NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612

(510) 763-1533 Fax (510) 763-6186 h Email Address: [email protected] h

Edited by Jeremy Russell

September 10, 2001




A beef cattle herd in south Texas has been found to be infected with cattle tuberculosis (TB). “The investigation began early this summer, when a federal veterinarian, conducting a routine exam in a slaughter facility, detected lesions in a carcass that were compatible with those of TB,” said Dr. Linda Logan, Texas state veterinarian and executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state's livestock health regulatory agency. “Tissue samples from the carcass were tested at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, where a definitive diagnosis of cattle TB was made.” TAHC officials said they were able to trace the outbreak back to a single herd and fortunately the owner of the infected herd was both extremely cooperative and had maintained excellent records of sales and purchases, enabling TAHC veterinarians to trace animal movement. Intensive efforts to determine the source of the TB infection in the beef herd continue. The rancher purchased animals from several herds during the past five years, three of which have already tested negative. The remaining herds will be tested before the end of September.


TB is caused by Mycobacterium bovis and can be spread within a herd when an infected animal coughs, releasing bacteria-laden mucus onto feed that is consumed, or into the air that is inhaled by nearby cows. “Depopulating an infected herd is the only sure way to eradicate cattle tuberculosis, a disease that 80 years ago affected nearly five percent of the nation's cattle herds,” said Dr. Terry Conger, TAHC's state epidemiologist. 




In the wake of the largest acquisition ever made in the meat industry (Tyson/IBP), other major packer players are evaluating their strategic position and making changes. Last Friday Smithfield Foods Inc. announced the acquisition of privately-held Packerland Holdings, Inc., the fifth largest U.S. beef packer, for $250 million – just one more strategic step in an industry undergoing major restructuring. NMA member Packerland has a daily kill capacity of 6,150 head of cattle and is the nation's largest supplier of beef from the Holstein breed of dairy cattle. It operates two plants in Green Bay, Wisconsin; a plant in Gering, Nebraska; the Murco Foods Group in Plainwell, Michigan; and Sunland Beef Co. in Tolleson, Arizona. 


With its acquisition of Moyer Packing Co. (1900 head/day) earlier this year, and now Packerland, Smithfield will be positioned as the 5th largest beef packer in the U.S., just a hair behind Farmland National Beef. Smithfield’s capability to compete with the top four beef packers will not only expand in terms of capacity, but also strategically because the company will now have plants in the east, the west and the north – all adjacent to large consumption markets. 


Cargill’s Excel Corporation acquired Emmpak Foods, Inc., allowing it to nudge ConAgra out of its #2 slot in terms of capacity. Using Cattle Buyers Weekly capacity data from the Fall of 2000, Excel will now have 24,3000 head/day, compared to Conagra with 23,000. In the field of high stakes strategic restructuring, the order of top-tier companies can change very quickly!


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Just two weeks after its Western Division President spoke at NMA’s Summer Board Meeting and Conference about ongoing consolidation in the food service Industry, Alliant Foodservice has been bought by the Dutch supermarkets group Koninklijke Ahold NV for $2.7 billion including debt. Ahold, the world’s third largest retailer, also announced it would be purchasing Bruno’s Supermarkets Inc. With the acquisition of Alliant and the continued operation on U.S. Foodservice and PYA Monarch, Ahold says it can serve approximately 95% of the U.S. population. A combined U.S. Foodservice-Alliant will be second in size only to Sysco Corporation, reports Cattle Buyers Weekly, and it will be a close second.




According to a report by ProMed-mail, a website sponsored by the International Society for Infectious Diseases, Professor James Ironside, of the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) Surveillance Unit at Edinburgh University, told BBC Radio on September 5 that it was difficult to tell how the human equivalent of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) would develop in future. He also said there was no clear explanation why people in the North of Britain appear to be more susceptible to the disease than people in the South. It may be genetics, but Professor Ironside reportedly thought it was more likely that Northerners just had more exposure to the disease by having eaten more pies and burgers containing low-grade meat. It is impossible to check this theory unless the food industry reveals which of its products contained low-grade meat.

The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) has spent 5 years asking food companies how much “mechanically recovered meat” (MRM) was used in the past, as they believe this type carries the most risk of passing on BSE. MRM is meat residue which is left on the carcass after all the prime cuts have been removed. However, SEAC says it has been “continually thwarted” in its efforts to extract information from the industry. Last month the Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched a new investigation to try to extract information from the industry. But Bill Jermey, President of the Meat Manufacturers' Association, told the BBC that while they wished to cooperate, information on where exactly MRM had been supplied was not available.




Economists at Kansas Sate University, according to a report in the Kansas Livestock Association’s News & Market Report, completed a survey of 313 consumers divided into two groups at 3 Midwest grocery stores. 69% of the first group chose tender beef based on taste only, whereas 84% chose tender beef when they had access to label information. 36% of the first group said they would pay more for a guaranteed tender steak, based on taste, and 51% of the second group were willing to pay a premium with foreknowledge.


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Provision X, the online meat trading company created by five companies representing 55% of the $70 billion beef, pork and poultry industry, announced it was “a giant step closer” to becoming the online meat products marketplace through an alliance with iTradeNetwork (iTN). ITN is a provider of online solutions for 34% of the U.S. retail grocery and food service industries, including seven of the top fifteen food retailers in the nation. “We believe this is a positive step in the right direction for the industry, and look forward to working closely with our customers on improving their entire supply chain process,” said Tyson Foods Fresh Meats and Retail Group President Dick Bond.


At his website ( on e-commerce and business-to-business solutions for the food industry, internet expert Harry Joiner has published a white paper on the effects of these new business models of the meat industry. In Art Meats Science: E-commerce and the Independent Meat Purveyor, Joiner comments that “today the Internet allows meat purveyors to streamline the procurement process by eliminating the countless phone calls, faxes and e-mails associated with today’s meat buying process. This appears to be the road down which Provision X is headed.”


Then he notes a difficulty: “Small- to mid-sized meat purveyors who don’t have their own solution will be encouraged to use the solution of their counterparty. For example, if you want to web-enable your business with GoldKist, Tyson, IBP, National, Farmland or Excel, they will ask you to consider Provision X. If you sell to Safeway, you’ll need to consider Agribuys. In fact, by now most major food companies have a vested interest in which system you use to deal with them.”


And a little later he notes, “Antitrust and privacy debates aside, at a minimum you may need to learn to use multiple systems if you deal with more than one” of these online exchanges.


Reading Joiner’s white paper, which is available for free and makes excellent reading on this subject, makes dubious Provision X’s claim that as a web-based network it is “neutral.” The dotcom’s may be flaring out, but they just makes the competition all the fiercer and the protections of proprietary company information all the scarcer. As Joiner notes, “Trust is the most precious commodity in cyberspace.”


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Japanese officials believe they have detected the first case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in Japan, which would also be the first case of the disease in Asia. A dairy cow tested positive for the disease last week in the Chiba area near Tokyo, according to reports. “This suspected case does not change our position that the chances of mad cow disease occurring in Japan are very low,” said Takami Nagamure, director-general of the farm ministry’s livestock industry department. However, the health ministry ordered a ban on sales of meat products from the farm in Chiba “as a precautionary step.” The European Union gave Japan a high-risk rating for BSE earlier this year because the island nation had imported both live animals and bonemeal from Britain previously. More tests will be needed to make a definitive determination that the Holstein is in fact harboring BSE.  (See page 2 for a further BSE update).




To meet school lunch entitlement requirements, the Agricultural Marketing Service announced that it would be temporarily setting aside the small business set-aside for certain coarse-ground beef. Destinations (line items 1 through 9) are being opened to large business firms. The remainder of the invitation remains set aside for small businesses, who can bid on the entire invitation.



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

September 10, 2001




National Meat Association submitted comments September 6 regarding the Performance Standards for the Production of Processed Meat and Poultry Products, Proposed Rule. After commenting on the extensive changes that producers of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) foods have already instituted in their plants in the last several years, NMA reminded the Agency of the guidelines that it developed for environmental sampling programs (available at NMA supports sound, scientific measures, but “NMA is of the opinion that sections of this regulation will have a tremendous economic impact on industry and remains  unconvinced that FSIS has demonstrated, either in these regulations or in subsequent public meetings and technical documents, that this regulation will provide any improvement in food safety” and subsequent consumer protection, wrote the association in its comments. The remainder of the submission included detailed explanations of each of the problematic areas of the Proposed Rule. Those include: Lethality and Stabilization Performance Standards, as well as the agency’s Listeria testing regime, which was based on plant size rather than public health benefit. A copy of the comments as submitted is posted on NMA’s website,




Highlighting the power of the farm lobby as well as fundamental calculations by Republican leaders that unless the economy improves, the government will be forced to tap into Social Security funds, the Wall Street Journal reports that, despite Bush Administration misgivings, House Republicans are moving a massive farm bill. With a total figure of an estimated $168 billion, the bill would more than wipe out what remains of non-Social Security surpluses, says the WSJ.




Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), reportedly plans to bring back the failed amendment he introduced last year to increase FSIS’s authority to withhold inspection for failure of Salmonella performance standards. Such an amendment would in effect nullify the Texas litigation, which the USDA lost in federal district court and which will be heard by the U.S. court of Appeals for the 5th District on October 1. NMA has asked to meet with the Senator to discuss its concerns.


NMA has also contacted its Iowa members and friends to suggest that they contact the Senator as well. The Performance Standard is unreliable, having adopted a flawed approach to measuring plant processing control. It would be imprudent for Congress to interfere with a lawsuit pending and besides the Senate needs to hear all sides of the issue before making change. Even the Agriculture Secretary’s Micro Advisory Committee has asked FSIS for more information before completing a review of the Standard. And finally, the Standard is anti-worker. It will cost jobs in Iowa and other states, just like the 245 workers at Supreme Processors lost their jobs. 


A copy of NMA’s letter to Iowans is available on request to Jeremy Russell at NMA.


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NMA has received clarification from FSIS regarding labeling of sausages in collagen casings (see Herd on the Hill 8/13/01). According to FSIS, if the casing manufacturer certifies that the sole collagen source for collagen casings is of a certain species, e.g. beef, and the sausage contains that same species in the ingredient statement, then the plant is not required to put “regenerated collagen casings” on the label. If the species of the collagen casing is not in the sausage, then the casing source must be disclosed on the product label. The casing type can be the last item on the ingredient statement. In addition, FSIS has stated that the term “collagen” is an expectable term to disclose the use of regenerated collagen casing.




Senior officials from the U.S. and Mexican governments signed September 4 a cooperative arrangement that will improve the safety of the food supplies in both nations. The arrangement will allow for the sharing of information on meat and produce production, as well as the coordination of investigations of food poisonings. “This agreement marks a very important new era in the food safety efforts of both out countries,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson told the Associated Press. FSIS believes the new accord will help reduce the incidence of food-borne illnesses on both sides of the border.




FSIS announced a public meeting to discuss the use of applied epidemiology to prevent foodborne illness. Topics include the use of epidemiology in foodborne illness outbreak investigations, making product recall decisions based on epidemiological data, and the application of epidemiology to in-plant reviews and regulatory decisions. The meeting will
be held October 30-31 in Omaha, Nebraska. A Federal Register notice will be published in the near future.




FSIS and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold joint briefings for industry and consumer representatives to discuss the Agency's preparations for participation in the upcoming WHO/FAO-sponsored Global Food Safety Forum. Both briefings will be held on Monday, September 10 in Washington, DC.




Companies whose medicinal gel product was rejected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took their cause to Congress last year, reports the Wall Street Journal. The response was to force FDA to find another way of resolving these sorts of disputes other than litigation. FDA created a panel of independent scientific advisers to vote on the issue, and then lost the dispute. Last week, the panel met for the first time, handing down a victory to Lifecore Biomedical Inc. and stating publicly that the company’s Intagel scar-reducing product is of some benefit. FDA had initially rejected the gel based on one study which found that recipients of the treatment had twice the risk of infection.




September is National Food Safety Education Month, an annual FDA- and USDA-backed effort to encourage consumers to practice clean and sanitary habits. This year’s theme is “Be Cool. Chill Out – Refrigerate Promptly.”