BEEF bits

Jan 22, 2010
by WLJ



Two-year-old beef recalled

Huntington Meat Packing Inc., Montebello, CA, has issued a recall for approximately 390 tons of ground beef, some of it manufactured two years ago. The recall notice is tied to concerns over E. coli contamination of the product which was shipped to outlets, mostly in California. Product produced at the plant between Jan. 5, 2010, and Jan. 15, 2010, was found to be contaminated after tests by Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) personnel. No reports of illness associated with the beef have been reported. During a review of the company’s records, FSIS inspectors determined additional products produced and shipped in 2008 to be of concern because they may have been contaminated with E.coli, FSIS said in a notice on its Web site. This batch was produced from Feb. 19, 2008, to May 15, 2008. It also had been shipped to distribution centers, restaurants and hotels within California, the notice said.

Taiwan approves bone-in beef

Taiwan last Monday cleared through customs the first shipment of U.S. bone-in beef to arrive on the island after Taipei and Washington agreed to a new protocol in October, according to a report by the China Post. The 358-pound shipment, soon to hit the Taiwan market, also represents the first U.S. bone-in beef allowed into Taiwan since the country banned such product in June 2005 following a U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The shipment, according to the China Post, passed the inspections of the Bureau of Standards, Meteorology and Inspection, the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection, and Quarantine and Customs. The inspection process included microbiological testing.

Mexico again delays combo bin imports

The Mexican national agricultural inspection agency, SAGARPA, said last week it would once again postpone the implementation of new inspection regulations for combo bins of meat entering the country from the U.S., according to a note to members of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). The new protocols, which were initially planned to take effect in January of last year, have been postponed several times over the past year for unknown reasons. USMEF offered no explanation for the latest delay.

Walgreens moves into fresh market

According to an article published by Bloomberg last week, the pharmacy giant, Walgreen Co., plans to move into the fresh and prepared meals segment at 7,000 of its stores. The company plans to launch private-label products as it prepares to compete in the low-margin business. Company officials said they are in talks with food giants Unilever NV, Nestle SA and Sara Lee Corp. about production of the food items for the chain. Among the products that Walgreens will feature are items such as salads, portioned fruits, ready-to-bake pizzas and prepared sandwiches. The move will pit Walgreens with chains such as Wal-Mart which have made the push into the grocery segment.

HSUS buys into restaurant chain

In an effort to promote its animal rights agenda, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has purchased stock in Jack in the Box, a publicly traded company. The group said it will use its position as a shareholder to promote its policies of using pork and poultry suppliers that adhere to cage-free production and other methods of animal production it deems humane. It is unclear how the move will affect the non-profit and tax-exempt status enjoyed by HSUS, which has an estimated $187 million in assets.

Late jump in imports from Mexico

The U.S. is forecast to have imported 2 million head of cattle in 2009, almost all from Mexico and Canada. Imports of Mexican cattle increased the pace of imports, particularly in November and December. Imports of Canadian cattle, however, continue to be well below levels seen in the past few years. The price spread between U.S. and Canadian markets for both feeder and fed cattle is much narrower than it has been the past few years, resulting in lower returns for Canadian producers who market their cattle in the U.S. In 2010, the U.S. is forecast to import 2.15 million head as demand for live cattle is expected to increase.

Pork plant to close

Sioux City, IA, officials said last week that the John Morrell & Co. pork packing plant, one of the city’s largest employers, will close this spring. The plant has about 1,500 workers. Sioux City Economic Development Director Marty Dougherty says Mayor Mike Hobart received the news last Tuesday from plant manager Dan Pacquin who said the plant would close April 20. Smithfield Foods Inc., based in Smithfield, VA, is the corporate parent of John Morrell. Smithfield Foods is the nation’s largest pork producer.