasing—only 5 percent believe they are decreasing.

Cargill 2Q profits up 25 percent

Thanks to contributions from its majority stake in a large fertilizer company, Cargill Inc. saw a 25 percent jump in net earnings for the second quarter of its fiscal year which ended Nov. 30, 2008. Cargill net income jumped to $1.19 billion in its second fiscal quarter, compared with $954 million for the same period a year earlier. Net income for Mosaic Co., one of the fertilizer industry’s biggest companies, more than doubled; Mosaic is co-owned by Cargill Crop Nutrition and IMC Global. Absent the results from Mosaic, Cargill’s quarter results fell moderately, the company said in its earnings statement, and first-half results are about flat.

JBS to enter Argentine feedlot business

Brazilian beef behemoth JBS Swift and Co. is set to enter the feedlot business in Argentina, a land longfamed for its lean, grass-fed steaks. The company is studying the issue due to problems it’s having ensuring stable beef supplies, said JBS Swift Argentina Director Jorge Bowie. JBS Swift is one of Argentina’s leading beef exporters. The company is moving into the business due to government efforts to stimulate the use of feedlots to increase beef output and the possible reduction in supply in the near future, JBS said in a press release. The use of feedlots in Argentina has grown rapidly in recent years as grains displaced cattle across the Pampas and due to government subsidies on grains used to feed cattle, pigs and chicken.

Argentina is rapidly heading the way of the U.S. and within a few years, 90 percent of the country’s cows will probably pass through feedlots.