USDA-AMS Defines Undue or Unreasonable Preferences in Relation to Packers, and Stockyards Act

In the waning hours of the previous Administration, Tom Vilsack, then Secretary of Agriculture, issued the Farmer Fair Practice Rules to be implemented under the prevailing Packers and Stockyards Act. The current Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Sonny Perdue suspended the rule on assuming office in 2017 and in October 2019 withdrew in entirety the Farmer’s Fair Practice Rules.  In November 2019 the Grain Inspections Packers Stockyards Administration was restructured within the Fair Trade Practices Program of the Agricultural Marketing Service.

The USDA published a definition of reasonable and fair preference or advantage in the current Federal Register specifying four criteria to be considered in determining whether a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act has occurred.

According to the USDA it is unlawful for a packer or integrator to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to a seller or grower of livestock or poultry.  What is significant is the definition of a preference or advantage.  In accordance with the proposed rule the Secretary of Agriculture and his subordinates can review an action to determine whether it constitutes a preference or advantage.  The criteria used to establish a violation would be whether the preference or advantage: -


  • cannot be justified on the basis of a cost saving relating to different producers, sellers or growers
  • cannot be justified on the basis of meeting a competitor’s price
  • cannot be justified on the basis of meeting other terms offered by competitor
  • cannot be justified as a reasonable business decision that would be customary in the industry


The 2016 Farmer’s Fair Practice Rules that evolved from a series of regional meetings organized jointly by the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture in the previous Administration would have eliminated the tournament system for broiler production and radically altered the relationship between contractors and integrators. In retrospect the Rule would have resulted in considerable harm to the broiler industry in the U.S. adversely affecting both integrators and contractors.


Various organizations purporting to represent contractors have opposed USDA-AMS rulings claiming that actions by packers and integrators are unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive.  The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) maintains that the USDA “leaves farmers, ranchers and poultry contract growers under the threat of retaliation for speaking out against any wrongdoing of the packer or processor”. The OCM also maintains “a particularly gross omission in the proposed rule is a restoration of the right of an individual producer to bring a claim without proving competitive harm to the entire sector.”


The proposed Farmers Fair Practice Rules would have opened the floodgates to frivolous lawsuits and severely disrupted the industry that has functioned effectively with benefits to both contractors and integrators for over seventy years.  The fact that there are more contractors willing to erect houses or expand farms than can be accommodated by current marketing considerations is a testament to the fairness of the existing system. 


The criteria relating to “undue and unreasonable preferences or advantages” will be subject to public comment for a sixty-day period. It is anticipated that proponents of back-to-19th century farming and those opposed to intensive livestock production will submit objections and use their legal resources and the social media to advance their cause.


The broiler production system based on the mutual benefits to contractor and integrator do not require government intervention and should follow the dictum that “if it ain't broken don't try and fix it”.  The USDA under the leadership of Secretary Perdue is to be complemented on fairness, logic and making decisions that benefit integrators, contractors and ultimately consumers.


Poultry Industry News

Broiler Week

Weekly Broiler Production and Prices

Chick Placements.

The Broiler Hatchery Report released on January 8th 2020 confirmed that a total of 235.6 million eggs were set during the week ending January 4th 2020, four percent higher than the corresponding week in 2019. A total of 181.2 million day-old chicks were placed among the 19 major broiler-producing states during the week ending January 4th 2020. This was four percent more than in the corresponding week in 2019. Total chick placements for the U.S. amounted to 189.5 million. Claimed average hatchability was 81.8 percent for eggs set three weeks earlier.


Broiler Production

According to the January 10th 2020 USDA Broiler Market News Report (Vol. 607: No. 02) for the processing week ending January 4 th 2020, 146.5 million broilers were processed during the processing week at an average live weight of 6.21 lbs. (6.26 lbs. last week) and a nominal yield of 76.0 percent. The number of broilers processed was 6.3 percent more than the corresponding processing week in 2019. Processed (RTC) broiler production for the week was 708.2 million lbs. (321,889 metric tons), 8.8 percent more than the corresponding processing week in 2019.


Turkey Week

Weekly Turkey Production and Prices

Poult Production and Placement:

The December 16th edition of the USDA Turkey Hatchery Report, issued monthly, documented 25.8 million eggs in incubators on December 1st 2019 (27.1 million eggs on November 1st 2019) and down 9.4 percent (2.7 million eggs) from December 1st 2018.

A total of 22.2 million poults were hatched during November 2019 (24.9 million in October 2019) representing a decrease of 23.7 percent from November 2018.


A total of 19.4 million poults were placed on farms in the U.S. in November 2019, (22.1 million in October 2019), 8.3 percent less than in November 2018. This suggests disposal of 2.8 million poults during the month. Assuming all tom poults were placed, 25.2 percent of November-hatched hen poults or 12.6 percent of all November 2019-hatched poults were not placed.


For the twelve-month period December 2018 through November 2019 inclusive, 282.5 million poults were hatched and 256.5 million were placed. This suggests disposal of 35.9 million poults. Assuming all tom poults were placed 24.5 percent of hen poults or 12.7 percent of all poults hatched during the period were not placed.


COMMODITY REPORT: January 10th 2020.

Corn and soybean prices were relatively unchanged in wait-and-see mode for the third consecutive week awaiting details on the Phase-1 Agreement with China. The market was ho-hum over the release of the January 2020 WASDE #596. ( see item in this edition).


Uncertainties still include:-

  • The extent and timing of soybean purchases by China in 2020. The U.S and China have apparently reached an understanding on U.S. tariff rescission, concessions on some structural issues by China and enforcement provisions
  • Exports of soybeans to China have resumed with 7.7 percent of projected shipments for 2019/2020 consigned during October and November. Notwithstanding the soybean exports, markets apparently do not sure the same optimism expressed by the White House.
  • Fallout from uncertainty in the Middle East.


Questions still exist:-

· Traders are reviewing projected ending stocks and taking into account the relative sizes of both corn and soybean harvests in 2019

· Brexit is now a certainty after the Conservative Party plan was approved by the House of Commons on Thursday 20th December.

· A U.S. trade agreement with the U.K. will be concluded in 2020 but trade with the U.S. will be conditioned by commitments to the E.U. by the departing nation.

· The relationship with the E.U. is tenuous especially with the threat of retaliatory tariffs by the U.S. on food products from France and auto imports from Germany.

· An unpredictable political situation is delaying ratification of the USMCA by the Senate hopefully in early 2020.

Compared with the January 3rd 2020 close, the CME quotation for March corn posted at close of trading on January 10th 2020 was unchanged at 386 cents per bushel. During mid-December corn rose 6.0 percent and soybeans 2.8 percent based on prospects for commodity exports to China.

The signing ceremony for the recently concluded Phase-1 agreement on January 15th in Washington will be a muted affair. Vice Premier Liu He will represent China.

The following quotations were posted by the CME at close of trading on January 10th. 2020 compared with values for January 3 rd 2020 (in parentheses).



Corn (cents per bushel)

March 386 (386)

May 393 (393)

Soybeans (cents per bushel)

Jan. 935 (930)

May 958 (954)

Soybean meal ($ per ton)

Jan. 299 (297)

May 308 (306)

Changes in the price of corn, soybeans and soybean meal over five trading days this past week were:-


Corn: March quotation unchanged                ( 0 percent)

Soybeans: Jan. quotation up 5 cent per Bu    (+0.5 percent)

Soybean Meal: Jan. quotation up $2 per ton  (+0.7 percent)

  • For each 10 cent per bushel change in corn:-

        The cost of egg production would change by 0.45 cent per dozen

        The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight

  • For each $10 per ton change in the price of soybean meal:-

        The cost of egg production would change by 0.44 cent per dozen

        The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight



Subscribers are referred to the January 10th WASDE #596 in this edition.

Prices of commodities are influenced by projections of ending stocks as influenced by the 2019 harvest, 2020 exports and domestic use.

Two tranches of support funding were advanced in 2018 amounting to $12 billion as "short-term" compensation for disruption in trade.

On July 25th the USDA announced an additional $16 million package to support agriculture with Market Facilitation Payment (MFP) funds to be distributed in three tranches. The first payment of $2.5 billion was made with the remainder for the third quarter disbursed through the Farm Services Agency under authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation. A total of $9.6 billion was distributed in September. Payments will be based on a value corresponding to the higher of 50 percent of the producer's calculated payment or $15 per acre, provided a cover crop is planted.

The second MFP payment (November 2019) was $3.6 billion. The third (January 2020) payment, presumed to be $3.6 billion, will in all probability be paid given political and trade considerations. Regulations framed in terms of the Additional Supplementation Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 enacted in June will determine eligibility. One million applications were received for the initial round in 2018 with 420,000 applications since July 2019. Additional request are being made by industry groups for 2020 MFP payments and will probably be justified by lower imports by China than previously announced by the White House.


USDA-WASDE FORECAST #596 January 10th 2020


Predictably the January 10th 2020 USDA WASDE Report was updated from December with more accurate yields for corn and soybeans but with relatively unaltered price projections for these commodities.


Corn and soybean harvests reflected in the January 2020 WASDE are based on actual yield and harvested area. The corn acreage harvested was 81.5 million acres, 0.4 percent down from the December 2019 WASDE (81.8 million in 2018). Soybeans were harvested from 75.0 million acres, 0.8 percent down from the December 2019 WASDE. (88.3 million acres in 2018)


The January 2020 WASDE projected corn yield was raised by 0.6 percent to 168 bushels per acre, (178.9 bushels in 2018). The relatively low value was due to late planting, delayed development and adverse weather before harvest. Soybean yield was raised 1.1 percent to 47.4 bushels per acre from the December 2019 WASDE, (52.1 bushels in 2018).


The November USDA projection for the ending stock of corn was lowered 0.9 percent to 1,892 million bushels. Ending stock for soybeans will be unchanged from the December estimate at 475 million bushels.


Projections for ending stocks of both corn and soybeans have influenced recent CME price quotations concurrently with conflicting reports on trade negotiations with China. It is presumed that projections are based on the assumption that there will be continued trade in accordance with the Phase-1 agreement on trade with China in 2020. Some orders representing four percent of projected 2019 exports of soybeans were forthcoming in September after the August G-7 Summit in France. In mid-September, China rescinded a ban on all agricultural imports from the U.S. imposed on August 4th. This followed the announcement of a delay in introducing a September 1st threatened tariff of 10 percent on imports from China valued at $300 billion not already subject to duty.


To date there has been no announced commitment on either volumes or prices of commodities to be imported by China in 2020.


U.S. Broiler and Turkey Exports for January-November 2019.

Export data for the first eleven months of 2019 indicate a fractional increase in exports of broiler parts in comparison to the corresponding period in 2018. The overwhelming impression from progressive monthly comparisons is the consistent erosion in unit price although reversed slightly in the third quarter of 2018. The trend in successively lower or static unit prices is attributed to the fact that leg quarters comprise over 96 percent of exports. This product represents a low-value commodity lacking in pricing power. Exporters of commodities are subjected to competition from domestic production in importing nations. Generic products such as leg quarters are vulnerable to trade disputes and embargos based on real or contrived disease restrictions. The extensive outbreak of African swine fever may boost U.S. exports to Asia in the intermediate term as all animal protein will rise in price as pork supply is curtailed.


Total exports of broiler parts for the period attained 2,958,655 metric tons, 0.5 percent more than the corresponding period in 2018 (2,942,673 metric tons). Total value of exports increased by 1.8 percent to $2,977 million ($2,924 million).


During January-November 2019 the National Chicken Council (NCC), citing USDA-FAS data, documented exports of 3,177,336 metric tons of chicken parts and other forms (whole and prepared) valued at $3,281 million with a weighted average unit value of $1,033 per metric ton, 1.2 percent lower in unit value compared to the first eleven months of 2018 ($1,046 per metric ton).


The NCC breakdown of chicken exports during January-November by proportion and unit price for each broiler category for 2019 compared with 2018 (with the unit price in parentheses) comprised:-

· Chicken parts 96.4%; Unit value $973 per metric ton ($975)

· Prepared chicken 2.2%; Unit value $3,588 per metric ton ($3,562)

· Whole chicken 1.4%; Unit value $1,043 per metric ton ($1,007)


Signing For Phase-One Trade Agreement With China On Track

Invitations have been extended to more than 200 attendees to witness the signing of the Phase-one trade Agreement between the U.S. and China on January 15th. The ceremony will take place in the White House with Vice-premier Liu He representing his Nation.


The outstanding question is the content of the agreement since there have been conflicting reports from the White House and failure to corroborate claims by Beijing. Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin stated in a TV interview on Sunday January 12th that the English translation and the Mandarin text correspond, although details have yet to be released.


Beijing has not confirmed commitments to purchase specific quantities of products and is noted in a separate item posted in this edition of CHICK-NEWS, that officials in China at ministerial level have not confirmed either the scope or magnitude of intended purchases.  This reality is reflected in CME prices for soybeans that would be expected to soar with the imminent prospects of a resumption of large quantities of exports. On January 14th soybeans were up 3.6 cents per bushel at 14H00 EST and the March quotation was down 2.2 cents reflecting normal fluctuation. Prior to the 2018 trade dispute with China, approximately 25 percent of U.S. soybean production was destined for China and in 2017 exports amounted to 1,176 million bushels. In 2018 the U.S. supplied 300 million bushels of soybeans to China.

Mnuchin emphasized that the agreement calls for China to import $200 billion in additional U.S. products over a 2-year period and specifically agricultural commodities valued between $40 and $50 billon.  Although some threatened tariffs will be cancelled, the U.S. will leave in place duties on $370 billion in annual Chinese imports.


Complete bilateral removal of tariffs will be the subject of Phase-2 negotiations due to commence shortly after the signing ceremony.  President Trump has indicated however that finalization of a       Phase-2 agreement may only occur after the November 2020 election.



YUM! Brands To Acquire Habit Restaurants

In a January 6th release, Yum! Brands announced acquisition of Habit Restaurants in a  transaction  valued at $375 million.

The Habit Burger Grill comprising a chain of 300 company-owned and franchise restaurants is based in California and will operate as a division of Yum! Brands reporting to the President and CEO, David Gibbs.

The Habit Burger Grill offers charburgers, chicken and tuna sandwiches, fresh salads and frozen desserts.  In 2019 the chain was named the ‘Best Regional Fast Food’ by USA Today.  In commenting on the transaction, David Gibbs noted “as a fast-casual concept the Habit Burger Grill is a fantastic addition to the Yum! family and has significant growth potential in the U.S. and internationally”. 

Russell Bendel, president and CEO of the Habit Burger Grill stated “over the past few years we have focused on becoming a total-access brand by growing out delivery business, expanding our online ordering and mobile channels and enhancing the in-store experience by introducing drive-thrus, kiosks and technology-centric solutions for operations”.  He added “we are confident the agreement delivers immediate value to Habit Burger Grill shareholders and will greatly benefit our brand, team members, franchisees and guest for many years to come”.

It is expected that the acquisition will be approved by shareholders of both companies.



Authorities in Bulgaria have announced that a large commercial swine complex in the Shumen region was infected with African Swine Fever [ASF] and will be depopulated.  Previously cases of ASF in Bulgaria were confined to two small herds but mostly backyard hogs resulting in depletion of 120,000 head to date.


Kroger Company Launches Simple Truth Emerge Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

Kroger has launched Simple Truth Emerge patties and ground presentations claimed to have the same taste, texture and sizzle on the grill as beef.

Gil Phipps, Vice president for Our Brands at Kroger stated “as more of our customers explore and embrace a flexitarian lifestyle, Simple Truth Emerge is a fresh innovation that provides a flavorful meat alternative that cooks comparably to beef.”

The Simple Truth Emerge line will be sold in parallel with Kroger Simple Truth plant-based collection introduced in 2019 incorporating oat milk, deli slices, sausages and chocolate chip cookie dough.  Fifty additional plant-based products will be launched under the Simple Truth brand in 2020.


USPOULTRY Co-sponsors Webinar on Whole Genome Sequencing

In a January 8th release, USPOULTRY is cosponsoring a webinar series on Whole Genome Sequencing with the first session on January 23rd.  The series will comprise five webinars at monthly intervals through May.  The initial presentation, dealing with the basics of whole genome sequencing will be presented by Dr. Martin Wiedmann of Cornell University.  Subsequent webinars will include case studies, regulatory applications and advanced technology including metagenomics.

Cosponsors of the programs are the American Baker’s Association, Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, the NCC, the NTF, United Fresh Produce Association and other commodity groups. For further information access the USPOULTRY website http://ip.wga.com/WGS-webinar-2020



Chipotle Mexican Grill Announcing Supergreens Salad Bowls

On January 2nd Chipotle Mexican Grill announced release of an innovative Supergreen salad mix, the second in the series of new menu items.


Chipotle will serve Lifestyle Bowls comprising chicken, carne asada or fajita veggies.  The range will include a paleo salad bowl featuring chicken and fajita veggies, a vegan bowl and a vegetarian salad bowl.


Nevielle Panthaky, Vice-president of Culinary at Chipotle, commented, “Lifestyle Bowls allow us to preconfigure our real ingredients, including the new Supergreens salad blend, in a way that helps our guests reach or maintain their health and wellness goals.”  Though January 2020, Chipotle is offering free delivery on Lifestyle Bowls during normal operating hours with a minimum order of $10.


Disproportionate Growth in Private Label Items

Supermarket News reported that in 2018, growth in sales of private-label consumer packaged goods exceeded the corresponding growth for national brands by a factor of four.


The report was included in data generated by IRI incorporating an analysis of product launches in 2019. These included Albertsons’ generic packaging; BJs liquor; Shoprite Bowl and Basket; Kroger, Simple Truth plant-based snacks; Target’s Good and Gather; Ahold-Delhaize, with Nature’s Promise; and Spartan Nash, Our Family.



Poland Comes Under EU Scrutiny over Salmonella

Following a total of 170 Rapid Alert Systems for Food And Feed Notifications in 2019, denoting the presence of Salmonella from poultry meat processed in Poland, the European Commission Sanitary Unit for Policy conducted an audit of six primary processing plants, seven further-processing establishments, a regional veterinary laboratory and evaluated the structure of the food safety program in Poland.  In 2017 10.5 percent of official poultry meat samples assayed in Poland yielded either Salmonella Enteritidis or S.Typhimurium. 


Observations by the audit team included:


  • Structural deficiencies in processing plants
  • Inadequate cleaning and disinfection
  • Insufficient working space
  • Failure to impose national standard on low-volume processing plants
  • Insufficient supervision and control
  • Inadequate food safety surveillance by individual companies operating self-surveillance
  • Reliance on non-government employed veterinarians authorized to carry out inspection under circumstances creating a conflict of interest
  • Overworking of government inspectors and food safety officials
  • Failure to monitor Salmonella and other pathogens using accepted microbiological assay procedures


The problem of contamination in poultry meat parallels the increase incidents of Salmonella Enteritidis in shell eggs attributed to deficiencies in the Salmonella prevention and detection programs in Poland.


As a significant EU poultry producer, shipping product to western nations, Poland will of necessity have to bring production procedures and inspection up to accepted standards.  The alternative is that the EU will ban products and supermarket chains will reject eggs and poultry meat from Poland given the statutory requirement for country-of-origin labeling.


USDA Reports a Three Percent Increase in U.S. Hog Herd

The National Agricultural Statistic Service reported that on December 1st the U.S. herd comprised 70.9 million market hogs and 6.5 million breeders.


From September through November 2019, 35 million hogs were weaned, two percent more than the corresponding months in 2018. For the three-month period, producers weaned 11 piglets per litter. 


Iowa headed the ranking of hog populations in the U.S. with 24.8 million head. North Carolina and Minnesota tied with 9.2 million head each.  The USDA Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report was based on a survey of 6,600 farms during early December reflecting December 1st 2019.


U.S. Pork Exports Soar

USDA reports that pork exports increased to 260,000 metric tons in November approximately 26% over the corresponding month in 2018.  The value of $713 million was 32 percent higher than November 2018.

Growth in both export volume and value was driven by demand from China, up almost three-fold from November 2018 to 86,000 metric tons valued at $205 million. The increase in exports to China offset a decline in shipments to Mexico, down 6 percent in both volume and value.  This is attributed to competition from Canada.  Exports to Japan were 3 percent lower in volume and 7 percent lower in value to 33,000 metric tons and $1.4 billion respectively.  The situation with respect to Japan will improve after January 1st as tariff rates on U.S. pork match the EU and Canada.


Questions Over Extent of Agricultural Commodities to be Purchased by China

Despite the Phase-1 trade agreement incorporating a provision for China to buy considerable but unspecified quantities of agricultural commodities from the U.S., the message has apparently not trickled down to Han Jun, the Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. 

In an official statement, Han noted that quotas for wheat, corn and rice will not be increased.  Although soybeans have figured on the China shopping list, observers question how agricultural purchases could amount to the White House claim of $50 billion, even over two years.  Hopefully, there will be more clarity after release of details incorporated into the Phase-1 agreement.


Hooters Introduces Meatless Chicken Wings

Hooters has introduced meatless wings to 318 restaurants in the U.S. Their serving is derived from a Quorn product derived from mushrooms.

Kevin Brennen, CEO of Quorn Foods stated, “We have been in the meat alternative business since the 1980’s and the new Hooters Unreal Wings taste just as good as chicken.” He added “the rise of meatless options especially at quick service and fast casual restaurants has largely centered on burgers and we are excited to partner with Hooters to roll out the first meatless poultry item on a national scale in the U.S”. 

Quorn Foods is based in the U.K. and claims to have served 5 billion meals since 1985.

As an aside, when a colleague was told of the Hooters’ innovation he expressed surprise given that he has previously associated Hooters with breasts rather than wings.


Production Capacity Restrains Impossible Foods from Supplying McDonald’s Corp.

CEO of Impossible Foods, Pat Brown noted that Impossible Foods is no longer under consideration to supply McDonald’s Corp. with vegetable-based burgers. Citing restraints on production, Brown noted “it would be stupid for us to be vying for them right now.  Having more big customers doesn’t do us any good until we scale up production.” 

Impossible Foods does however supply Burger King with a soy-based patty incorporated in the Impossible Whopper successfully tested in the U.S.


Neither Beyond Meat nor Impossible Foods, the current leaders in the field, have encountered predicted competition from multinational food giants. These include Cargill and Nestle in addition to other producers including Maple Leaf Foods of Canada with an Indiana, U.S. plant, all due to come on line in 2020.


USPOULTRY Foundation Invites National FFA Members to 2020 IPPE

National FFA Officer Candidates will receive sponsorship to attend the International Poultry Expo (IPE) by the USPOULTRY Foundation. This ongoing initiative is intended to attract students to the poultry and egg industries. Students will receive an all-expense paid trip to the IPE



Participants will receive information on career opportunities in the poultry industry. Additionally, they will visit the trade show floor to observe technology applied by producers of eggs, broilers and turkeys.

College freshmen and sophomores are eligible to participate in the USPOULTRY Foundation College Student Career Program to interview for industry internship opportunities.


John Starkey, president of USPOULTRY commented “we are grateful to Tyson Foods for providing the opportunity for these proven young leaders to attend IPE and gain an interest in our industry”.



African Swine Fever Impacts Hogs in Romania

The World Organization Of Animal Health (OIE) has received an official notification from officials in Romania that 25,000 hogs will be culled on a farm near Braila located on the River Danube that forms the border with Belorussia.


African swine fever has affected as many as 150,000 hogs on farms in Romania including subsistence flocks and commercial complexes from 2018 onwards.



Wayne Farms Announces Expansion

Wayne Farms LLC, a subsidiary of ContiGroup Companies Inc. (formerly Continental Grain Company), has announced a $17 million expansion to the Laurel, MS plant. The expansion, extending over 116,000 square ft., will commence in late January with a projected completion date of May 2020.


According to Craig Ballentine, Complex Manager, the updated plant will include a high level of automation, including first processing followed by cutting, deboning, portioning, and packaging. Decisions on suppliers and equipment will be concluded in mid-January.


The expansion is intended to meet demand for the Ladybird ® range sourced from female broilers.


The expansion will create 200 new jobs, including 11 salaried supervisory positions.



Tofurky Marketing Vegetable-based Burger in Target Stores

Tofurky, a veteran in alternatives to conventional meat, has introduced a plant-based burger analog that will be marketed in 600 Target stores in the U.S.  The product is manufactured from soy protein, wheat gluten and seasonings.


By the nature of its composition, the product will be regarded as processed, not be gluten-free and the label will identify various additives. Tofurky will make Non-GMO and vegan claims. These attributes are attractive to a relatively small component of the market already supplied by Tofurky and competitors.


Shane Commentary

Pork Producers Experience Negative Publicity From CBS 60 Minutes Airing

The pork industry was the recipient of negative publicity on the influential CBS 60 Minutes program that aired on Sunday, January 5th. The segment dealt with antibiotic-resistant pathogens associated with pork. Dr. Lance Price, a microbiologist afilliated to George Washington University, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and who serves as the Director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center was a persuasive advocate for restricting administration of antibiotics to livestock. In his interview he was given the opportunity to expound at length on drug resistance and the role of antibiotics, with specific emphasis on pork production.


Dr. Liz Wagstrom, Chief Veterinarian for The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), defended the position of her industry. It is apparent from a statement subsequently released by the NPPC that her contribution was heavily edited with a wide disparity in the length of her interview with Lesley Stahl and the duration and content of her contribution to the program aired. So why are they surprised?


Whether due to editing by CBS or the current philosophy prevailing in the hog industry, Dr. Wagstrom had a difficult time responding to questions justifying the use of antibiotics. What came across as a decidedly defensive approach centered on denying access to farms to health professionals. She “justified” the exclusion citing the consideration of biosecurity. This is a frequently raised defense of doubtful merit. If  biosecurity is an important practice in the industry, visitors should be able, subject to decontamination, to enter facilities housing growing hogs. Scientists not having had contact with any livestock or swine pathogens for at least five days are no danger to a herd if they pass through a biosecurity module to disrobe, shower and don farm-provided personal protective clothing. To deny access to responsible media and public health authorities on the grounds of “biosecurity” creates the impression of obstruction and lack of transparency, inviting suspicion and confirming the worst condemnation of “factory farming” depicted on social media.


Producers of the CBS program erred in not stating that since 2017, routine administration of antibiotics for the purposes of growth promotion ceased in accordance with FDA Industry Guidance. The 60 Minutes program created the perception that this practice continues.


The program represents a number of lessons for the broiler industry. Both with respect to welfare and food safety, it is more beneficial to be proactive than reactive. Although the NCC and USPOULTRY have produced positive videos depicting welfare on farms  and have promoted the image of the industry on social media, more can be done to establish rapport with mainstream news and entertainment outlets. Spokespersons for industry associations require training in presentation and should develop the ability to respond positively to questioning by professional interviewers.


The National Pork Producers Council has experienced a ten-year conflict in the media over gestation crates, that are still being defended as a rearguard action. This is despite replacement of confinemnent by the major hog integrators in response to customer and consumer demands. The sentiments expressed by Dr. Wagstrom towards antibiotics reflect an opinion which prevailed in the broiler industry over five years ago. The dependency on antibiotics has now been dispelled by science and practice.


We will continue to face criticism from “big media”. As far as they are concerned, programs that purport to expose a problem, real or spurious and that create anxiety among consumers, generate more eyeballs than topics which are bland and non-controversial. Remember “pink slime”?



Visit our Companion Website
Dr. Simon M. Shane
Simon M. Shane
Contact     C. V.
Copyright 2019 Simon M. Shane Managed by Goosedown