Beef Bits

Jun 15, 2012
by WLJ

Foot and mouth vaccine

GenVec has received conditional approval from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for its cattle vaccine for foot and mouth disease (FMD). This is the first FMD vaccine licensed by the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics. It is also GenVec’s first approved product and utilizes the company’s proprietary technology which produces antigens without the use of either live or killed virus materials. According to a GenVec press release, this not only increases the cost-effectiveness of the vaccine, but greatly increases the biosafety of the product. Under the conditional license, the vaccine will be available to USDA officials in the case of an FMD outbreak. Its use would theoretically prevent the need of mass herd euthanasia which is the common response in countries where FMD is an issue. The last case of FMD in the U.S. was in 1929, but given the virulent nature of the virus and the economic disaster it causes, an FMD vaccine and other outbreak preparedness training have been made priorities.

Taiwan takes responsibility

In the wake of Taiwan accepting U.S. beef imports from animals treated with ractopamine—a feed additive which promotes 20-30 pounds of additional lean muscle gain if fed in the last weeks before slaughter— the Taiwanese government has announced it will shoulder any responsibility for citizens made ill by the product. Despite being declared safe, and the unrealistically large amounts of beef from treated cattle a person would have to consume a day to reach even the lowest levels found to have any reaction in lab studies (well over 400 pounds a day for an adult male), Taiwanese and Chinese public health officials have insisted ractopamine causes cardiac issues in consumers. This is not backed by available science, but concern over importation of beef from ractopamine-treated cattle has been sufficient to rouse public outcry over the decision. The Taiwanese health minister said the move to allow imports of U.S. beef containing ractopamine will be immediately banned should anyone fall ill as a result of eating U.S. beef.

CME synchronizes extended trade

CME has announced it will add 45 minutes to its pit-trading of grains. This will synchronize its extended electronic hours with its pit-trading hours and hold its open outcry trading prior to the release of government agricultural reports. This announcement follows the Commodity Futures Trading Commission acceptance of the request and a 10-day comment period.

This extension of traditional trading follows CME’s extension of electronic trading hours and floor traders saying the unequal access to the markets would hurt their business. USDA is currently weighing the pros and cons of changing their report release times as a result of CME and other futures trading firms extending their trading hours.

EPA flyover ban proposed

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-NE, introduced an amendment to the farm bill which would ban the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using aerial surveillance to monitor agricultural operations. The amendment specifically bans only the use of flyovers to record images and document ag operations; standard, on-site inspections would not be effected. In a press release on the topic, Johanns says the flyovers stress the already precarious relationship lacking in trust between ranchers and farmers and the EPA. The amendment comes following EPA’s failure to answer questions regarding the use of flyovers in its surveillance program.

Pfizer spinning off animal branch

Pfzier, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, has announced it is spinning off its animal health division into its own entity. The new group is called Zoetis and preparations are underway for offering public stock in the company. The company will continue to produce vaccines, tests and medicines for livestock and companion animals. The Pfizer animal health division which is becoming Zoetis has about 9,000 employees, serves veterinarians and farmers in 120 countries, and posted a 2011 revenue of $4.2 billion. The new name comes from “zoetic,” which means “pertaining to life.”

A-Twitter about beef

The U.S Meat Export Federation (USMEF) launched a new media marketing campaign encouraging international consumers of American beef to tweet about their experiences as they enjoy them. The campaign is funded through USDA’s Market Access Program and the Beef Checkoff Program. So far, four of the nearly 5,000 Japanese followers of USMEF- Japan’s Twitter feed have been selected as “American Beef Ambassadors” and have been asked to tweet about their experiences with U.S. beef by including the “#usbeef” hashtag at the end of their American beefrelated tweets. Given the extent of Japan’s tech-loving culture, particularly among youth and young adults, USMEF and supporters of the initiative expect Japanese followers to grow, and demand for U.S. beef to grow among the important market demographic.