BEEF bits

Nov 12, 2010
by WLJ

McDonald’s sales rise

McDonald’s restaurants posted strong October sales, according to the company. Sales rose 5.6 percent last month. Its increase in sales at stores open at least 13 months was a marked improvement from the same month last year when the metric dipped 0.1 percent, in part because of tough comparisons. It was only the third time the monthly figure hadn’t climbed in more than six years. The world’s biggest hamburger chain said last week that worldwide sales at restaurants open at least 13 months climbed 6.5 percent. That was slightly above McDonald’s prior forecast for an increase between 5 percent and 6 percent. For the year to date, U.S. sales at restaurants open at least 13 months climbed 3.8 percent. McDonald’s total revenue for restaurants open at least 13 months increased 5.2 percent.

Meat production set to rise

USDA raised its forecast of total U.S. meat production in both 2010 and 2011 in its monthly World Supply and Demand Estimates report. For 2010, beef production was raised on higher steer and heifer slaughter. For 2011, production forecasts for beef, pork, and broilers were also increased. The beef production increase largely reflected slaughter of the higher-than-expected number of cattle placed on feed during the third quarter of 2010. USDA lowered its beef import forecast for 2010 as the pace of imports to date is relatively slow. It left the forecast for 2011 unchanged. Beef exports in both 2010 and 2011 were raised on stronger growth to Asian markets. USDA raised cattle price forecasts for 2010 and 2011 to reflect continued strong demand for cattle. For 2010, it raised the average five-area direct prices for all grades to $94.81 per hundredweight from $94.06 a month ago. For 2011, it raised cattle prices by $1 to a range of $96 to $103 per hundredweight.

Meat groups sue over E15 decision

The American Meat Institute, National Meat Association, National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council, and the National Pork Producers Council are among nine organizations that filed suit in federal court to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent decision to allow gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol (E15) for some vehicles. In a release announcing the lawsuit, filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the plaintiffs say they object to the EPA’s decision on the grounds that granting a “partial waiver” of the Clean Air Act allowing E15 to be used only in cars built after model year 2006 is not within the agency’s legal authority.

Illinois plant closes its doors

Agri-Best Solutions, doing business as Protein Solutions, a Chicago, IL-based processor, shut its doors last week, putting 309 people out of work, according to documents filed with the Illinois Department of Employment Services in October. Agri-Best filed for bankruptcy in early October. According to court documents, the $140 million (sales) company was done in by the significant downturn in the restaurant sector— the source of most of its sales—which occurred as the company moved into a much larger facility in 2008. A drop in sales caused a liquidity squeeze, which tripped loan covenants. An infusion of $7.8 million in financing in June, from St. Louis-based Advantage Capital Partners using funds from the Illinois New Markets Development Program, was not enough to stave off bankruptcy. Agri-Best owes $14.6 million to Wells Fargo Bank, and another $5.9 million to Advantage Capital Partners, among its secured obligations. The book value of the company’s assets is a little less than $20 million.

Group examines sustainable beef

Meat industry players from Cargill to McDonald’s, JBS to Wal-Mart to Intervet/Schering-Plough, joined forces with the World Wildlife Fund to bring producers, processors, retailers and activist organizations together in Denver, CO, last week at the Global Conference on Sustainable Beef. Several hundred executives from major companies began untangling the issues around defining, and ultimately producing, “sustainable” beef products for global consumption. The purpose of the conference was simply to spur discussion and share differing points of view, members of the event’s steering committee said during a press conference.

Livestock prices fall

USDA’s preliminary All Farm Products Index of Prices Received by Farmers in October increased 8.1 percent and rose 19 percent from October 2009. The Crop Index was up 11 percent but the Livestock Index decreased 0.7 percent. Producers received higher prices for corn, soybeans, eggs, and milk, and lower prices for hogs, broilers, cattle, and potatoes. The October Index of Prices Paid for Commodities and Services, Interest, Taxes, and Farm Wage Rates was up 1.1 percent from September and 4.5 percent above October 2009. Higher prices in October for feed grains, supplements, complete feeds and diesel more than offset lower prices for concentrates, other services, feeder cattle and feeder pigs.