BEEF bits

Apr 23, 2010
by WLJ

CDC reports decrease in E. coli illness

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of illness due to E. coli O157 significantly decreased in 2009. The 2009 E. coli illness rate is the lowest since 2004 and meets the Healthy People 2010 goal to cut the number of O157 illnesses in half. Through beef checkoff investments and widespread industry commitment, the beef industry continues to make strides toward reducing the incidence of O157 by implementing multiple interventions throughout the beef production chain. Beef farmers and ranchers have invested more than $28 million of their beef checkoff dollars in safety research since 1993 and, together, the beef industry spends more than $350 million annually on safety efforts.

Smithfield says costs are increasing

Hog and pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc. said last Wednesday it expects solid fourth-quarter results in its meat segment, even though higher raw material costs will affect margins, while hedging losses will hurt its hog unit results. However, the company issued a favorable outlook for fiscal 2011. “These losses are the result of the sizable and unexpected run-up in the futures curve for lean hogs for the summer and fall months of 2010,” the company said of its hog segment. U.S. hog producers, including Smithfield, aggressively reduced herds beginning in 2009 after suffering nearly two years of losses. In late March, USDA reported the U.S. hog herd as of March 1 was down 3 percent from a year earlier, while analysts had expected a 2 percent decline.

Amtrack tests beef biodiesel in trains

Amtrak and the Oklahoma and Texas departments of transportation are performing the nation’s first test of a biodiesel fuel blend to power a daily passenger train between Oklahoma City, OK, and Fort Worth, TX. The company received a $274,000 grant to test the 20 percent biodiesel blend for the next 12 months. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the “Heartland Flyer” train. The fuel is derived from beef byproducts which are transformed into fuel by Direct Fuels of Euless, TX. According to Amtrack, previously conducted stationary locomotive engine tests, the biodiesel blend B20, which is 20 percent biofuel and 80 percent diesel, reduced hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide emissions by 10 percent each; particulate emissions, by 15 percent; and sulfate emissions, by 20 percent. After the tests, the train’s engines will be disassembled to determine whether there are wear differences between the biodiesel fuel-fired engine and one run on conventional fuels.

China may cut U.S. chicken imports

According to USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, China may soon cut imports of U.S. poultry by as much as 55 percent as anti-dumping tariffs take effect. A report last week said Chinese buyers may cut purchases of chicken to just 150,000 metric tons. In February, China began imposing duties on imports of U.S. chicken in the form of cash deposits ranging from 43 to 105 percent of value. The move followed China’s initial finding that U.S. chicken producers sold at below-market prices. The tariffs are expected to remain in place until some time this summer when China’s government completes its investigation into U.S. export pricing. China was the third-largest importer of U.S. poultry in 2009 behind Russia and Mexico.

California court blocks label law

The California Supreme Court recently affirmed a lower court ruling which held that the state’s Proposition 65, which required more stringent labeling of meat products in the state, is expressly preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act. Specifically, the state’s highest court denied a petition to review a lower appellate court decision which had sided with the meat industry in the lawsuit, filed in 2005 by the National Meat Association and the American Meat Institute. California’s Fourth Appellate Court handed down that decision in December. Proposition 65 was passed in 1986 and among its regulatory requirements is one that requires food to be labeled with notices of specific contents.

Nebraska meat plant gets funding

Midwest Meat Packing has received a $100,000 loan from local county authorities to help start operations at its Gibbon, NE, plant, the Kearney Hub reported last week. The company, owned by AMSA International, plans to process turkey, pork and beef at the plant formerly owned by the Turkey Growers Cooperative. New York-based AMSA, which bought the plant in March, has said it plans to invest $3.6 million and add 160 workers by year’s end. The Hub quotes local business development specialist Nikki Masek as saying the county is extending the no-interest, six-month loan to help Midwest Packing hire 30 full-time employees.