BEEF bits

Dec 31, 2009
by WLJ



Taiwan blocks some U.S. beef

Taiwan’s parliament agreed to amend a food sanitation law to ban certain U.S. beef imports last week amid widespread fears over bovine spongiform encephalopathy, potentially straining ties with the U.S. Legislators are expected to vote on the amendment in early 2010, Wang Jin-pyng, president of the island’s legislature, said after the ruling Kuomintang party and opposition Democratic Progressive Party came to an in-principle agreement to reinstate the ban. Under the deal, minced beef, cow offal and beef from cattle above 30 months old will not be allowed for import into Taiwan, the government-backed Central News Agency reported. In late October, Taiwan said it would reopen its markets to U.S. bone-in beef and cow offal, ending a six-year import ban.

Hong Kong fastest-growing market

Hong Kong is the fourth-largest market for U.S. food and beverage exports at the end of a year in which those exports grew by 15 percent, the fastest growth among all exports markets globally, according to a new report by USDA. The agency’s Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agricultural Information Network released the report in early December. It noted that the Hong Kong market is valued at $1.4 billion, the beneficiary of a weakened U.S. dollar which makes U.S. food products more competitively priced overseas. Red meat and poultry are among the top prospects for export to Hong Kong; many of those exports are then re-exported to mainland China. Red meat import value is expected to drop due to lower prices and demand for cheaper cuts, but the import quantity for red meat is expected to increase moderately as the global economy begins to pick up in 2010. Imports of U.S. red meat, in particular, are expected to increase.

Calls for labels on tenderized steaks

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, last week called for labels identifying mechanically tenderized beef and pork products in the wake of National Steak and Poultry’s recent recall of a quarter-million pounds of product over E. coli concerns. The recall followed USDA’s determination of an association between tenderized steaks and illnesses in several states. “The USDA should move immediately to require labeling that clearly identifies mechanically tenderized beef and pork products for all processing facilities, retailers and consumers. Restaurants, grocery stores, and consumers should be made fully aware of the products they are receiving so they can assure that they are cooked at the appropriate temperature,” said DeLauro.

Pilgrim’s Pride exits bankruptcy

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. exited its bankruptcy proceedings, a year after the initial filing, paving the way for the company’s acquisition by JBS U.S.A. As a part of the Pilgrim’s Pride reorganization, JBS has agreed to purchase 64 percent of the common stock of the new company for $800 million in cash. JBS will receive six seats on the company’s board of directors under the terms of the purchase agreement. Pilgrim’s Pride is one of the country’s largest chicken producers. In accordance with the Securities and Exchange Commision filing, Reuters reports that the company has the authority to issue 800 million shares of common stock and 50 million shares of preferred stock in the reorganized company. The purchase by JBS comes as the industry is beginning to turn around; major competitors have claimed profits on their poultry operations in the latest fiscal quarter.

Court rules against California labeling

The National Meat Association and the American Meat Institute are the winners in a court case involving labeling requirements in the state of California. California’s appellate court ruled last week that the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) expressly “and entirely” preempts the state’s Proposition 65. The law required food to be labeled with notices of specific contents. Those substances then can be checked against an official list of substances implicated in incidents of cancer and birth defects. The court acknowledged that meat processors are “caught between the choice of risking sanctions for failing to comply with Proposition 65 on the one hand, and the strong likelihood of USDA disapproval if they attempt to provide Proposition 65 warnings, on the other,” court papers say. FMIA provides for federal jurisdiction over all links in the meat production chain, including labeling. It expressly prohibits “additional or different requirements for establishments with inspection services and as to marking, labeling, packaging, and ingredients.”

Cold storage numbers show decline

USDA’s monthly cold storage report, prior to Christmas, shows that the amount of meat in storage in November had fallen, sharply in some cases, compared to year-earlier totals. Pork in storage was down 7.5 percent from the same period a year ago, and the biggest decline since last April. Beef in storage fell by 10.5 percent year-over-year. That was the fourth straight decline and the biggest drop since June of 2005. Chicken in cold storage declined by 18.5 percent compared with year-ago levels.