Livestock and Seed Program consolidate
The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service announced the consolidation of the Livestock and Seed Program’s Audit, Review and Compliance and Meat Grading and Certification Branches. The restructured organization, named the Grading and Verification (GV) Division, is headquartered in the Denver, CO, area and led by Larry Meadows, division director, with Stephen Cave and James Riva as deputy directors. Cave will manage the financial, administrative and personnel functions, and Riva will oversee grading, certification and auditing services. For those who rely on official USDA grading, auditing and certification services— from producer to consumer—the transition to the new GV Division will be seamless. The GV Division will continue to provide the critical marketing services that communicate product attributes and differentiate products in the marketplace without interruption. The GV Division provides official USDA grading for over 20 billion pounds of beef and 108 million pounds of lamb each year.
Idaho Beef Council elects officers
Idaho beef producers Cevin Jones, Dan Schiffler and Judy Woodie were named to leadership positions at the May 31-June 1 Idaho Beef Council (IBC) meeting in Boise, ID. Jones, Schiffle and Woodie are volunteer leaders and will hold these positions for fiscal year 2012. Jones, elected chairman of IBC, is a feeder out of Eden, ID, and represents cattle feeders. Schiffler, elected vice-chairman, is an auction livestock market representative out of Jerome, ID, and represents auction markets. Woodie, elected secretary/treasurer, is a cow/ calf producer out of Emmett, ID, and represents cow/ calf producers and the Idaho Cattlewomen Council. IBC also welcomes Scott McNeley and Morgan Evans to the IBC Board of Directors. McNeley is a feeder representative out of Grandview, ID, and will replace Jay Theiler, Boise, ID, who was also a feeder representative. Theiler has served as IBC vice chairman and secretary/treasurer during his six year tenure as an IBC director. Evans is a cow/calf producer out of Downey, ID, and will replace Laurie Lickley of Jerome, ID, also a cow/calf representative. Lickley has served as IBC chairman, vice-chairman and secretary-treasurer during her six-year tenure as an IBC director.
Down on the farm
The national Beef Checkoff Program, in partnership with the Nebraska Beef Council, recently hosted two sets of “On the Ranch” work days at feedlots and cow/calf operations in western Nebraska. The program brought together industry representatives, veterinarians, producers and influencers who spent time working on the ranch, asking questions, and getting their boots dirty in an effort to help them better understand modern cattle production and everyday life on a farm. “On the Ranch” highlights are available on the checkoff-funded ExploreBeef.org website, or visit the Three Different Directions blog by mom blogger Tammy Litke from South Dakota who participated in one of the work days.
New international convenience products
Convenience foods are projected to be a $47.5 billion niche market in 2012 and the beef checkoff is trying to capture more of the international market for these products and help sustain the pace of U.S. beef export growth. Representatives of the checkoff’s Beef Innovations Group met with foreign marketing program representatives recently to taste and learn how to prepare new beef convenience foods, ranging from appetizers to roasts. The goal was to determine where there may be expansion opportunities for U.S. beef products in some of these key markets. These trends tend to follow in Asia about two to three years behind the U.S. and while steak is not currently a typical part of the Korean diet, the ability to cook one in minutes could help win converts in a culture that values convenience. The beef convenience items are in development and will be introduced during the next several months, after which expansion opportunities for these U.S. beef products will be sought in some of the key international markets.
Restaurant index falls
As a result of softer same-store sales and traffic levels, and an erosion of optimism among restaurant operators, the outlook for the restaurant industry softened in May. The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI)—a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry—stood at 99.9 in May, down 1 percent from April’s level. May represented the first time in six months that the RPI stood below 100, which signifies contraction in the index of key industry indicators. The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators, stood at 99.2 in May—down 1.1 percent from April’s level of 100.3. In addition, the Current Situation Index fell below 100 for the first time in three months. Thirtynine percent of restaurant operators reported a samestore sales gain between May 2010 and May 2011, down from 50 percent of operators who reported higher same-store sales in April. In comparison, 40 percent of operators reported a same-store sales decline in May, up from 31 percent of operators who reported lower sales in April.