NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Kiran Kernellu
January 21, 2003
USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) attempted to reinstate a suspension of inspection that had been held in abeyance at Nebraska Beef, the nation’s fifth largest beef slaughterer located in Omaha, NE, in the middle of the morning last Tuesday, January 14, as principals of the company were preparing to meet with senior officials at the Department in Washington. The stated reason was that there were process problems although the District Manager told the company that there was not a food safety problem. The company sought, and obtained after delay, return of the USDA inspectors to complete the processing of livestock that were on hand for the day’s production. After the Washington meetings, the company officials returned home and that evening federal district judge Joseph Batallion issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) halting the attempted removal of inspectors. A hearing before Judge Batallion is scheduled for this Thursday unless the issues are resolved.
NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow, who was in Washington with the company principals last Tuesday, said that this is the second time in her many years in the industry when the judicial branch overruled the executive branch. She expressed hope that the issue will be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties prior to Thursday’s hearing, especially in light of the fact that there was not a food safety issue.
The Denver Post reported last week that Swift & Co. has slated $4 million dollars for use in its commitment to ensuring food safety. This is in addition to the near $30 million the company has spent over the past three years to improve its production and food safety programs, according to Swift spokesman Jim Herlihy. Among the more than 24 new measures are a plan to test and hold beef from shipment until results show it’s pathogen-free, more efficiency in carcass washing, improved lighting in work areas, more frequent product testing, more comprehensive employee training, and improved work conditions.
In the Post report Herlihy said that visitors will see more than two dozen food-safety changes, some the first in the beef industry. For the first time, visitors such as the media, politicians and industry journalists, have been invited inside the Greeley, CO plant to learn about the improvements firsthand. Herlihy further stated in the report, “While the company has gone more than six years with only one pathogen-related recall, we’re making many changes to enhance already effective food safety processes and procedures.”
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February 15, 2003!
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Supersizing has been credited with the rise in Americans’ obesity, at least in part. In a January 12, 2003 New York Times book review on Greg Critser’s “Fat Land,” Michael Pollan wrote that “…in the space of two decades, Americans learned to eat, on average, an additional 200 calories a day.” He goes on to state that “some of the credit for creating this new environment” goes along with the introduction of “supersizing” to America.
According to the Times review, Critser cited studies in the “growing field of satiety” to show that when presented with larger portions people will eat as much as 30% more than they otherwise would. Pollan pointed out that the elasticity of hunger “makes excellent evolutionary sense: it behooved our hunter-gatherer ancestors to feast whenever the opportunity presented itself, thereby storing reserves of fat against future famine.” According to the review, Critser wrote that “the food industry might…take it upon itself to do something.” This may be necessary, as several lawsuits filed by obese customers of fast-food chains are trying to hold the chains liable for health problems.
In response to a Washington Post article entitled, “Portion Distortion – You Don’t Know the Half of It,” Steven C. Anderson, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, expressed the unfairness of targeting the restaurant industry for the American obesity problem. He intimated that “the rise in obesity is linked to our increasingly ‘couch potato’ culture.” He wrote “family history, genetic susceptibility and other medical conditions also play roles in obesity…” Personal responsibility should also be included in this discussion. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that if the number of calories consumed is greater than the number burned off, the result is weight gain.
The USDA Food Guide Pyramid has also come under attack in the quest to understand American obesity. Both Newsweek and the Washington Post published articles last week criticizing USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid. Newsweek characterized USDA’s pyramid as “widely viewed as flawed.” According to the Newsweek report, K. Dun Gifford of Oldways said, “The pyramid is a disaster. The American epidemic of obesity is the proof that it hasn’t worked.” What is not clear from the Newsweek article is the degree to which Americans follow USDA’s pyramid.
The Washington Post article allowed, “The pyramid concept … does seem to work. And its shape meshes well with its message that a healthful diet is based on eating a lot of the most highly recommended foods, fewer servings of foods the body needs less, and even fewer of what the body needs the least.” The pyramid is being reassessed by USDA’s Center for Nutrition and Policy Promotion, which has oversight charge. In the Washington Post report, John Webster, the Center’s Director of Information, said that the pyramid is being examined in light of new scientific findings since its inception in 1992.
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Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC has acquired its first processing facility in Arkansas City, KS former-Future Beef plant, purchased for $42.7 million, according to a report in the January 13, 2003 Cattle Buyers Weekly. Creekstone markets high-quality Angus beef and sells its branded beef both domestically and internationally. CEO John Stewart said in the report that he expects to start operating the plant in February, with the first cattle harvesting in April and an initial processing rate of a little less than 1,000 head per day.
Stewart also said in the report that this is a significant milestone for the company, that having its own dedicated processing facility gives it control of future brand development in terms of volume, processing capability, technology and, most importantly, food safety. The company will reportedly offer source-verified beef with full traceback.
In a January 15, 2003 press release, USDA announced that it has “more than tripled the number of cattle it tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) during the last fiscal year and has made significant steps on other prevention measures aimed at keeping the disease from entering the United States.” There have been no known cases of BSE in the U.S.
A series of proposals slated to begin this year to strengthen BSE regulations after studies found vulnerabilities in the program are delineated in the release. U.S. farmers and scientists who handle diseased animals must register with federal health officials at FSIS starting in February 2003, for one. Moreover, today APHIS published a Federal Register notice entitled, “Risk Reduction Strategies for Potential BSE Pathways Involving Downer Cattle and Dead Stock of Cattle and Other Species,” an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, as the agency is “soliciting public comment to help [it] develop approaches to control the risk that dead stock and nonambulatory animals could serve as potential pathways for the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, if that disease should ever be introduced into the United States.” Access the notice at:
“We remain vigilant at strengthening programs to keep BSE out of this country,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman in the release. “Our surveillance level far exceeds international testing standards and is just one component of a multi-faceted regulatory and compliance system that is keeping the United States free of BSE.” She further stated, “We continue to examine our BSE programs and examine additional measures to ensure strong regulatory and compliance systems.”
UPCOMING NMA SEMINARS
Jan. 30 and 31- 2-Day Listeria Seminars Associated with FSIS Directive 10,240.3
Embassy Suites Hotel, 9801 Airport Blvd., Los Angeles, CA; (310) 215-1000
*This two-day seminar will review FSIS Directive 10,240.3, more in-depth coverage of proper environmental sampling and testing procedures, laboratory testing considerations, tracking and trend analysis of data, SSOP re-evaluations, and HACCP plan reassessment.
Feb 11- Environmental Monitoring with Silliker Lab
Marriot Hotel, Newport Beach, CA
*This seminar will review designing a comprehensive environmental monitoring program, environmental monitoring for investigational purposes, data management and maintenance of an environmental program.
HACCP Plan Improvement Workshop for Cooked Products Operations
College Station, Texas
February 4 - 5, 2003
This course is co-sponsored by SMA and NMA in conjunction with Texas A&M University. To participate in this program, you must bring your company's cooked product HACCP Plan(s) to the workshop and we will work together to improve your HACCP Plan(s)! Space is limited to allow optimal hands-on interaction, so register today!
NATIONAL SUMMARY OF MEATS GRADED
NMA reports news items that are of special interest to its readers, and provides information that they may want to be able to access. Below are links to the Federal Register, AMS, APHIS, and FSIS, respectively.
NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION
NMA - East: 1400 - 16th St. N.W., Suite 400, Washington D.C. 20036 Ph. (202) 667-2108
NMA - West: 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612 Ph. (510) 763-1533 Fax (510) 763-6186
Edited by Kiran Kernellu
January 21, 2003
We’re four months into the two-year time to implement Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) voluntarily. It’s interesting to consider some of the outcomes when it becomes mandatory to label meat with COOL. Livestock that are being born right now in the United States need to have birth identification that will stay with them until they reach harvesting age at 20 months or less in order to be marketed and labeled as U.S. meat. Livestock that cannot be identified with their country-of-origin in October 2004 will not be marketable under mandatory COOL. They will live to expire by natural causes, and we rather suspect that there will be a huge population in this category. This does not take into consideration the already very large livestock population of breeding and milking livestock that are currently older than 20 months and don’t have COOL records and thus will not be able to qualify for COOL after it becomes mandatory.
So who will benefit in October 2004 from mandatory COOL? Who will have COOL birth certificates? Why, those who send meat to the United States from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and South America. They will all be able to immediately qualify for COOL, while the U. S. livestock industry is forced to dispose of its large population of livestock that cannot qualify for mandatory COOL through other means.
Who thought COOL was a cool idea? Why, a small group of domestic producers who pushed for it because they wanted to keep all foreign meat and livestock products out of the U.S. They postulated that Americans would rather buy U.S. meat, but can’t differentiate it from the mostly already labeled imported meat when they go to the retail store.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has already put a $2 billion price tag on this COOL adventure and it will come right out of the producers’ pocket. COOL meat with a $2 billion added cost will be less price competitive with its archrival poultry, which is not burdened with COOL. One way to be COOL with domestic cattle would be to contract with a certified third party contractor to take on the responsibility of a certifiable auditable trail. This will mean that at every point where livestock changes hands, there will have to be hardware and technical expertise to record the travel history of each animal. The ultimate goal will be to insure the retailer who won’t be willing to take a $10,000 chance to sell meat that isn’t COOL.
And this great industry is doing this to itself!
ASI Weekly reported that the official name of the Board appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman to administer the lamb check-off program is the American Lamb Board, which was decided at the Board's Jan. 6-7, 2003 meeting in Denver, CO and announced in a Jan. 14, 2003 press release. This name best reflects the mission outlined in the Lamb Promotion, Research and Information Order, that is to strengthen the domestic lamb industry's position in the marketplace, according to the Board.
Board members plan on attending several upcoming national industry conventions in order to effectively communicate with participants in the lamb industry. Chairman Kourlis and other board members are scheduled to be on the program at the upcoming American Sheep Industry Convention, and members will also be attending the National Meat Association and the National Lamb Feeders conventions.
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MARCH 5-6, 2003!
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and co-sponsors Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Michael Enzi (R-WY), introduced a bill last week in the Senate to make it unlawful for packers to own or feed livestock more than seven business days before slaughter. The bill would make it unlawful for a packer to “own or feed livestock directly, through a subsidiary, or through an arrangement that gives the packer operational, managerial, or supervisory control over the livestock, or over the farming operation that produces the livestock, to such an extent that the producer is no longer materially participating in the management of the livestock ...” more than seven business days before slaughter.
Cattle Buyers Weekly noted in its January 13, 2003 edition that “the bill is similar to one introduced last year…The Senate passed a similar measure during consideration of the 2002 Farm Bill but it was not included in the final version after it was unanimously rejected by bipartisan House conferences.”
NEWCASTLE DISEASE IN CA LEADS TO POULTRY BAN
California Poultry Federation (CPF) Weekly News Update reported today that a nationwide ban on U.S. poultry imports into Mexico was averted as the USDA came to an agreement with the Mexican Secretariat of Agriculture. Mexico had threatened to ban all U.S. poultry products because of worry over Exotic Newcastle Disease (END). Mexico banned California poultry products after an outbreak of the disease was first discovered in October in Southern California.
Reportedly, under the agreement worked out by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Mexico will ban poultry products from California and Nevada, and a buffer zone will be created consisting of the states of Idaho, Oregon, Utah and New Mexico. Product originating in those states will be under review temporarily but not banned, according to the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.
CPF also reported that END was detected in two backyard flocks near Nellis Air Force base in Nevada. The two infected flocks were destroyed and USDA imposed a quarantine on birds in southern Nevada. Additionally, according to a news release from the Texas Animal Health Commission Friday, Nevada officials announced Thursday afternoon that END was confirmed in a flock of 30 chickens near Las Vegas. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Thursday quarantined Nevada's Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, and portions of adjacent Nye County. Fortunately, Nevada has no commercial poultry operations, so this disease situation may be limited,” said Dr. James Lenarduzzi, acting executive director for the Texas Animal Health Commission, in the release. “To stop the spread of disease, state and federal regulatory personnel have imposed restrictions on the movement of birds and poultry products in an affected area. END-infected and exposed birds and flocks must be euthanized and disposed of properly. The premises then must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to ensure the virus has been killed.”
The release also relayed that a task force of over 700 state and federal animal health employees from across the country are battling END in Southern California, where the federal quarantine has been expanded to eight counties, said Dr. Lenarduzzi. Nearly 1,250 noncommercial flocks have been infected or exposed to END. As of mid-January, he said more than 150,000 birds have been euthanized, with another 1.5 million birds slated for depopulation. Currwently, about 4,800 commercial and noncommercial flocks remain under quarantine and will be checked for END. Dr. Lenarduzzi further stated in the release, “END does not pose a threat to humans or to food, but it is a foreign animal disease that is deadly for nearly all species of birds. END likely was initially introduced into Southern California through illegal importation of infected birds.”