BEEF bits

Jun 3, 2011
by WLJ

Australia calls for live animal export ban

After a series of videos detailing extreme, inhumane slaughter methods aired in Australia last week, offi- cials there are calling for a ban on shipments of live animals to Indonesia. The graphic videos, which aired on Australian television last Monday, prompted out- rage among Australian citizens and producers alike.

The country exports large numbers of beef cattle to Indonesian packing plants and producers in Australia say a ban would cause devastating consequences for producers there, who are already struggling with a number of problems. Market analysts in Australia pointed out that a ban on shipments would undo years of work spent training plant personnel in Indonesia and result in an estimated 650,000 head of cattle being marketed in Australia, a factor which would push pric- es there lower by an estimated 10 cents per pound.

Checkoff calls for BQA nominees

The beef checkoff is now accepting applications for the fourth annual checkoff-funded National Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Award. The National BQA Award will recognize one outstanding beef and dairy producer who best demonstrate animal care and han- dling principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their respective operations. A common trait among all contest entrants must be a strong desire to continually improve BQA on their operations while encouraging others to implement the producer education program. The national BQA program promotes beef quality assurance in all segments of the industry, including commercial cow/calf, seedstock, stocker operators, feedlots and dairy operations. Any organization, group, or individual can submit nominations on behalf of a U.S. beef producer. For further information on the award or to download the application, visit www.bqa. org.

Groups sue over livestock antibiotics

A lawsuit was filed recently by five activist organizations over the use of antibiotics in the livestock industry. The lawsuit names the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the directors of each, over the administration of antibiotics to livestock for purposes other than the treatment of disease or infection.. The lawsuit, filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council Inc., Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen Inc., and Union of Concerned Scientists Inc., claims that the use of antibiotics for sub-therapeutic reasons is leading to the spread of antibiotic resistant microbes. The lawsuit claims that the FDA “reported last year that livestock grown in the U.S. consumed about 28.6 million pounds of antibiotics and the agency confirmed recently that about 74 [percent] of those antibiotics were administered through feed.”

Report shows prices continue to rise

According to the most recent USDA data, beef prices rose sharply in April, climbing 1.2 percent from the prior month. Beef prices are now 10.4 percent higher than year-earlier levels, with steak prices up 8.2 percent and ground beef prices up 12.1 percent, according to USDA’s latest report on food inflation. Similar yearover-year gains were seen in pork, which is also 10.4 percent higher than the previous April, however, prices were down 0.3 percent in April from the previous month. Poultry prices increased 0.9 percent in April and are 2.3 percent above prices last year at this time, with chicken prices up 1.8 percent and other poultry prices (including turkey) up 4.1 percent. For the remainder of the year, USDA projected beef prices will increase 7 percent to 8 percent this year and pork prices will rise 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent in 2011. Poultry prices are expected to rise 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent.

Restaurant optimism continues

Buoyed by positive same-store sales and solid optimism among restaurant operators for continued growth, the outlook for the restaurant industry remained positive in April. The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) stood at 100.9 in April, essentially unchanged from a level of 101 in March. In addition, April represented the fifth consecutive month in which the RPI stood above 100, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators. The RPI is constructed so that the health of the restaurant industry is measured in relation to a steady-state level of 100. Index values above 100 indicate that key industry indicators are in a period of expansion, and index values below 100 represent a period of contraction for key industry indicators. The Current Situation Index stood at 100.3 in April—up slightly from a March level of 100.2. The Expectations Index stood at 101.5 in April—down slightly from a level of 101.7 in March. Despite the decline, the Expectations Index stood above the 100 level for the ninth consecutive month, which signifies expansion in the forward-looking indicators.