BEEF bits

Jan 6, 2012
by WLJ

Fast-food chains give up “pink slime”

McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King have stopped using an ammonia-treated burger ingredient that meat industry critics call the “pink slime,” according to a report in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. The product, ammonium hydroxide, is widely used as low-fat beef filling in burger meat, including in school meals. But there have been attacks on its use by consumer food activists and high profile chefs such as Jamie Oliver, who said, “Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold at the cheapest form for dogs and after this process, we can give it to humans,” in a segment of his ABC television show, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” that aired last spring. A 2009 New York Times story raised questions about the safety of the ammonium hydroxide product, citing government and industry records of E. coli and salmonella contamination of meat sold for school lunches.

COOL violation outcome on hold

The U.S., Canada and Mexico have agreed to delay possible appeal proceedings in their World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute over U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules for meat. In November, a WTO dispute panel ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico, concluding that U.S. COOL requirements violate the WTO’s Agreement on Technical Barriers.

WTO members normally require the organization’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to formally adopt a dispute panel ruling within 60 days of circulation unless an appeal is filed. However, the three parties in the dispute say they have agreed to delay the time frame for DSB adoption or the filing of an appeal until March 23.

PETA wants cattle memorial

An animal rights group wants Illinois to install highway signs in memory of cattle that died when trucks hauling them flipped in two separate wrecks. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants to buy the markers, one in suburban Chicago and one northwest of Peoria. PETA’s request to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) says the signs would pay tribute to the more than 20 head of cattle killed as a result of negligent driving in Illinois this year. Ashley Byrne of PETA says the effort is part of a national campaign to call attention to how cattle suffer in the meat industry. IDOT spokesman Josh Kauffman says the request likely will be denied. Rules require that only relatives who lost loved ones in highway crashes may request roadside memorials.

Ethanol subsidies and tariffs end

The U.S. now has ended its important subsidies and trade barriers on ethanol imports, a major U.S. policy change. The shift was quiet. Congress simply adjourned without extending either the tariffs on ethanol, including the 54 cents per gallon tax on imported ethanol or the corresponding tax credit of 45 cents per gallon for blenders. The move was widely expected once U.S. producers pulled back their lobbying efforts for the credit earlier this year. The industry is now pressing for subsidies to build more ethanol-compatible fueling stations and for commercializing newer forms of ethanol made from the inedible parts of plants. Now, the question is: What will be the effects of these changes on the U.S. industry? Domestic ethanol demand is undergirded through 2022 by a federal mandate that forces refiners to blend more and more ethanol with gasoline.

Mexico beef exports progressing

After discovering the first BSE case in the U.S. back in 2003, Mexico was the first foreign market to reopen to U.S. beef. Since that time, Mexico has repeatedly been the largest volume market for U.S. beef exports, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). However, BSE-related restrictions on U.S. beef imports remain for Mexico, including a 30-month cattle age limit. A full reopening of Mexico’s market to U.S. beef imports is a top priority for U.S. trade officials, and progress is being made, Chad Russell, USMEF regional director, recently told a group of U.S. beef producers and exporters. Most recently, beef feet and sweetbreads were removed from the list of U.S. beef items prohibited by Mexico; prohibited items still include ground beef and mechanically separated meat. However, the cattle age limit remains a difficult obstacle to overcome. From January through October of 2011, U.S. beef exports to Mexico (including variety meat) totaled approximately 470 million pounds valued at $818.2 million. This represents a 6 percent increase in volume and a 25 percent increase in value over the first 10 months of 2010.

Wolf crosses into California

A lone gray wolf crossed the border into California and was on the move south of Klamath Falls, OR, according to reports, becoming the first wild wolf in the state in almost a century. The 2-1/2-year-old male wolf, known as OR7, was tracked using a GPS collar as it crossed the Oregon border, headed to California. The young wolf, which left his pack in northeastern Oregon in September, was confirmed to be in Siskiyou County from his radio collar that showed he was several miles south of the border on Dec. 29.