Daily Archives: February 11, 2008

Closing of Tyson’s Emporia plant shows downside of Washington meddling

Closing of Tyson’s Emporia plant shows downside of Washington meddling

Kansas City Star

Mark Davis

As some presidential candidates openly vow to “fix the economy,” voters and investors should note government’s heavy hand in up to 1,800 recent layoffs not far from here.

Roughly that many folks have lost work at a slaughterhouse in Emporia, Kan. Tyson Foods Inc. stopped slaughtering beef there because it cannot find enough cattle to keep all its plants busy.

Tyson chose to shut Emporia because cattle production had moved westward, making it harder to supply the eastern Kansas plant. But the employment pain would have been the same had some other Tyson slaughterhouse been the target.

In its announcement, Tyson complained that the U.S. cattle herd is not growing, and it foresees no boost in feed cattle supplies anytime soon.


Wal-Mart push may challenge cattle ranches

Wal-Mart push may challenge cattle ranches


Billings Gazette

Wal-Mart, with a reputation for getting what it wants, says it will soon demand that its suppliers meet certain social and environmental standards, a move likely to affect Montana’s cattle ranchers.

The recent announcement by Lee Scott, chief executive officer of the world’s largest retailer, means all industries contributing products to Wal-Mart shelves could soon be challenged to do more or face getting paid less than compliant peer businesses.

The Arkansas-based retailer accounts for more than $90 billion in grocery sales annually and buys enough beef to send ripples across the cattle industry with any trade rules it might impose.


Getting to the meat of labeling

Getting to the meat of labeling

By Al Lewis

The Denver Post

Is your beef really organic?

Is it natural? Grass-fed? Or hormone and antibiotic free?

Did it come from a cow that had been mutilated on a remote ranch by aliens?

Did it come from a cow that had been cloned by scientists?

You can’t always trust the label. There is only one way to know for sure.

Patrick Cunningham, chief scientific adviser to the Irish government and professor of animal genetics at Dublin’s Trinity College, is ready to give your cheeseburger a DNA test.


Ag groups blast plan to make retailers pay for labeling

Ag groups blast plan to make retailers pay for labeling

Sioux City Journal

A plan to have retailers pay for part of the costs of country-of-origin labeling is another attempt to derail the plan, leaders of several agricultural groups say.

“It’s just USDA’s way of trying to kill this thing again,” Margaret Nachtigall, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, said. “It’s not good news, but it’s not surprising,” she said.

The president’s proposed 2009 budget calls for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to collect fees of $259 from each of about 37,000 retailers to pay for compliance reviews for mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat and other food products.


Right Man for the Job

Right Man for the Job

Wes Ishmael


Red Angus history will remember Bob Hough as the Executive Secretary who helped lead the breed into the mainstream with the conviction of a breeder and the business savvy of a CEO.

 “Bob is one of us. He was always a Red Angus breeder, even though he didn’t own the cattle. Everything he did was focused on the commercial success of Red Angus,” says Harold Hughes of Glacier Red Angus at Polson , MT.

Lee Leachman at Leachman Cattle of Colorado near Wellington emphasizes, “Bob’s motivating force was always what was beneficial for the breed, period. His level of integrity in that regard, looking out for the breed rather than playing politics and worrying about keeping a job is phenomenal, especially for someone who has that much tenure.”


NCBA Pays Tribute To Cattle Industry Champion Paul Hitch

NCBA Pays Tribute To Cattle Industry Champion Paul Hitch


On Friday at the 2008 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show in Reno, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) honored Paul Hitch, a cattleman and longtime livestock industry leader from Guymon, Oklahoma. Best known for his success in cattle feeding, Hitch is president and chairman of Hitch Enterprises, Inc. and Hitch AgriBusiness, Inc. –  diversified agricultural operations based in the Oklahoma panhandle region. 

Hitch is a former chairman of the NCBA Policy Division and NCBA Live Cattle Marketing Committee. He had served the past two years as vice-president and president-elect of NCBA.

But he was unable to accept a term as NCBA president, due to an ongoing bout with cancer.


“Is Beef, Really, What’s for Dinner?”

“Is Beef, Really, What’s for Dinner?”


Amsterdam News

Editor’s note: Stories of this ilk are included in the blog to inform those in our industry how agriculture is being presented to and perceived by the public.

The rumors have been confirmed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the sale of cloned meat and milk from cows, goats and pigs into your neighborhood supermarkets, without any recommended labeling.

On January 15, 2008, The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s director Stephen F. Sundlof said “after reviewing additional data and the public comments in the intervening year since the release of our draft documents [in 2001] on cloning, we conclude that meat and milk from cattle, swine, and goat clones are as safe as food we eat every day.”


Cattle group votes to beef up marketing fee

Cattle group votes to beef up marketing fee


Cattle producers voted this weekend to increase the fee that they pay to finance the “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner” advertising campaign and other programs, because inflation and other costs have eroded the buying power of the current rate.

During the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual convention, which concluded here on Saturday, members voted to increase this fee, called a checkoff. While no amount was included in that action, there was an accompanying directive to increase it to $2 per head from the current $1 rate.


Hard to stomach

Hard to stomach

Our food supply watchdogs, the USDA and the FDA, are falling down on the job.

Los Angles Times

Editor’s note: Stories of this ilk are included in the blog to inform those in our industry how agriculture is being presented to and perceived by the public.

It was upsetting enough to hear that animals had been abused by slaughterhouse employees in Chino; far worse to think that a meat producer was willing to send beef from “downer” cattle into the food supply — to public schools, no less. There always will be a certain number of bad operations looking to break the rules. But there’s a government agency assigned to catch and stop them. Where was the U.S. Department of Agriculture?

The abuses at Hallmark Meat Packing were uncovered by the Humane Society of the United States, not by the USDA. And this isn’t the first time it took outsiders to act on food issues. In 2003, a law firm successfully sued to force supermarkets to label the farmed salmon they sold as artificially colored; the Food and Drug Administration requires the labeling but admitted that it does not enforce the rule. More recently, a nonprofit public advocacy group and then the New York Times tested tuna sushi at restaurants and found levels of mercury that exceeded FDA standards.


SimChoice, 70:70 grid highlight Simmental plan to capture value

SimChoice, 70:70 grid highlight Simmental plan to capture value

High Plains Journal

The American Simmental Association has recently introduced 70:70 as a new program, to complement SimChoice, helping address these multi-faceted value added issues. Jerry Lipsey, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of ASA, stated that, “SimChoice is a program designed to add value to age/source identified cattle. Currently, age and source premiums are paid on both feeder and fed cattle. These premiums are substantial because of export requirements, but even without those constraints, the potential to add value by introducing more information and accountability is real.”


Cattle group stands tough on humane treatment of livestock

Cattle group stands tough on humane treatment of livestock

Cookson Beecher

Capital Press

Underlying the otherwise upbeat mood of the recent Skagit County Cattlemen’s Association annual dinner was an issue that troubled many: recent news about a video that showed workers in a California slaughterhouse abusing sick and crippled cows.

Or, as association member Jim Hinton described it when he went to the podium during the association’s dinner: “The horrible news you’ve seen on television.”


Food fight between Humane Society, Ag Dept.

Food fight between Humane Society, Ag Dept.

Stephen Hedges

The Baltimore Sun

Editor’s note: Stories of this ilk are included in the blog to inform those in our industry how agriculture is being presented to and perceived by the public.

RENO, Nev. – Just a week on the job, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer criticized the Humane Society of the United States for failing to notify his department earlier about animal abuse it videotaped last fall at a California meatpacking plant.

Schafer, speaking to a cattle group here, condemned the treatment of the dairy cattle shown on the undercover video taken at a Hallmark Meat Packing Co. plant in Chino, Calif.

But Schafer also said that, “The Humane Society, since late October, has been willing to let animals suffer out there,” rather than notify USDA immediately of the abuses.


Cattle cycle drops slightly from 2007

Cattle cycle drops slightly from 2007

Rapid City Journal

Numbers of beef cows and beef replacement heifers in South Dakota are both down slightly, according to the Jan. 1 National Agricultural Statistics Service Cattle report.

Matthew Diersen, an economist at South Dakota State University, said spotty drought conditions and higher feed costs might be the disruptive factors to the cattle cycle.

“The decline in heifers is among those expected to calve in 2008,” Diersen said in a news release.

“It is as though the industry is geared up to try again to expand, unless cost conditions worsen.”


Corn Will Dominate Cattle Market in 2008

Corn Will Dominate Cattle Market in 2008       

Michigan Farmer

Last year the cattle industry had to adjust to $3 corn and since the first of the year prices have shot up to $5 per bushel. Randy Blach, executive vice president of Cattle-Fax, told the annual Cattle-Fax Outlook Seminar at the Cattle Industry Convention and National Cattlemans Beef Association Trade Show in Reno, Nev. that in the coming year feeders will feel the squeeze and feeder cattle prices will be limited by the volatility in the grain markets.

“There is even more reason to be concerned about corn prices this year,” Blach says. “Prices for other commodities have risen along with corn, increasing competition for what farmers choose to plant.”


USDA to begin instrument grading

USDA to begin instrument grading


Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) told Feedstuffs this morning that AMS is preparing to implement a pilot project to utilize “video image analysis instrument systems” to determine beef carcass grades. Officials said these systems will provide inspectors more uniform, accurate and precise attribute evaluation of carcass characteristics than the present visual appraisal system.


USDA Says No Evidence of Downer Cattle In Food Supply

USDA Says No Evidence of Downer Cattle In Food Supply

By Robert Wilson


Questions were raised last week after undercover video from a meat packing plant showed cattle abused in an attempt to get them on their feet. If they can’t stand on their own, they’re called “downer” cattle and it’s illegal to slaughter them for food.


Speakers Dish Out Meaty Advice at Cattle Feeder’s Day

Speakers Dish Out Meaty Advice at Cattle Feeder’s Day

Michelle Kunjappu

Lancaster Farming

 About 170 people came to this year’s annual Lancaster County Cattle Feeder’s Day, Tuesday at the Farm and Home Center.

Members of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association also attended the event. This year they announced an upcoming Mid-Atlantic Beef Cattle Evaluation Contest and a Mid-Atlantic Carcass Contest, set for Oct. 11 at the Farmers Livestock Exchange in Winchester, Va. More information is available at www.beef.umd.edu.