NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
February 15, 2002
NMA’s offices will be closed Monday, February 18, 2002 for President’s Day. We will reopen on Tuesday, but then close again for our 56th Annual Convention in Monterey, CA, February 20-20, 2002. The phone should forward you to us at the DoubleTree Hotel. If it does not, either because it is busy or for technical reasons, you may reach us direct at (831) 649-4511.
Please note these minor changes to the speakers’ list. Don Zink from Future Beef Operations has been forced to drop from that Next Steps in Food Microbiology round table and Ken Parnell from Walmart had to cancel his appearance on Case-Ready: Is the Consumer Ready? However, we’ve added both Dave Hazekamp, Hazekamp Meats, and Tom Demott, Agribuys, to Case-Ready. And Demott will also speak on A Changing Industry: The Niche Markets. Furthermore, Michael Barrera, the SBREFA Ombudsman, will be replacing Dan Morgan on Making Good Business Decisions. (Please note that these changes were made after the printing of the final program and will not be reflected in that brochure).
This year’s convention is showing every sign of shaping up to be a super event and there is still room for more attendees, so sign up today. We’d love to see you in Monterey.
On February 7, 2001, a USDA Administrative Law Judge ruled that Excel Corporation violated the Packers and Stockyards Act and its implementing regulations when Excel changed its formula for determining lean percent in hogs without first notifying producers. However, the Judge ruled that no civil penalties should be issued against Excel because GIPSA had not told Excel of its interpretation of the Act and regulations prior to Excel’s conduct and Excel had paid back any producers who received less money as a result of the equation change.
In the hearing before the ALJ, GIPSA asked that the Judge impose civil penalties to the tune of about $8 million. In finding that such an assessment was not appropriate in the circumstances, the ALJ said: “Traditional concepts of due process incorporated into administrative law preclude an agency from penalizing a private party for violating a rule without first providing adequate notice of the substance of the rule.” The Judge found that, at the time Excel made the change, GIPSA’s policy was packers did not have to disclose lean percent formulas unless requested to do so. In June 1998, after Excel made the change, GIPSA changed its policy. Because Excel had relied on GIPSA’s earlier rule and GIPSA had not notified Excel that it changed its policy (and, indeed, was aware for at least five years that Excel did not disclose its formula to producers), the Judge could not impose civil penalties.
GIPSA yesterday filed notice of its intent to appeal the ALJ’s decision. NMA will be watching this case with great interest, the more so since other agencies at USDA have dreamed of having civil penalty authority. While the desire for such authority is always expressed in the most modest terms, in this instance the Agency asked for $8 million in civil fines in a case in which a judge did not find them warranted. And now the Agency is appealing the ALJ’s decision. Imagine if penalties like this were possible under meat & poultry inspection laws.
According to a report in last week’s New York Times, and the editorial that followed it up, the poultry industry has begun to reduce its reliance on antibiotic health/growth promotants. The National Chicken Council maintains that the industry has always used such medicines judiciously, but criticism has been growing for years. Three companies, Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Foster Farms, all say that they have voluntarily removed most or all of the antibiotics fed to healthy chickens. Some corporate consumers, including McDonalds Corp, have begun refusing chickens treated with Cipro, an antibiotic used to treat anthrax as well as poultry diseases. In an editorial, the Times recommended that the pork and beef industries follow suit and that Congress should ban the practice.
The Times’ call for such action ignores many positive steps that have been taken to reduce antibiotic use in livestock across the board. As the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association points out at its website, “More than 10 years ago the cattle industry created its own quality assurance program to help cattle producers and feeders ensure animal health products are used properly and that withdrawal times are strictly observed when antibiotics are administered.” Perhaps more significant than the recommendations of judicious use of groups like NCBA is the fact that many ranchers are discovering that doing away with antibiotics can lead to larger profits.
The Associated Press reported on January 18 that beef raised without antibiotics are finding a warm reception from supermarkets to mainstream restaurants. “Demand has been more than we ever anticipated,” said Ray Killian, president of NMA member Meyer Natural Angus. He added that raising cattle without antibiotics is more than just an effort to capitalize on a niche market. “What it does is force us to have a ‘well-animal’ program to keep the animals healthy so they don’t have to be treated, and I think that’s a positive contributor to the taste and quality of the product.” T.G.I. Friday’s now serves Meyer Natural Angus burgers in its restaurants, a decision bolstered by the meat’s taste and performance in consumer surveys. Steve Sands of Meyer is participating in NMA’s Niche Markets round table on Friday, February 23 at the Convention.
The argument against antibiotics is that they contribute to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. There is much to doubt in this argument. Many of the antibiotics approved for animal use are completely different than those used for humans, for example. And it is easy enough to test for residue materials in meat besides. Nevertheless, natural products have proven to sell well and generally receive excellent publicity from an oft-times anti-meat press corpse, as the Times’ report on the poultry industry confirms.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association reports that USA Today is working on a story that will focus on a new book due to hit bookstores in early March: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, by Marion Nestle, a professor and chair of the New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies and long-time critic of the beef industry.
According to NCBA, Nestle’s book criticizes the food industry in general for what she sees as undue influence on nutritional policy, and she criticizes food marketers for encouraging consumers to “eat more food more often and in larger portions.” In initial media coverage about her book, including a brief interview in the February 18 issue of Fortune magazine, Nestle takes on everything from soft drinks to fast food to sugar to ketchup. The Fortune interview also makes a rough comparison between Enron's alleged influence with government and the food industry's.
Sausagefest ‘02 will be held Friday, February 22, 2002. And the event is Hawaii themed, so dress Hawaiian!!
This is the ninth annual Sausagefest and we’re going to do things a little differently. Contestants will be blind! Which means, we won’t tell you who submitted the below products until after you’ve voted for your favorite one. These are the seven competing entries. (Remember, to be a contestant, a company must be a member of NMA and can’t have won before.)
1. Teriyaki Beef - Featuring Certified Angus Beef
2. Sopressata Calabrese
3. October Bratwurst
4. Yucatan Blancos
5. Green Chili Cheddar Bratwurst
6. Spanish Basque Chorizo
7. Louisiana Style Andouille
This year we’re going to feature a showcase of winners of previous years’ “Hold the Mustard” Awards and student entries. You can’t vote for these entries, but you do get to eat them! Here’s a list of showcased products by company:
California Polytechnic University, Pomona's Bronco Beef Jerky from the Kellogg Ranch
Clougherty Packing Co.'s (Farmer John) Old Fashioned Maple Patties & Links
Fresno State University, California's Bulldog Fiesta Cheddar Sausage
Hill Meat Company's Old Fashioned Frankfurters
Montibella Sausage Company's Southwestern Steak & Potato Sausage
Uncle Louie Sausage Co.'s Maui Pineapple Flavored Sausage
Wimmer's Meat Products, Inc.'s Bone-In Ham
(Sausagefest ’02 is brought courtesy of BFD Corporation, Meat & Poultry Magazine and Oversea Casing)
A world of wonder awaits at NMA’s strolling dinner hosted at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Saturday, February 23, 2002. You will be privileged to visit this million-gallon indoor ocean after hours with NMA members. Discover the marvels of the depths, during an exquisite dinner and dance gala event. Journey through the Bay, from shallow tide pools to the vast open ocean dancing all the way. Special exhibits range across the oceans of the world and you may experience them all with this intimate group at our exciting finale event. (This event courtesy of Gleeson Constructors and Handtmann, Inc.)
Both the Monterey Aquarium dinner and Sausagefest ’02 are ticketed events with a limited number of tickets. Make sure to purchase yours soon!
Smithfield Foods Inc., the U.S.’s largest pork producer and one of its the largest beef producers, said yesterday that fiscal-third quarter profit beat analysts’ estimates. Excluding stock sales, profit rose 46%. An analyst with Prudential Securities told Reuters that better than expected results came in meat processing and that commodity and hog prices were favorable. “The improved profitability reflects our strategy to transform our meat-processing operations from a provider of commodity fresh pork to a marketer of higher margin, value-added products,” said Chairman and CEO Joseph Luter III. Luter will keynote NMA’s 56th Annual Convention, speaking at the annual meeting on Saturday, February 23.
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 Jeremy Russell
February 15, 2002
SENATE PASSES A FARM BILL
The United States Senate on a vote of 58-to-40 passed its hotly debated version of the Farm Bill earlier this week. Controversial and cantankerous floor debate was waged over many issues. The President told Reuters: “I am committed to sound farm policy that supports America’s farmers and ranchers and am disappointed that the Senate-passed bill doesn’t get the job done.” The bill now goes to a Conference Committee comprised of agricultural leaders from the House and the Senate who are charged to resolve the differences between a front-loaded Senate bill and a more market-oriented House bill, passed last October, both of which are valued at over $73 billion.
Staffers are already meeting to identify the differences in the two bills and lawmakers are expected to meet in earnest immediately following the Presidents’ Day recess. The magic date of March 22, seen as the moment of decision for spring planting, looms as the make/break date for lawmakers to complete conference. The bill then returns to both chambers for an up/down vote, and if passed, goes to the President for signature or veto.
From our industry’s perspective, there are several hot issues. This is the time for members to urge their elected officials in both the House and Senate to resolve them. They are:
Packer Ownership Ban. NMA is opposed to government intervention in the free market system. The proposal to ban packers from owning livestock was introduced by Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), and passed on a vote of 53-to-46 in the Senate. This proposal would cripple the productivity of the meat packing industry – Seaboard Farms said yesterday that if passed the ban would likely negate a $450 million pork-production project – and will cost consumers in the pocket book. NCBA recommended at its convention last week that the issue be studied and reported back to the Congress. This is a more sensible alternative.
Country of Origin Labeling. The Senate bill requires country of origin labeling for beef, pork, lamb, farm-raised fish, vegetables and fruit. Legislators have not shown much concern that government mandated labeling such as this could be a violation of the Constitution; it’s a populist issue. It’s also an expensive one, and Americans will feel it in the pocket book long after legislators lay down their vote. NMA is strongly opposed.
Grading of Imported Carcasses. The Senate bill includes a provision that would prohibit AMS grading imported meat products. This is likely to have a disruptive impact on the market, and may violate the United States’ obligations under international trade agreements, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NMA is strongly opposed.
Food Safety Commission. Last fall, Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin introduced an amendment providing for a 15-member Food Safety Commission appointed by majority and minority leaders of Congress. Some see it an effort to advance the single food agency concept, but others believe it would undermine USDA’s food safety authority. It’s clear it would once again make the food industry the shooting target for its adversaries in a very public manner. Also, it would obfuscate how best to achieve food safety by bifurcating the issue along partisan lines and consumers would pay once again through taxes for one more public body. It’s a no-win idea and should be abandoned.
Handling of Disabled Livestock. Legislators recognize that there are laws on the book to ensure humane handling of disabled livestock and there is no change in that policy, other than to reaffirm the government agencies responsiblility for enforcement.
USDA SAYS IT WON’T APPEAL SUPREME RULING
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman this week told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture that, althought it won’t appeal the controversial Supreme Beef court ruling, USDA will not hesitate to close plants that have food safety problems, reports Food Chemical News Daily. Veneman explained that she felt USDA’s powers had been limited somewhat by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, but that the agency is exploring regulatory changes, some of which will likely be based on recommendations from two independent scientific panels examining the best use of microbial performance standards in a regulatory environment.
Scientific advisers to USDA are studying whether an organism other than Salmonella, such as generic E. coli, could be used instead of a pathogen and whether seasonal or regional differences should be taken into consideration in setting contamination limits.
Salmonella PERFORMACE STANDARD UPDATE
An attachment has been added to FSIS Directive 10,011.1, Enforcement Instructions for the Salmonella Performance Standards, on the FSIS web site. The attachment provides background information and questions and answers on Salmonella testing. It was issued along with the original Directive but was omitted when the Directive was posted on the FSIS Web site. The attachment was added to the website to make the Directive complete. Access the attachment at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISDirectives/10011.1/100111_A1.html.
NMA REMEMBERS CHUCK LATTUADA
On February 12, 2002, NMA’s good friend and colleague, Chuck Lattuada, passed away. Chuck was an extraordinary microbiologist of many talents. At various times in his career he ran his own business, worked for USDA, and consulted for the industry. He was always willing and able to participate in NMA projects. At USDA he was a Branch Chief for the USDA’s Microbiology Department. Here he is best known for developing microbiological tests and the immunology bead test for H7 to support USDA’s regulatory initiatives and for investigating the E. coli outbreak of 1993. After retiring from the government, Chuck was a consultant to the industry on molecular testing. Chuck was 68. Our sincere condolences go out to his wife, Polly, and his family.
FAS has identified several cases in which exporters have submitted incorrect reports on sales and exports of beef by utilizing the incorrect conversion factor. Exporters are incorrectly using the 2.204622 conversion factor for converting kilograms to pounds. The correct conversion factor for converting pounds to metric tons is 2204.6. FAS also requests that all numbers be rounded and reported to the nearest whole number. If you have any questions, please call (202) 720-9209 or e-mail [email protected].
ADDITIONAL ACTING DEPUTY
Acting FSIS Administrator Margaret Glavin February 8 named William “Bill” Smith as the Acting Deputy Administrator for the Office of Field Operations and Elijah Walker as the Acting Deputy Administrator for the Office of Public Health and Science. Richard Van Blargan was named as the Acting Associate Deputy Administrator for Field Operations. Mark Mina, Deputy Administrator for the Office of Field Operations announced his retirement effective July 2002 and will be working on several priority projects for the Administrator until then.