Daily Archives: February 14, 2006

Meat labels being developed

Meat labels being developed

By Becky Bohrer
of The Associated Press – 02/13/2006
For the Montana Standard

BILLINGS — Work is set to begin next week on a plan to implement a state law requiring that meat sold in Montana grocery and other stores be labeled to show country of origin.

An advisory council charged with writing rules for the so-called placarding law plans to hold its first meeting Feb. 22. The hope is to have a rough draft of rules — or at the least some ‘‘very good ideas in place to make a first draft’’ — by the end of the day, said Jack Kane, chief of the weights and measures bureau in the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

The department will oversee the labeling program. Inspectors from the weights and measures bureau now visit Montana retailers about twice a year, Kane said.

‘‘The time for discussing whether this (labeling) is a good idea or bad idea is long gone,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re here now, so let’s make rules palatable to all involved.’’

The law requires retailers to post placards denoting the country of origin for beef, lamb, pork and poultry products. If the origin of the product is unknown, that must be disclosed, as well.

Kane said the burden to verify the origin of meat will fall on retailers. Those unable or unwilling to do the task would mark the meat as ‘‘country of origin unknown,’’ he said.

Supporters say the law will help consumers who want to know where their food is from and cattle producers seeking an edge in the marketplace. Critics fear consumers will be bombarded with signs indicating an unknown origin, particularly for products such as hamburger, which may have more than one source.


The American Meat Institute also has argued that federal law pre-empts the Montana law and precludes the state from requiring labeling that is different from, or in addition to, what federal law requires.

Bill Donald, a rancher and president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said his group supports meat labeling philosophically but believes such a program should be driven from the national, rather than the state, level.

State Agriculture Director Nancy K. Peterson and rancher Dan Teigen, both of whom are on the advisory committee, say Montana can be a leader on the issue. A mandatory national program was delayed again last fall.

Heather Scoffield on the rising cost of cheap groceries

Heather Scoffield on the rising cost of cheap groceries

The Toronto Globe and Mail Update

Globe reporter Heather Scoffield was on-line today to discuss her article last week The rising price of a cheaper grocery bill.

Ms. Scoffield writes in her article: “The portion of disposable income that Canadians spend on food has slowly eroded over the past decade. In 1997, Canadians put 12.5 per cent of their spending money towards food. Today, it’s about 9.25 per cent . . . But a smaller and smaller portion of that is going to farmers. They are reporting the worst three years in recent history in terms of farm income.”

Ms. Scoffield covered fiscal and monetary policy for the Globe and Mail’s Ottawa Bureau before becoming the newspaper’s economics reporter in Toronto last year.

She has written extensively about how public policy affects business and the economy.

Editor’s Note: The same rules will apply to this live discussion as normally apply to the “reader comment” feature. Globeandmail.com editors will read and approve each comment/question. Not all comments/questions can be answered in the time available. Comments/questions will be checked for content only. Spelling and grammar errors will not be corrected. Comments/questions that include personal attacks, false or unsubstantiated allegations, vulgar language or libelous statements will be rejected. Preference will be given to those who ask questions under their full name, rather than pseudonyms.

Michael Snider, globeandmail.com: Hello everyone, and hi Heather, thanks very much for joining us today. Last week you wrote about Food Freedom Day, the day when the average Canadian has made enough money to cover the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks for an entire year. While that sounds great for consumers, I gather the occasion holds less allure to farmers and retailers. I’m wondering if there’s a breaking point somewhere down the road, when cheap food actually prices farmers out of the market.


Age & Source Verification Implications For Cow-Calf Producers

Age & Source Verification Implications For Cow-Calf Producers


As the Japanese and other foreign markets reopened to US beef, there is increasing demand for Source and Age Verified cattle. New beef export regulations have clearly defined the meaning of Age and Source Verification, as age and source claims must be documented and verified through a recognized USDA program. These programs include the USDA Process Verified Program (PVP) or a USDA Quality System Assessment (QSA).

Current and future strategies for cow/calf producers regarding age and source verification is the focus of this month’s article. A brief review of some program definitions is included as well as management procedures producers should consider.

What are all these programs and terms?

Without getting into a detailed discussion about requirements for the export market, let’s go over a few terms/programs.

“The USDA Process Verified Program (PVP) provides suppliers of agricultural products or services the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to provide consistent quality products or services. It is limited to programs or portions of programs where specified process verified points are supported by a documented quality management system. The specified process verified points are identified by the supplier.” 1

Process Verified Programs are the highest level of certification in which companies have certified their entire production process or large portions of their process. This includes detailed procedures, record systems, and audit process. In the case of age and source verification, PVP programs create a documented, auditable procedure for the collection and transfer of age and source information.

There are currently 25 USDA PVP companies/organizations. Examples of PVP companies include beef processors (Smithfield Beef Group, PM Beef Group, Creekstone Farms) and information management companies (AgInfoLink, eMerge, IMI Global, etc). Obtaining PVP certification is complex and extremely expensive. A portion of the company’s employees will be dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the program, managing records and handling audits. Process Verified Program Certification is not something an individual producer or even a county group of producers will likely undertake.

“The USDA Quality System Assessment (QSA) Program provides suppliers of agricultural products and services the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to provide consistent quality products or services. It is limited to programs or portions of programs where specified product requirements are supported by a documented quality management system. The specified product requirements may be identified by the supplier or in a USDA Export Verification (EV) Program.” 2


Cattle Update: Reality Hits Hard For Beef Producers

Cattle Update: Reality Hits Hard For Beef Producers


The complexity and ramifications of the current processes involved in marketing beef are starting to surface. The calves are doing fine, the beef supply is as healthy as ever, but the paperwork is a mixed bag of yes, no or maybe.

The challenge producers face is concentrating on the ramifications of doing business in an absolute, no-exceptions environment. Know what you are signing. Understand that determining for the life of the calf, the place of birth, the date of birth and the journey the calf walked from birth to slaughter is not going to be taken lightly.

Leave the good ol’ cowboy jokes in the barn. The world is taking on a very serious tone.

One thing just became perfectly clear. The ramifications of wrong, even though well meaning or misinformed, are still wrong. A name, place and date are quickly attached to any violation for cattle moving through the marketing channels.

No one wants to be singled out and placed in a position of justification after the fact. The scenario usually results in fewer friends at the table.

In the past, producers managed cattle as a herd or pen, and, for the most part, producers have attended educational meetings much as they manage cattle. If the understanding of the group passed, the meeting was successful. After all, producers often rely on other producers to forward along needed information.

Keeping informed is a struggle, but the struggle is not getting any easier. Most meetings quickly become a set of notes that probably took in most of the meeting. The details come later.

Following the recent news of a shipping violation involving beef exported to Japan, I reviewed the notes from one of the many early meetings to help recap what was said and how the process was to work.

In summary, the essence of the meeting said, “QSA requirements set the procedures and requirements for export to Japan. Companies must address 1030J procedure. Packer approval needed, age verification is necessary along with individual identification. The type of identification may be specified by program, but the animals must be traceable to birth date records, e.g., a Dec. 15 harvest date, March 16 birth date required. Beef needs to be traced, period. Cattle must be traceable to individual or group age and source verification. Calves can be carcass verified through A40. Canadian cattle can be enrolled. One-time use ear tags, ISO standards and feedlots can develop their own programs through PVP and QSA programs. Documentation can be simply through the specific EV (Export Verification) for Japan. A40 carcass evaluation is permissible. An affidavit signed by the producer will not meet the requirements. Fabrications not up yet, but will be the next round of audits.” End of notes.

A very typical set of notes, but not enough depth to completely understand the approaching program. Ironically, no questions were asked. An old and alive message is that the world changed.

It is important to keep in mind domestic beef production is alive and well. Not all calves need to be source and age verified now. It is better to wait and do the processes right, rather than punt, sign the forms and hope for a little marketing edge.

The bottom line is to get those calves tagged this spring at birth and write down the date of birth. If not at birth, sometime before marketing, tag the calf with an electronic ID to prepare the calf for market.

For now, grab a good calving book, a good pen, bag of ear tags and applicator, and start tagging. If you don’t have a good calving book, let me know and I will send you one.

Source: Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

Cattle test negative for mad cow disease in northern Japan

Cattle test negative for mad cow disease in northern Japan

TOKYO – Forty-five cows at a farm in northern Japan considered to be at high risk of being infected with BSE had all tested negative for the brain-wasting ailment, Japanese authorities said Monday.
The herd was from a farm in the town of Bekkai on the northern island of Hokkaido, where a cow died last month of the disease – Japan’s 22nd BSE case. The dead cow was not raised for food and posed no danger to Japan’s beef supply.
Under government guidelines, Hokkaido authorities on Saturday designated the 45 cattle that were given the same feed and raised in the same pen with the infected animal as potential disease carriers.
Tests on parts of brains taken from the 45 cows found that they were all cleared of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, said Hokkaido government official Hiroyuki Takeuchi.
With the results, the local government lifted a ban on the farmfrom moving the remaining 432 cows raised there, Takeuchi said.
The cow that died in January in Hokkaido was fed with meat-and-bone meal until it was banned in 2001. The case was the first to link the feed’s use to a mad cow-infected animal in Japan.
Officials are investigating how the meal came to be used, he said.
Last month, Japan halted all imports of U.S. beef following the discovery of backbones in a shipment of American veal. The bones are deemed to be at risk of mad cow disease and are banned under a deal that reopened the Japanese market to U.S. beef in December.

From cattle to chemicals: Colorado school seeks to expand grid computing efforts

From cattle to chemicals: Colorado school seeks to expand grid computing efforts

By Bob Brown, NetworkWorld.com, 02/13/06

Colorado State University’s Patrick Burns could talk about grid computing ’til the cows come home. And in fact, the school’s associate vice president for information and instructional technology has used grid computing to help cattle do just that.

The school set up the Colorado Grid Computing Initiative (COGrid) in 2004 through $2 million-plus in grants from the Colorado Institute of Technology, plus funding and equipment from Sun, the Department of Homeland Security and others. The first project to exploit the grid was for processing animal tracking data, such as for identifying cattle in the case of a mad cow disease breakout. CSU is a land-grant institution, so is big into agricultural studies.

Burns says the cattle industry is in discussions with the Department of Agriculture and others to try to develop a nationwide animal ID database, but he acknowledges that even with the power of grid, many complex questions need to be addressed regarding privacy of information and distribution to numerous sites.


Argentina downplays FAM outbreak losses

Argentina downplays FAM outbreak losses


Argentina’s Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food minister Miguel Campos said Monday that losses because of the latest outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in the northeast will be limited to 20% of the country’s meat exports.

“In spite of the significant impact we were all expecting, we’re assessing losses and they are in the range of 20%”, said Mr. Campos Monday before leaving for Chile, one of the several countries that has banned the import of Argentine meats.

“Given the importance of what has happened we should underline that it won’t be as serious as anticipated particularly if we are negotiating to reopen markets which have been closed to Argentine beef”, he added.

Argentina’s meat exports are in the range of 1.4 billion US dollars annually and losses because of the FAM outbreak could reach 280 million US dollars, estimated the Argentine government.

However Luciano Miguens president of the Argentine Rural Society, the largest and most influential farmers’ organization in Argentina, described the situation as a “strong blow” to cattle breeders.

“If the situation can be controlled on time, Argentina will be exporting 200/300.000 tons less this year equivalent to 700 million US dollars”, said Mr. Miguens recalling that the markets now banned include Russia, Chile, Israel the top three importers of Argentine beef.