BEEF bits

Jun 12, 2009
by WLJ

BEEF bits

Russia slow to reinstate plants

Russian officials said last week that they have no intention of moving more quickly to resume meat trade with the U.S. According to a Reuters report, Russian officials claim they have not yet received sufficient data to resume trade. “Unfortunately, the American side has not yet provided sufficient data,” Sergei Dankvert, head of Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s food safety agency, was quoted as saying. Two weeks ago, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk visited Russia in hopes that he could convince the Russians to resume meat trade in an effort for them to join the World Trade Organization. He said entry would be halted until trade resumes.

Vilsack: Lobbyist ban reason for delay

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told reporters last week that the delay in naming a new food safety chief is the administration’s tight restrictions on naming former lobbyists to positions within the administration.

That restriction and the vetting process is preventing candidates from moving through the process, Vilsack explained. Nearly five months after the Obama administration took office, there is no indication when a name will emerge. What is clear, however, is that the new undersecretary will have plenty on his or her plate. While congressional food safety legislation is being debated on Capitol Hill, the White House working group on food safety has launched a series of listening sessions to help form administration policy.

Nicaragua resumes beef trade

Nicaragua has signed an agreement that will allow live U.S. cattle and beef imports from animals of any age into the country, USDA said last week. The ban was officially lifted May 5 and removed the country’s restrictions that were put in place following the initial detection of the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the U.S. Since that time, only boneless beef from animals less than 30 months of age was allowed to be imported. No live cattle were allowed into the country from the U.S. “With this agreement, it’s clear that Nicaragua respects the sound science behind the internationally developed standards for cattle safety to which we all adhere,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “USDA will continue to press for full market access for American cattle and beef all around the world.”

Tyson relaunches premium beef brand

Tyson Fresh Meats said it is relaunching its highend Star Ranch Angus brand aimed at consumers who want top quality American-made beef. The brand uses only “A maturity” Angus cattle, the youngest USDArecognized maturity. Tyson said the relaunch is based on extensive research that found what consumers want most is meat that is consistently tender, rich in flavor, and made in the U.S.A. Star Ranch Angus cattle are born and processed start to finish in the U.S. “In a time when consumers see everything made overseas, Star Ranch Angus is 100 percent American made and comes with a 100 percent consumer guarantee to provide a high-end eating experience every time,” said Rick Janke, brand manager for Tyson Fresh Meats.

Smithfield’s earnings forecast lowered

Citing a harsh operating environment, BMO Capital Markets analyst Kenneth Zaslow lowered his fiscal 2010 earnings forecast for Smithfield Foods for the second time in less than a month. Among the reasons listed for the cut were the cratering of the hog futures market, weaker-than-expected processing margins, and the likelihood that future debt offerings will carry a higher interest rate. For fiscal year ending in May 2010, Zaslow reduced his earnings forecast to 18 cents per share from 99 cents per share forecast in late May and his forecast before that of $1.30 per share.

AMI Web site to fight movie claims

Hollywood filmmaker Robert Kenner’s new movie, “Food Inc.,” was set to be released last week. The movie, set in a documentary style, features interviews with a number of so-called industry experts who warn viewers of problems with the nation’s food production system. In an effort to battle the negativity backlash the movie may create, the American Meat Institute (AMI) has set up a Web site,, to counter what the group calls the movie’s many “myths” that could muddy the debate over food safety. “The movie’s messages aren’t based on facts, so that’s why we wanted to get facts out,” said AMI spokeswoman Janet Riley, adding that AMI set up the Web site inhouse and did not use an outside public relations firm. “You want to be operating based upon the correct information.”