BEEF bits

Jul 15, 2011
by WLJ

Meat production forecast lowered

USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate included the agency’s forecast for 2011 total meat production, which was lowered from last month as lower beef production more than offsets higher expected pork and turkey production. Beef production was lowered as steer and heifer slaughter in the second quarter was lower than expected although more cows were slaughtered. In addition, recent placements of lighter-weight cattle are expected to moderate carcass weight growth during the year. A small increase was made to the export forecast for beef in 2011 but no changes are made to pork or broiler exports. Cattle and hog prices were forecast to be higher for 2011 but forecast broiler prices were lowered as large supplies were pressuring prices. For 2012, cattle price forecasts were left unchanged. Hog price forecasts were raised as demand strength carries into 2012, but price gains will be moderated by higher production, USDA stated. E. coli sampling to increase USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced it will increase the sampling frequency for E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef during August and September this year to meet agency sampling goals. In the Federal Register, the agency explained that FSIS noticed a drop in the number of samples that the agency collects and analyzes. To meet FSIS sampling goals, the agency will increase the number of samples collected from ground beef establishments with production volumes of at least 50,000 pounds per day during August and September 2011. “Past risk assessments have shown that these establishments represent the greatest risk for E. coli O157:H7 contamination on a per serving basis,” according to the notice.

USMEF showcases emerging markets

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) is preparing for a two-day pork and beef showcase that will be held in Panama City July 27-28. As USMEF Regional Director of Trade Development Gerardo Rodriguez explains, exporter interest in this event is very strong due to the rapidly growing sales opportunities in the region and the impressive lineup of buyers that will be in attendance. In addition to Panama, buyers are expected from Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, Chile, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Rodriguez notes that opportunities have recently expanded in several of these markets because free trade agreements have reduced tariffs and other trade barriers. Exports of both U.S. pork and U.S. beef set new records in the Central/South America region last year and haven’t skipped a beat in 2011. Through April, U.S. pork exports have exceeded last year’s record pace by 24 percent in volume (nearly 56 million pounds) and 34 percent in value (about $61 million). Beef exports have jumped by more than 50 percent in volume (nearly 18 million pounds) and 85 percent in value (about $23 million).

Radioactive beef found in Japan

According to news reports last week, beef from a farm in the Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, was found to be contaminated with radioactive particles. According to a statement from the Japanese government, the farmer responsible for the tainted products ignored government instruction and used straw stored outdoors near the power plant explosion as cattle feed, presumably leading to contaminated meat. The straw used to feed cattle in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, was contaminated with an average of 75,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, almost 56 times the allowable limit.

The straw was stored in an uncovered area near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where explosions occurred after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami on March 11. According to reports, the prefectural government is inspecting animal feed at 260 farms in the highrisk areas outside the 20-kilometer exclusion zone to look out for other farms using contaminated feed. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced last Monday it will continue to monitor farms in the area and test meat if necessary to insure it is safe to eat.

Egg producers reach deal with HSUS

The United Egg Producers (UEP) have reached an agreement with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to work toward a set of federal standards for laying hens. The agreement between UEP, which represents approximately 80 percent of the nation’s laying hen operators, and HSUS will be forwarded to Congress for adoption. The guidelines include increasing cage space to as much as 144 square inches of space per hen, up from the 67 square inches that most hens have today. They would also include so-called habitat enrichments, like perches, scratching areas and nesting areas, that allow the birds to express natural behavior. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall expressed concerns about the agreement last week, saying: “Cattlemen are rightfully concerned with the recent UEP-HSUS agreement to seek unprecedented federal legislation to mandate on-farm production standards.” Many are worried that the agreement could embolden HSUS to seek other production practice mandates for other livestock sectors.