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Monday, February 21,2005

Poor demand stalls fed cattle

by WLJ
— Cow market remains strong. — Calves stronger on weather, feeders struggling. Fed cattle markets were slow to develop last week as little trade was reported through Thursday. A small number of cattle traded between $87-88 live, $138-140 dressed. A pick up in trade was expected Friday. Early trade was $2-4 softer than the majority of market activity the previous week. Slaughter volumes continue to be a problem with just 573,00 head passing through packing plants two weeks ago, 10,000 head lower than the prior week. Packers processed 471,000 head through Thursday of last week, which was the first week that weekly slaughter exceeded weekly volume from a year ago. Feeders are also looking at Presidents Day taking a day out of their normal weekly slaughter this week. So, they won’t need as many cattle. The latest packer margin index shows packers losing around $44 per head. Boxed beef markets were slightly softer with the Choice cutout falling $2-3 to $142.70; Select was down to $139.98, making the Choice/Select spread just $2.72. Trade volume was moderate. Beef production year to date is 4.2 percent below a year ago. The Feb. 1 Cattle on Feed Report due out last Friday was expected to show strong placements into U.S. feedlots. The average analyst’s guess was 110.5 percent of a year ago, out of a range of 100-118 percent compared to last year. The number of cattle on feed is expected to be up 2.5 percent, and marketings down two percent from a year ago. The probability of a smaller marketing total made analysts more nervous than the potentially-large increase in placements. Some of the marketing decline, versus last year, can be explained as one less business day, however, the January total is set to be the smallest early year out movement since USDA started keeping on-feed data. Anyone looking at current carcass weights and impressive country leverage in the fed market would certainly not conclude that a marketing backup problem exists, however, the longer term balance sheet clearly points to potential price danger somewhere down the road. Andy Gottschalk, HedgersEdge.com, pointed out that the number of cattle that have been on feed more than 120 days will be up seven percent over last year and up 11 percent over the five-year average. His group expects to see the market retest a $93 fed market, on a storm related situation. But, he also expects to see growing inventory start to conflict with demand. He said the industry will have a summer demand base that will support a weekly slaughter of 605,000 head and that available slaughter supplies will be much larger than that. Slaughter cow markets have been seasonally stronger with top quality cows in the mid-$50s. The 90 percent lean markets are also stronger, suggesting there could be more room for slaughter cows. Ninety-percent lean was trading at $154 mid week, and the 50 percent trim market was at $54. The cow beef cutout was $115.87 last Thursday, was down $2.25 from the day before. West Coast cow beef was trading between $89-91. Calves stronger, feeders softer Last week’s calf market was called $1-3 stronger across the country as spring grazing gets closer and moisture continues to inundate most major spring grazing regions of the country. Feeder cattle prices weren’t as fortunate as a continued lack of fed cattle profits and muddy pen conditions force prices down mostly $1. Stocker operators and even some backgrounding operations were heavily demanding lighter-weight calves last week, according to auction barn managers across the country. Stocker operators, particularly in the western half of the U.S. are very bullish when it comes to spring grazing prospects. In most major spring grazing areas, moisture is 15-30 percent ahead of the previous five-year averages, and that is spurring on thoughts that stocking rates could be 10-15 percent higher than the past few years. In addition, the longevity of the grazing season could be extended by as much as a month to six weeks longer than normal, particularly in the southern Plains and Southwest, rangeland specialists indicated. Backgrounder demand was said to be spurred by the continuation of cheap corn prices along with hay prices that are $10-15 per ton cheaper than the past couple of years. On the corn side, March futures were still below $2, with several instances of $1.95 cited last week. According to commodity market analysts, old corn crop is still behind the near-term futures contract 20-25 cents, meaning that some producers can purchase cash corn between $1.65-1.70 per bushel, or $2.90-3.05 per cwt. Not only is hay cheaper across the board, but the quality of hay needed to feed backgrounded cattle doesn’t have to be very good, especially if corn or another feed grain is being fed alongside. In some instances, poor quality, stemmy hay is selling for $25-35, according to USDA hay reporters from Midwest and Plains states. Heavier weaned calves and yearlings were struggling to bring steady money last week, as most cattle feeders continue to show $25-40 losses on finished fed cattle. In some instances, calf feds have a breakeven around $90. Analysts said, however, the percentage of calf feds in the slaughter mix right now is barely in double digits. Also, demand from feedlots was deteriorating due to muddy conditions and extremely cold temperatures resurfacing in a majority of the major cattle feeding areas. Wet pen conditions and severe cold can lead to extra health problems and a slow down in getting cattle transitioned to full feedlot rations. Futures also were struggling last week, and that trickled down to the cash market. As of the close of business last Thursday, the March contract was at $100.62 per cwt, after getting up past $102 earlier in the week. Other Thursday closes showed April at $99.95, and May at $98.85. The CME cash feeder cattle index, for 700-850 pound steers was $103.89 last Wednesday, compared to $104.31 the previous Thursday. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Product News

by WLJ
Large capacity poly forage applicator In-cab controlled rates of dry forage preservative for hay or silage can be easily managed with the Gandy poly forage applicator with positive displacement metering. The 2.3 cubic foot capacity translucent hopper has an instant shutoff and the application rate can be changed with the touch of a dial. The hopper provides 100-150 lb. capacity to cover more acres per fill, and the in-cab control allows rate adjustment to compensate for changes in flow of hay or silage. The underfed metering system eliminates dribble when not operating and is available in 2, 3 or 4-outlet configurations. The metering system also features easy clean-out ports behind each spout. Other options also available. For more information contact the Gandy Company at www.gandy.net or 800/443-2476. Animal health educational program New education program from Merial designed to communicate the advantages of strategic animal husbandry initiatives within the cattle industry. The Merial Veterinary Professional Services (VPS) Strategic Husbandry and Research Education (SHARE) program is designed to maximize animal health education. With an emphasis on long-term, continuing education initiatives, the SHARE program will consist of producer and veterinary meetings, instructional newsletters, educational tools and other specific programs designed to highlight strategic animal husbandry topics. The SHARE program utilizes the expertise and industry knowledge of the Merial VPS staff, while bolstering Merial’s commitment to encouraging good management practices. One of the first topics to be addressed by the Merial VPS SHARE program will be strategic parasite control. Partnership brings feed products to U.S. Acadian Agritech and BioIngenuity LLC, announced an agreement focused on bringing several new Ascophyllum-based livestock feed products to U.S. livestock producers. Acadian Agritech, manages and harvests Ascophyllum nodosum from the North Atlantic coastline and converts this renewable resource into nutritional products for both human and livestock consumption. Research data shows feeding its products to livestock and poultry can improve conception rates, reduce heat stress and improve meat quality. Biolngenuity LLC will assist Acadian Agritech in the further development of research and marketing programs to expand its U.S. market. For information call 952/474-4187. New cattle and horse clipper The new 3-speed Cattle & Horse Clipper from Andis Co. has 180 watts of power for heavy-duty clipping. Plus it incorporates an ergonomic design that reduces fatigue when clipping and fitting large animals. It is also quiet, doesn't heat up, and has an extra long power cord. Adjustments for blade tension are quick and easy. The 3-speed clipper includes a blade set 31-15, instruction manual, clipper oil, a screwdriver, blade brush and sturdy carrying case. For more information visit www.andis.com or call 800/558-9441.

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Monday, February 21,2005

Cattle-Fax: Profits to deteriorate in 2005

by WLJ
An expected ramping up of slaughter volume this year is expected to result in cattle feeders’ struggling to show profits throughout 2005, according to a cattle market analytics firm. In addition, that profit deterioration will probably trickle down to producers supplying them with placement cattle, particularly stocker operators. During the annual Cattle Industry Convention Feb. 1-5 in San Antonio, TX, analysts for Cattle-Fax, Lone Tree, CO, told producers that recent herd rebuilding would result in almost 850,000 more fed steers and heifers being available for processing and that a lot of beef from those cattle would need to be discounted in price to help spur its movement through the production system. Prices for fed cattle could even result in packers having an average margin of a negative $20 per head over the year, analysts indicated. Randy Blach, CEO of Cattle-Fax, said cyclical nationwide beef cowherd liquidation was several years longer than normal and that the herd-rebuilding phase would carry more impact than has been shown in the past. USDA's annual Jan. 1 Cattle Inventory Report, released in late January, showed the nation’s beef cowherd to be a percent larger than the year earlier. Because of that, U.S. cattle producers likely have seen the highest prices of this cattle cycle and could see declines for the rest of the decade, Blach said. However, the longer-than-normal liquidation phase, the lack of access to export markets and last year marking the lowest steer and heifer slaughter since 1993 could lead to a significant decline in prices paid for fed cattle and deterioration of cattle feeding profits, Blach said. “Now that the herd is beginning to grow again, steer and heifer slaughter is expected to increase about 850,000 head in 2005 with most of the increase coming in the second half,” he said. “Consumer demand for beef also could level out after seeing good demand growth over the last few years. Producers can't expect that growth to continue, especially at rates the past few years. Retail grocers already are seeing price resistance by consumers, and they are featuring it less often.” Cattle-Fax indicated that average steer carcass weights could increase almost 10 pounds in 2005 compared with 2004. That could lead to the feeding industry losing currentness of market-ready supplies and eroding bargaining positions. As a rule of thumb, every one pound of increase carcass weight produces the beef equivalent of about 1,000 head of cattle per week, he said. Kevin Good, Cattle-Fax analyst, said producers should expect the low $70s per cwt to provide long-term support, with prices in the mid-$90s could offering strong resistance through probably 2006 or 2007. However, it was stipulated that those predictions are taking into account the reopening of international markets to U.S. beef products. Cattle-Fax projects the average fed cattle price to range between $82-84 during 2005, with a full range being mid-$70s during late summer to the low-$90s this spring. Prices are expected to rebound back into the mid-$80s later in the year. In turn, profits for summer grazers are expected to be closer to levels seen prior to 2003 and 2004. Cattle-Fax analysts estimated that stocker operators would probably average about a $20 per head profit through 2005, significantly lower than profits of the past two years. Stocker operator profits during 2003 and 2004 ranged mostly between $160-170. Good said it is imperative that costs be minimized, but that cattle still be produced to their maximum production potential. He said that more than two-thirds of the profit differences between high-return and low-return producers are simply the result of reducing costs.

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Monday, February 21,2005

Ranchers using DNA testing

by WLJ
A recent survey of ranchers revealed that 75 percent of cattle producers are using the latest in DNA technology to improve the cattle characteristics most associated with bettering the quality of beef. According to DNA testing company Bovigen, 75 percent of cattle producers are using the latest DNA testing technology to improve the quality of their beef cattle, and more than two-thirds of surveyed ranchers said they are realizing economic benefits from the technology. Forty-four percent of those who use the technology said they've seen increased efficiencies in management, offering such anecdotal comments as "it makes life simpler." Others gave long- term carcass improvement and a better tasting product for end consumers as reasons for using DNA testing on their herd. Like any emerging technology, not everyone is on board with DNA testing yet. Of the cattlemen surveyed, 25 percent said they are not using DNA testing due to cost. Of this group, 75 percent said, however, they will use DNA testing "in time." More education, lower cost, increased gene markers and customer demand were all cited as influencing factors in that decision. "That the overwhelming majority of ranchers we talked to are using or plan to use DNA testing confirms what we believe to be true—that genetic testing in the cattle industry is here to stay," said Victor Castellon, CEO of Bovigen. "Our responsibility is then to help educate the industry and continue to improve the technology so that the end result is better management techniques for ranchers and better tasting beef for consumers." The survey also found that 100 percent of the cattlemen who are using DNA testing plan to continue using it and would recommend the technology to others. Other findings from the survey included: • 56 percent of those surveyed indicated that they had a high awareness level of DNA genetic testing in beef cattle; • on average, ranchers have been using this new technology for less than two-and-a-half years; • 12 percent of ranchers surveyed, when asked in an open-ended question of what the future holds for DNA genetic testing, said the field was "unlimited" ; • 67 percent of ranchers not using DNA genetic testing said the cost was keeping them from trying it; • 28 percent of those surveyed said that DNA genetic testing could be improved by finding more gene markers. The survey was conducted during the National Western Stock Show, held Jan. 8-23 in Denver, CO. While the survey was limited to responses from only 25 ranchers across the country, Bovigen officials said it still showed that DNA technology is being utilized in the industry and that it is beneficial to those who utilize it. "All cattlemen surveyed have active ranch operations," a company statement said. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

South Dakota proposes state-of-origin labeling

by WLJ
South Dakota is moving forward with a beef certification program that should boost profits for participating producers as well as meet requirements for a proposed animal identification program. South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds is pushing for a South Dakota beef certification program because he says he is committed to raising the standards for beef production in the state and making sure that consumers all around the world know exactly what the state is doing. “It’s a vision of South Dakota being known by consumers worldwide as the home of the ‘World’s Best Beef,’” said Rounds. Gov. Rounds introduced the program as part of South Dakota’s 2010 Initiative. The goal of that initiative is to improve the economic future of South Dakota. “The South Dakota Certified Beef program was created to make sure agriculture can continue to be our number one industry and provide new opportunities for our children and for future generations of South Dakotans,” said Rounds. He added that the plan is complete with a protocol, accountability, verification and a strong commitment to research and marketing. The exact producer and processor protocols for this program have not been established. However, a bill, SB 220, is being considered in the current state legislative session that gives South Dakota’s Secretary of Agriculture the authority to promulgate rules to establish the program and protect the certification trademark. The general premise of the certification program is to verify the source, age and process that they travel through. To qualify for the program, cattle must be born and raised in South Dakota. The cattle will be source verified at the farm or ranch of origin with a electronic animal identification (EID) tag. The South Dakota Department of Ag said the EID tags will need to be “scanned in” and “scanned out” of the premises they are moved to and the EID will help continually track these animals. The brand of EID tag will not be dictated by the state, they only require that tags be ISO approved RFID tags. The producer will also need to choose the data management company and that company needs to be able to electronically interface with the state database. A list of compatible companies is available on the program’s website at www.sdcertifiedbeef.com/pp.htm. The biggest question on producers’ minds seems to be how this program will add value to their cattle. Eric Iverson with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture answered that question by saying, “The South Dakota Certified Seal of Confidence will emphasize and validate that South Dakota producers are delivering the highest quality, most wholesome and safest-source/process verified livestock to their customers. This marketing tool will standardize a set of protocols creating universal recognition to the brand allowing producers to remove themselves from the commodity livestock business and more effectively market the information that makes their cattle more valuable.” The South Dakota Department of Agriculture also wants producers to be aware of the benefit this program offers through its ability to dovetail with other branded beef or animal identification programs that process verify cattle. “The agriculture industry is changing in many ways. Striving efforts to restore export markets and the vast potential that exists for expansion into ‘claim specific’ markets lends way for the development of new source and process verified programs,” said Iverson. “Identity preserve programs will also assist in localizing a disease outbreak if one exists. Consumers are more informed and concerned about the beef products they purchase and that they are safe. A Customer Confidence Assurance Program, like South Dakota Certified, will assist in making customers aware of the sound production and management practices that go into South Dakota beef cattle production.” SB 220 recently passed the state’s Senate Agriculture Committee on a vote of six to two. As of presstime Thursday, the bill remained on the Senate floor, but it had to be out of Senate by last Friday. The bill must pass the House ag committee and the House Floor before the governor signs it into law. “This bill should pass with huge support,” said Jason Glodt, senior advisor to Gov. Rounds. Once the bill passes, South Dakota will initiate the administrative rules process. That will take 40-days and involves publishing a notice, waiting 20 days, having a public hearing, then allowing for a 20-day comment period. Once these procedures are complete, South Dakota can begin implementing the beef certification program. Producers can participate in the program on a couple of different levels. Producers who just want to continue marketing live cattle at the various stages can participate in the South Dakota “Approved” Live Cattle Program, which will assist them in providing reliability to customers by verifying source, age and traceability claims. Other producers may see the benefit in forming arrangements with specific niche beef processors in South Dakota and the program will assist them in supplying and delivering South Dakota Certified Beef to customers around the world. Producers can contact the Department of Agriculture at 605/773-5436 or 800/228-5254 for more information about the certification program.

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Monday, February 21,2005

State beef checkoff killed

by WLJ
A South Dakota House committee last week rejected a plan to set up a state beef checkoff system as a backup in case the U.S. Supreme Court rules the national program unconstitutional. The state’s agriculture committee voted 8-5 to kill the bill after officials of South Dakota agricultural organizations acknowledged they are split on the proposal. HB1182 would have created a state checkoff system for beef if the national system is declared unconstitutional. Supporters argued that the state should impose its own fee of $1 a head when cattle are sold so money would continue to be available to pay for promotion and research programs. Opponents said South Dakota shouldn't set up a new system until the U.S. Supreme Court decides what is permitted in checkoff programs. "It's very important we wait for the Supreme Court to rule so we know what the ground rules are," said Jerry Vogeler, spokesman for the South Dakota Association of Livestock Auction Markets. However, Scott Jones of Midland, SD, and president-elect of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, said a backup program is needed not only to promote beef, but also to allay consumers' fears if another case of BSE is discovered. In a previous case of mad-cow disease, the program worked for about 10 days to explain that beef presented no health risk, Jones said. "They answered specific questions about safety, about what the beef industry was doing.” However, officials of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association said they oppose a mandatory checkoff with a later refund. Sellers should have the option of not paying into the system in the first place, they said. The bill would have created a state checkoff of $1 a head collected when cattle are sold. Those who do not want to contribute to the promotion and research programs could fill out a one-page form and get a refund of the fee within 30 days. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

‘Stayability’ EPD developed

by WLJ
A new EPD—Stayability—has been published in the American Simmental Association (ASA) Spring ’05 Sire Summary and will soon be available online. Calculated by Colorado State University’s Center for the Genetic Evaluation of Livestock, Stayability is defined as the probability that daughters entering the herd will stay in production through 6 years of age. “Stayability is a compound trait in that several factors may influence it,” said Dr. Wade Shafer, Director of Performance Programs at ASA. “From a Simmental Seedstock Producer’s prospective, traits such as fertility, soundness, productivity and temperament are candidates for influencing Stayability. To the degree that these traits influence commercial producers’ culling decisions, Stayability provides them with an estimate of how long a sire’s daughters will stay in the herd—in accountant terms, ‘the asset’s depreciable life’. Certainly, cows that stay in the herd longer tend to be more profitable; there is simply more time to spread out the substantial cost of getting her into production.” The age of a bull is one of the major issues with predicting Stayability, as most often bulls will be 10 years or older before having a daughter reach 6 years of age. Consequently, breeds using the trait (Red Angus, Gelbvieh and Limousin) have been relegated to pedigree estimates on bulls younger than 10. To enhance prediction on younger animals, the ASA incorporates information on 3-year-old daughters into its 6-year-old Stayability EPD. For more information about Stayability or ASA’s Spring 2005 Sire Summary, see www.simmental.org, or call Dr. Wade Shafer at 406/587-4531. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Study looks at risk of global animal infections

by WLJ
A new study by an international task force, "Global Risks of Infectious Animal Diseases," discusses the severe economic, social and political impacts of disease outbreaks and outlines national and international monitoring, surveillance and response practices. The comprehensive study, issued by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, was written and evaluated by the task force of 13 authors and four reviewers from France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. The paper brings together the expertise and experience of scientists and researchers on the front lines of this growing worldwide concern. It includes a historical review of the most prevalent of these diseases, an outline of the diverse ways they enter a country, an evaluation of contemporary practices that exacerbate disease spread and an overview of the significant impacts-now and in the future-that such diseases have on communities throughout the world. "Animal diseases will continue to affect food supplies, trade and commerce, and human health and well-being in every part of the world," said Colorado State University professor Mo Salman, co-chairman of the task force that released the study and director of Colorado State's Animal Population Health Institute. "Recent outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, West Nile virus, foot-and-mouth disease in swine and avian influenza have made headlines and are of concern not only for significant economic costs but for the potential to 'cross-over' to humans." Specific topics addressed in the paper include: • Background of the global threat of infectious diseases. • Patterns for animal diseases and their control programs. • Factors affecting the emergence or spread of livestock diseases. • Impact of animal diseases on human health. • National and international economic impacts of animal diseases. • National and international impacts of animal diseases at the industry level. • National and international impacts of animal diseases on social and political issues. • National and international monitoring, surveillance and response. • Conclusions and recommendations. "The recent devastating outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, Newcastle disease and highly pathogenic avian influenza demonstrate the global risks of foreign animal and emerging diseases," said Jim Pearson, task force co-chair and international consultant. "These outbreaks have had severe economic, social and political impacts." Upon discovery of a disease outbreak, the social and political impacts can outgrow the technical and scientific considerations. Consequently, the need for effective risk communication to minimize unwarranted anxiety concerning animal disease crises becomes an important consideration. The threats of foreign animal disease, emerging diseases, new diseases transmitted naturally from animals to humans (zoonoses) and bioterrorism or agroterrorism have connected an uninformed public with the impact of animal diseases. The ability of animal agriculture to counter contemporary threats of animal diseases is more complex and challenging now than in the past, creating an even greater vulnerability for animal agriculture and requiring awareness of and fluency in current agricultural issues, including: • the shift from independence to interdependence; • the need for global awareness and actions; • the confluence of the worlds of animal and public health; • the demand for greater public participation in decision making; • the formation of new strategic partners and alliances; • interrelated impacts on the environment and ecosystems; • a need for a new sensitivity to respond to animal diseases and especially to the people involved and impacted in their control; and • the mandate to develop skills and competencies in politics, media interactions and community engagement. The full text of the paper, "Global Risks of Infectious Animal Diseases" (Issue Paper No. 28) may be accessed on the CAST Web site at www.cast-science.org, along with many of CAST's other scientific publications, and is available in hardcopy for $5, which includes shipping, by contacting the CAST office at 515-292-2125. CAST is an international consortium of 36 scientific and professional societies. It assembles, interprets and communicates credible science-based information regionally, nationally and internationally on food, fiber, agricultural, natural resource and related societal and environmental issues to its stakeholders-legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector and the public. — WLJ

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Monday, February 21,2005

Tyson restarts shifts

by WLJ
Tyson will restart suspended operations at beef plants in the Upper Midwest and pacific Northwest, company officials announced Feb. 10. The affected plants will resume production on a staggered basis over the next two weeks. Market conditions prompted Tyson to suspend operations Jan. 10 in Denison, IA; Norfolk and West Point, NE; and Boise, ID. Second shift processing at Pasco, WA, was also temporarily discontinued. The company now plans to resume production based on the following schedule: Denison Wednesday, Feb. 16 Norfolk A-shift processing Monday, Feb. 21 West Point Tuesday, Feb. 22 Boise Tuesday, Feb. 22 Norfolk B-shift processing Wednesday, Feb. 23 Pasco B-shift processing Thursday, Feb. 24 Designated employees at the affected plants have been receiving the equivalent of 32 hours of pay each week since the second week of the suspension, Tyson said, and these workers will continue be paid the 32 hour guarantee while the plants remain idle. Once the plants resume operations, they will likely still operate at reduced levels of production until market conditions improve. “While cattle numbers remain tight, we believe supplies will improve in the months ahead, especially as the anticipated flow of Canadian cattle resumes,” said John Tyson, chairman and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods. “Beef demand has been weak, largely because of high beef prices and the attractive value of competing meats. We typically experience seasonal improvements in beef sales as we move into the spring and summer months. We’re hopeful cattle prices will moderate, so beef can be priced more competitively with other proteins.” Tyson also addressed recent progress in U.S. efforts to restart beef exports to Japan. “While the technical agreement reached between the two countries is a positive step, we believe the U.S. beef industry remains months away from any meaningful exports to the Far East,” he said. — WLJ

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Monday, February 14,2005

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Wendy's results turn favorable After a difficult autumn and early winter, Wendy's International saw its same-store sales edge up 0.5 percent in January at corporate locations, and 1.4 percent to 1.6 percent at franchised locations. Chairman Jack Schuessler said the turnaround, after months of declining same-store comparisons, was due to the performance of the Tim Hortons chain and the introduction in December of an option allowing customers to substitute a salad or baked potato, for the normal side order of fries. Aussie exports to Japan firm January saw Australian beef exports to Japan hold firm, with 21,053 metric tons shipped during the month, according to Meat and Livestock Australia. Although export volumes fell by 11 percent compared with January 2004 levels, beef exports in January 2005 were the second highest on record. Exports of grain-fed beef to Japan continue to be strong, as the Australian beef industry gears up to provide Japan with greater quantities of marbled beef. Grain-fed beef accounted for half of Australia’s beef exports to Japan in January, or 10,472 metric tons. In 2004, Australian exports of beef to Japan totaled 393,471 metric tons, with an additional 19,947 tons of processed beef exported to Japan. Exports of Australian unprocessed beef to Japan totaled $2.235 billion last year, a record for exports to this market. Bone darkening prevention unveiled Researchers at Kansas State University have found a way to keep the bones of packaged beef from darkening and becoming less appealing to grocery shoppers. The research, initiated by Kansas State University meat science specialist Michael Dikeman, tested three antioxidant treatments for their effectiveness at decreasing the discoloration of bones packaged in modified atmosphere packages. According to Dikeman, less discoloration of the bone occurred in packages manufactured with low oxygen and when a 2.5 percent ascorbic acid treatment was put on the bones. The study was funded by U.S. beef checkoff funds and Tyson Foods. Packaged meats firm expands Because of significantly increased customer demand for pre-sliced packaged foods, particularly roast beef and other meats, West Liberty Foods completed the expansion of its Mt. Pleasant, IA, slicing facility. The expansion doubled the capacity of the facility. The Mt. Pleasant facility is one of the most modern meat slicing facilities in the U.S. The facility was designed and is operated with total focus on food safety. West Liberty Foods is a producer-owned cooperative dedicated to co-manufacturing and private label production. Miami test market for McDonald’s Miami is getting a taste of what’s to come. The Oak Brook, IL-based company is using the Miami as a test market for its line of premium chicken sandwiches expected to be launched nationwide this fall, according to Boston-based restaurant analyst John Glass of CIBC World Markets. The sandwiches are available in several varieties: a classic with lettuce and tomato, club, spicy buffalo and bacon ranch. Served on toasted wheat buns, they are available with the choice of either fried or grilled chicken. Prices range from $2.99 to $3.79. Argentina’s 2004 exports up 26% Argentina exported 478,124 metric tons of beef in 2004, the animal- and food-inspection agency, Senasa, reported Feb. 7. That puts exports up 26 percent from 379,366 tons in 2003. Beef exports totaled $1.053 billion last year, up 51 percent from $694 million the previous year. Argentina exported these goods to more than 60 countries last year. The South American nation shipped 29.619 tons of beef—worth almost $210 million—to the European Union under the Hilton Import quota program. Non-Hilton-related chilled and frozen fresh beef shipments totaled 291,675 tons, or $602 million. Farmers Union opposes timing of Canadian Rule The reopening of the border to Canadian cattle could be devastating to Oklahoma producers. “March 7 paints a bulls-eye on Oklahoma stocker producers,” said Ray L. Wulf, Oklahoma Farmers Union (OFU) President/CEO, “because most cattle pasturing on wheat intended for harvest are moved off during the first two weeks of March. The bulk of our stocker producers’ income is realized at that time period,” he added. Texas chef instructors study beef Keeping up-to-date with the rapidly evolving beef product scene became a priority for 22 Texas Culinary Academy chef-instructors who attended a beef checkoff seminar in January at College Station. The seminar, co-hosted by the Texas Beef Council and Texas A&M University, taught the instructors about beef production from the pasture to product. The Texas Culinary Academy is headquartered in Austin.

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