Poultry Industry News

U.S.-U.K. Organic Equivalency


Negotiations between the U.S. and the U.K. on trading agricultural products established equivalency with regard to their respective organic programs.  Brexit has required additional documentation, but in principle the U.S. will be able to export USDA certified organic products to the U.K. and vice versa.



Whole Foods Market Commits to Modified Atmosphere Stun to Kill


Whole Foods Market, traditionally a leader in welfare for promotional purposes, has announced that by 2026, live-shackle slaughter will not be permitted for chicken sold in their stores. Whole Foods has committed to the "Better Chicken Commitment" that incorporates specific requirements relating to stocking density, slow-growing strains and enrichments.

Stork MAK Installation


Modified atmosphere killing has been used in the EU for over twenty-five years and is in use in the U.S. Among the major integrators, Perdue has led the field with retrofitting existing plants.  New plants with modified atmosphere killing include the Bell and Evans and Lincoln Premium Poultry/Costco operations. In addition MAK is in operation at GMP Poultry in MN. and the Smart Chicken plant in NE. acquired by Tyson Foods.


Perdue has also introduced enrichments, outside access and daylight in broiler housing.


Modified atmosphere killing eliminates the most ergonomically challenging component of processing and will facilitate adoption of mechanical hanging.



Pilgrim’s Pride Corp and Tyson Foods Reach Settlement over Collusion Lawsuit


Following the plea deal with the Federal Department of Justice (DOJ) in a criminal case alleging collusion, Pilgrim’s Pride agreed to a $110 million penalty.  Given the reality of the DOJ case, a negotiated settlement was entered into between Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and the Plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit alleging collusion in the case referred to as Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation N.D. Illinois Case No. 1:16-cv-08637.


The revelation concerning Pilgrim’s Pride was contained in a January 11th Form 8K filing with the SEC detailing the $75 million settlement accompanied by the statement, “While Pilgrim’s does not admit any liability for the claims alleged in the “broiler antitrust litigation” it believes the settlement was in the best interest of the company and its shareholders.” This settlement is distinct from a parallel civil lawsuit alleging collusion by indirect purchasers including restaurant and QSR chains.

Pilgrim's Pride indicted ex-CEO


Concurrently media reports indicate that Tyson Foods has settled with the direct-claim Plaintiffs for an undisclosed figure. In June 2019 the Company entered into a leniency agreement with the DOJ when it discovered that two employees had apparently participated in anti-competitive activities leading to subsequent criminal indictments.


Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. did not admit any liability for the claims alleged in the broiler antitrust civil litigation. It is obvious that the co-colluding party in the criminal case, Claxton Poultry Farms will be obliged to settle and not risk trial.


In September 2018 Fieldale Farms Corporation settled without admitting wrongdoing and the Company agreed to settle for  $2.3 million and to cooperate with Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs in ongoing litigation against the non-settling Defendants


An important aspect of the case is that all of the Defendants had access to cost data circulated by  AgriStats® Inc a major U.S. benchmarking system which was at the time owned and operated by Elanco Animal Health a subsidiary of Eli Lilly, a major pharmaceutical company.  Plaintiffs allege that by becoming aware of their competitors’ production costs, it would have been possible for Defendants to make decisions concerning volumes of production and pricing.  Although this contention will be examined at trial, the cost of defending such an action is immense as experienced previously by the egg industry that faced civil antitrust lawsuits. 


The situation relating to other Defendants in the civil case will depend on documentation confirming whether collusion did or did not take place. It would have been injudicious for Pilgrim’s Pride to have defended a civil case given the DOJ settlement and the criminal charges against their CEO and his successor that would have placed he company in jeopardy for punitive damages. Tyson Foods was in a similar predicament given their admissions to the DOJ, a negotiated leniency agreement and also to have had ex-employees under indictment for alleged anti-competitive crimes committed.


The Agreements are subject to court approval.




USDA-WASDE FORECAST #608 January 12th 2021



The January 12th 2021 USDA WASDE Report was updated from the December 2020 edition to reflect the 2021 season. There was no change in either corn or soybean harvest areas from the December 10th WASDE report but this may be altered by world prices and weather considerations. The corn acreage to be harvested is currently estimated at 82.5 million acres and soybeans will be harvested from 82.3 million acres.


The January 2021 WASDE estimate of corn yield was lowered 3.8 percent to 172.0 bushels per acre, (175.8 bushels per acre in 2020). The estimate of soybean yield was reduced 1.0 percent to 50.2 bushels per acre. (50.7 bushels per acre in 2020)


The January 2021 USDA projection for the ending stock of corn was reduced by 8.5 percent to 1,552 million bushels. Due to exports the ending stock for soybeans was reduced by 20.0 percent to 140 million bushels.


Projections for ending stocks of both corn and soybeans have influenced recent CME price quotations concurrently with increased exports to comply with the Phase-One trade agreement with China. The January 2021 WASDE projected the corn price to be $4.20 per bushel and soybeans at 1,115 cents per bushel.


It is accepted that projections are based on the assumption that China will not completely honor commitments that were disrupted during the first quarter of 2020 by COVID-19. China booked substantial orders for corn and soybeans to be delivered through August for the 2019-2020 market year in addition to large quantities booked from September onwards for the 2020-2021 market year. Reports on volumes of commodities exports to China will be included in upcoming editions of CHICK-NEWS and in subsequent mailings as data becomes available.



The corn harvest for 2021 documented in the January 2021 WASDE Report #608 is 14,183 million bushels consistent with actual data. The projected 2021 harvest can be compared to 14,507 million bushels in 2020 and is 6.4 percent lower than the previous 2016 record harvest of 15,148 million bushels. The “Feed and Residual” category was lowered 1.0 percent to 5,650 million bushels. The “Ethanol and Byproducts” category was lowered 1.9 percent to 4,950 million bushels based on reduced domestic demand for E-10 due to COVID-19 restrictions and competition in the export markets. Corn exports were reduced 3.8 percent to 2,550 million bushels in the face of intense competition from Brazil and Argentine and high world domestic coarse grain production relative to demand. Ending stocks were reduced 8.8 percent 1,552 million bushels.


USDA Grain Stocks Report


The USDA quarterly Grain Stocks Report released on January 12th documents storage of commodities produced in the U.S. classified according to on-site and remote facilities including elevators and commercial installations. Quantities of corn and soybeans, the two major crops relevant to poultry production were:-


“Corn stored in all positions on December 1st 2020 totaled 11.3 billion bushels, down slightly from December 1st 2019. Of the total stocks, 7.05 billion bushels are stored on farms, down 1 percent from a year earlier. Off-farm stocks, at 4.28 billion bushels, are up 1 percent from a year ago. Indicated disappearance for September through November 2020 is 4.78 billion bushels, compared with 4.51 billion bushels during the same period last year”.


“Soybeans stored in all positions on December 1st 2020 totaled 2.93 billion bushels, down 10 percent from December 1st 2019. Soybean stocks stored on farms totaled 1.31 billion bushels, down 14 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 1.62 billion bushels, are down 6 percent from last December. Indicated disappearance for September through November 2020 totaled 1.73 billion bushels, up 43 percent from the same period a year earlier.


Global Chicken Production


According to the USDA Livestock and Poultry Report issued January 12th 2021 chicken production worldwide will decline by approximately 1 percent. The Executive Summary states:-

  • “Global chicken meat production for 2021 is revised 1 percent lower to 101.8 million tons driven by sharp declines in the EU and China. The EU is battling widespread highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks across several Member States, weaker domestic demand, and higher grain prices. China chicken meat demand continues to grow but at a slower rate as the swine herd recovers and pork production rebounds”.
  • “Global chicken meat exports for 2021 are down nearly 1 percent to 12.1 million tons as lower EU, Thailand, and Brazil exports are offset by gains in the United States. The outlook for China imports remains unchanged”.


CHICK-NEWS will post the USDA projection for U.S. 2020 production and consumption of poultry meat and the 2021 forecast mid-month when data is released.


Ahold Delhaize to Test UV-Disinfecting Robots


Ahold Delhaize will trial Ava Robotics units to disinfect surfaces and air applying UV technology. The robots are under evaluation at two stores located in North Carolina and New York respectively before a decision is made for more general deployment.


Chris Lewis, Executive Vice President of Supply Chain for Ahold Delhaize USA, quoted in Supermarket News stated, "in addition to other robust health and safety measures the robots have enabled us to further enhance disinfection procedures.  We were pleased to be the first in the industry to support the testing of this technology". 


Ahold-Delhaize constantly testing robots for store operation


Iraq Bans Chicken Imports


According to a Monday January 11th release by USAPEEC, the Ministry of Agriculture for Iraq has placed a ban on all chicken imports.  The previously mooted action is a blatant protectionist measure since the Nation is not self-sufficient in requirements. USAPEEC has requested the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and the U.S. Department of State to extend the grace period for product that has been shipped. 


Over the period January through November 2020 Iraq purchased 57,233 tons of chicken parts, presumably leg quarters and low-value product, amounting to $37.4 million.  Volume and value were respectively eight percent and 20 percent lower than the corresponding period in 2019.  Iraq was ranked 15th among importers over the first eleven months of 2020 representing 1.7 percent of volume and 1.2 percent of value with an average unit price of $653 per metric ton, compared to the average of $995 per metric ton.


CHS Inc Reports Decreased Sales and Income


CHS Inc, the largest U.S. agribusiness cooperative, reported a 60.8 percent decline in net earnings for the first quarter of FY 2021 ending November 30th 2020.  For the period, revenue declined 12.6 percent to $8.7 billion and net income attained $69.7 million. 


The CHS Energy Segment experienced low crack-spreads in refineries and lower propane demand.  The CHS Agricultural Segment benefited from increased trade in commodities and favorable weather conditions during the fall harvest.


Jay Debertin, president and CEO of CHS Inc, noted “A good growing season led to a good harvest and we saw commodity price rallies from spring and summer extend into fall.”  He added, “Improved trade opportunities with China helped drive improvements in the global grain business and our animal nutrition volume saw growth.”


NPC International Assets Acquired by Flynn Group and Wendy’s


Following mediation, the Flynn Restaurant Group LLC and Wendy’s International LLC have agreed on the disposition of the assets of NPC International Inc. that filed for bankruptcy protection.  Flynn will acquire 925 Pizza Hut restaurants and approximately 200 Wendy’s locations for $553 million. Wendy’s International will purchase the remaining eponymous locations for $248 million.


The demise of NPC has been attributed to injudicious acquisition of debt approaching $1 billion resulting in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in July. 


The sale of NPC assets was delayed as Wendy’s opposed the takeover of their restaurants by Flynn’s since there was a conflict with their ownership of Arby’s, Taco Bell, and Panera Bread franchises in 33 states.


CHICK-NEWS Welcomes QC Supply as Sponsor


QC Supply headquartered in Schuyler, NE. has emerged as a single-source for the poultry industry west of the Rockies.  The company was founded in 1982 by Lonnie Kitt, operating out of a garage in his hometown.  QC Supply has now grown to a network of 27 locations in 14 states.


Serving as a single source solution QC Supply connects customers with the equipment they need to maintain efficient production.  The Company mission to “ensure the sustainability and livelihood of the American Family Farmer” keeps the Company focused on the markets they serve. Over 40 years of operation, QC Supply has earned the goodwill and confidence of the farming community through honesty, accountability, teamwork and service.  QC Supply represents the Nation’s most important manufacturers including nine sponsors of this newsletter.


A seamless-solutions approach is applied in the QC business model linking farmers, integrators and manufacturers. Equipment categories supplied and installed by QC Supply include feeding and extending from bin to beak; watering installations, heating and ventilation components including fans, louvers, control systems; biosecurity supplies and building components including lighting, plumbing, and curtains.  QC Supply stocks a range of items to promote health of flocks including rodent control, medicators, and syringes. The Company owns CASCO Products, that manufactures several efficacious cleaning and disinfecting products for livestock and poultry.


In response to expansion in the poultry industry, QC Supply developed a turnkey solution capable of addressing projects ranging in size from $50,000 to more than $300 million with general contracting services in 14 states. QC Supply offers planning and design, construction and schedule management. The Company participates in project startup and offers services and support to achieve benefits from advanced installations. QC Supply served as the general contractor for the Tyson expansion at the Union City broiler complex.


For additional information on the range of products and services, access the QC Supply website on the right side of the welcome page or phone

1-(800) 433 6340.


KFC Upgrades Chicken Sandwich


Belatedly following the example of McDonald's Corporation, Kentucky Fried Chicken has announced a "KFC Chicken Sandwich".  The product will comprise a crispy chicken filet placed on a brioche bun with a pickle and a choice of spicy or classic mayonnaise (again sounding familiar).  The sandwich was rolled out in nine U.S. cities and will be available in as many as 4,000 stores nationwide by March.  The sandwich will cost $3.99 or $6.99 as a combo meal. The new KFC chicken sandwich will replace the ho-hum Crispy Colonel that could not compete with products offered by Chick-fil-A® and upstart Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen.



An increase in demand for chicken sandwiches will benefit the industry, but with increasing demand, prices of raw product will rise, and margins will be shaved.


The illustrations of the new sandwich released by KFC may engender consumer disappointment or even lawsuits since the quantity of chicken depicted will obviously not be reflected in the product as served.


A gentle hint to the QSR industry would be to start working on a sandwich incorporating dark meat.  This will require ingenuity but would provide more beneficial margins and a fillip to the industry.  Since the QSRs appear to be reticent to innovate, perhaps a major integrator could fill the gap and devise a suitable product.


USPOULTRY Recognizes Meyhen


The daily U.S. Poultry Wire on January 8th recognized Meyhen International, distributors for Duram rubber defeathering fingers.  Meyhen colored fingers incorporate a new compound used to fabricate fingers of specified hardness.


Meyhen distributes a range of fingers designed for efficiency and durability:-


  • The Gina finger is compatible with Stork and Meyn pickers featuring a head that provides for a stable hold in disks. 
  • The Gaia finger is designed for heavy broilers and light turkeys. 
  • The Betti flat finger is suitable for Patrini pickers and turkey hock-pickers. 
  • The Janet picking finger was recently introduced and fits Stork and Meyn pickers. 

Meyhen International supplies a pneumatic finger puller to replace used fingers.

For additional information access the company website <www.meyhenfingers.com>.


Chore-Time Appoints Engineering Manager


Michael Orgill has been promoted to the position of Engineering Manager for Chore-Time.  Previously he was the Chore-Time Product Engineer with specific responsibility for poultry watering products.  Michael earned a baccalaureate degree in mechanical engineering from Brigham Young University ID. and a master’s degree from Purdue University, IN.


Strikes at Argentine Port and Soybean Crushing Plants Settled--For now.


On December 29th 2020 an agreement was reached between workers at soybean crushing plants and grain inspectors at the port of Rosario.  The 20-day strike was estimated to cost $100 million per day and was an added blow to the faltering Argentine economy.  Workers demanded increased wages to offset the effect of inflation resulting from the injudicious management by the socialist government of the Argentine. 


The strike was partly responsible for the surge in prices of soybeans and soybean meal by affecting the balance between supply and demand.  It is hoped that the resolution of the strike will lead to a reduction in the price of soybean meal that has diminished margins of turkey and broiler producers in the U.S.


USDA has reduced the projection of soybean production by Argentine for the 2020-2021 market year by 50 million metric tons due to drought.  Subsoil moisture has declined sharply and projected yields will depend on timely rainfall.  According to USDA-FAS Gain Report AR2021-001 dated December 30th farmers are holding back supplies of soybeans based on peso dominated financing and reduced export tax levels.  In an inflationary economy, it pays farmers to sit tight and hold on to an asset of escalating value rather than convert their crops to domestic currency.  For the local market year beginning April 2020, USDA projects a total supply of 70.09 million metric tons of which 10 percent will be exported and 58 percent will be crushed.  USDA anticipates a yield of 43.3 bushels per acre from the current crop c ompared to ann average of 50.7 for the U.S.


Impossible Foods Cuts Prices to Food Service Segment


Impossible Foods announced a 15 percent cut in price to food service distributors in the U.S.  This is the second reduction in twelve months and represents an attempt to gain market share from competitor Beyond Meat and to compete directly with ground beef.  Notwithstanding the reduction, Impossible Foods will still be selling product at a price higher than the real food item it intends to replace


Impossible Foods has increased production and presumably the new scale of operation has reduced cost allowing the company to gaining market share.


U.S. Meat Exports


U.S. Broiler and Turkey Exports for January-November 2020.


Total exports of broiler parts in January-November 2020 attained 3,279,259 metric tons, 5.0 percent more than in January-November 2019 (3,121,870 metric tons). Total value of exports increased by 2.8 percent to $3,263 million ($3,173 million Jan.-November 2019).


Unit price is constrained by the fact that leg quarters comprise over 96 percent of exports except feet. Leg quarters represent a relatively 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 has boosted U.S. exports to Asia over the intermediate-term. All animal protein will rise in price as pork supply is restricted or reversed as supply is restored. The effect of increased demand from Viet Nam is apparent but disruption in ports and transport infrastructure due to the COVID-19 outbreak impacted exports to China during January and February.


During January-November 2020 the National Chicken Council (NCC), citing USDA-FAS data, documented exports of 3,323,194 metric tons of chicken parts and other forms (whole and prepared) valued at $3,344 million with a weighted average unit value of $1,006 per metric ton, 2.5 percent lower in unit value than in January-November 2019 ($1,032 per metric ton).


The NCC breakdown of chicken exports during January-November 2020 by proportion and unit price for each broiler category compared with January-November 2019 (with the unit price in parentheses) comprised:-

  • Chicken parts 6%; Unit value $959 per metric ton ($972)
  • Prepared chicken 1%; Unit value $3,525 per metric ton ($3,592)
  • Whole chicken 3%; Unit value $1,008 per metric ton ($1,044) 


Direct comparisons between 2019 and 2020 are confounded by the USDA combining export quantities of feet with chicken meat from April onwards.


The following table prepared from USDA data circulated by the USAPEEC, compares values for poultry meat exports for January-November 2019 with the corresponding months in 2020:-


Weekly Commodity Report




  • The financial and economic uncertainties of transition to a Biden-Harris Administration are diminishing but the impact of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate. The commodity market this past week was influenced by exports.


  • The direction of agricultural and trade policy to be implemented in 2021 will emerge following the confirmation of Tom Vilsack as USDA Secretary and Michael Regan as the Administrator of the EPA together with other Cabinet appointments and their subordinates relevant to agriculture.  Following the result of the January 5th Georgia runoff elections for the Senate, the nominees by President-elect Biden will likely be approved.


  • U.S producers are now receiving and conversely livestock producers are paying close to $5.00 per bushel for corn and $13.80 per bushel for soybeans plus transport and basis.


  • Corn and soybeans were respectively 10.4 percent and 4.9 percent above the previous week representing the highest levels in three years. Soybean meal rose by 2.5 percent, reflecting the rise in the price of soybeans. Factors influencing prices this past week included export orders, projected ending stocks, and anticipation of the January 12th WASDE Report.


  • According to the USDA FAS Export Report for the week ending December 31st 2020 export orders for corn amounted to 748,900 metric tons (29.7 million bushels) with 1.03 million metric tons (40.5 million bushels) actually shipped. Over the past week export orders for soybeans attained 37,000 metric tons (1.4 million bushels) with 1.86 metric tons (68.2 million bushels) actually shipped.


The following quotations for delivery in the months as indicated were posted by the CME at 14H30 on January 8th 2021 compared with values posted at close of trading on December 31st 2020  (in parentheses) reflecting specified months in 2021 for delivery.





Corn (cents per bushel)

 March 497      (450)      

May    498

Soybeans (cents per bushel)

 Jan.   1,378  (1,314)

March  1,377  (1310)

Soybean meal ($ per ton)

 Jan.     445       (434)

March     440     (429)


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



Corn:  March quotation up 47 cents per bushel (+10.4%)

Soybeans: Jan.  quotation up 64 cents per bushel  (+4.9%

Soybean Meal: Jan. quotation up $11 per ton (+2.5%)


  • 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


This week the changes in the prices of corn and soybean meal would raise nest-run production cost for eggs by 2.6 cents per dozen and for broilers 1.5 cents per live pound. Over the past two weeks escalation in the price of major ingredient have added 4.9 cents per dozen and 2.8 cents per liveweight lb.


According to the December 10th WASDE, corn harvested in calendar 2020 will attain 14,507 million bushels with ending stocks projected at 1,702 million bushels. Final values will be modified by export volume and domestic use and the January 12th WASDE. Compared with December 31st., at 14H30 the CME quotation for corn on January 8th was up 47 cents per bushel for March delivery to 497 cents.


The social restrictions imposed in the U.S. as a result of COVID-19 will reduce ethanol demand by 1.5 billion gallons or 10 percent of projected 2020 requirement accepting a nominal ten percent addition to gasoline. A significant proportion of the U.S. ethanol fermentation capacity is off-line or operating at lower than capacity at present and the outlook for increased demand is questionable. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency the industry produced on average 935,000 barrels per day for the week ending December 31st. Ethanol stocks stood at 23.3 million barrels on January 1st 2021. Ethanol was priced at $1.34 per gallon on January 8th unchanged from December 31st and compared with a five-year low of $0.92 per gallon on March 26th. Concurrently gasoline at $1.50 per gallon (quoted, New York Harbor) is 8 cents per gallon higher than ethanol but has a 63 percent higher BTU rating.  


With more plants producing ethanol in the 4th quarter, DDGS is now available but at a higher price than in the third quarter. Eastern Corn-belt product was priced at $208 per ton on January 6th 2021,  $4 per ton higher than the previous week and $53 per ton more expensive than January 7th 2019.


 Soybeans are the beneficiary of demand by China with price rising to 1,378 cents per bushel on January 8th for current month delivery. The USDA documented a 2020 crop of 4,170 million bushels. Ending stocks according to the December 10th WASDE projection will attain 175 million bushels, down from the November projection of 190 million bushels.


On January 6th 2021 Meat and Bone meal quoted Central U.S. attained $365 per ton, up $15 per ton from the previous week and up $145 per ton from January 7th 2020.


On January 8th the BRL exchange with the CNY was 0.83, (down CNY 0.04 from the previous week). The conversion of the US$ to the CNY was set at 6.48 on January 8th, up CNY 0.05            from the previous week.


For consecutive calendar years 2017 through 2019 the U.S. supplied 34.4 percent of soybean requirements for China amounting to 95.5 million metric tons. This was followed by a decline to 16.9 percent of 88.5 million metric tons in 2018 and 16.6 percent of 88.0 million metric tons in 2019. The USDA anticipates that soybean imports by China will amount to 95 million metric tons during the 2020-2021 market year.


For the 2019/2020 market year China imported 2.1 million metric tons of corn from the U.S., 4.8 percent of total exports of 43.3 million tons, but 12 percent less than in the 2018/2019 market year. The U.S. Grains Council documented sales of U.S. corn to China through December 31st 2020 in the 2020/2021 year amounting to 11.7 million metric tons (460 million bushels) with 65 percent yet to be shipped.


For the 2019/2020 market year China imported 16.3 million metric tons of soybeans from the U.S., 36.2 percent of total exports of 44.9 million metric tons, but 3.9 percent less than in the 2018/2019 market year.





Subscribers are referred to the December 10th WASDE #607 under the STATISTICS TAB. The January WASDE will be reviewed in the next Edition


Approximately $16 billion was disbursed under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) in early 2020. An additional $14 Billion relief package was announced by the Administration on September 18th with all of the allotment having been distributed.


Broiler Week


Weekly Broiler Production and Prices, January 8th 2020.


Chick Placements.

The Broiler Hatchery Report released on January 6th 2021 confirmed that a total of 236.3 million eggs were set during the week ending January 2nd 2021, almost the same as the corresponding week of the previous year and 0.4 percent (1.0 million eggs) more than the previous week.


A total of 178.6 million day-old chicks were placed among the 19 major broiler-producing states during the week ending January 2nd 2021. Total chick placements for the U.S. amounted to 188.2 million, one percent less than in the corresponding week in 2020 and 2.8 percent (5.1 million chicks) more than the previous week. Claimed average hatchability was 81.5 percent for eggs set three weeks earlier, (81.7 percent for the previous week). Cumulative placements for the period January 4th 2020 through January 2nd 2021 amounted to 9.79 billion chicks, one percent lower than the corresponding period in 2020.


Broiler Production

According to the January 8th 2021 USDA Broiler Market News Report (Vol. 68: No. 01 released January 8th 2021) for the processing week ending January 2nd 2021, 137.8 million broilers were processed during the past week (previous short week 123.0 million) at an average live weight of 6.40 lbs. (6.19 lbs. last week) and a nominal yield of 76 percent. The number of broilers processed was 5.9 percent less than the corresponding processing week in 2020. Processed (RTC) broiler production for the week was 670.5 million lbs. (304,754 metric tons), (578.6 million lbs. last week), 5.3 percent less than the corresponding processing week in 2019. In 2020 Processed (RTC) production attained 40,811 million lbs. (18,550,251 metric tons), 0.5 percent more than YTD 2019.


Broiler Prices

The USDA National Composite Weighted Wholesale price on January 8th 2021 was up 1.3 cent per lb. from the previous week to 81.8 cents per lb., compared to 91.5 cents per lb. during the corresponding week of 2020; 82.5 cents per lb. for December 2020 and 90.0 cents per lb. for the three-year average. The industry still is impacted by the retraction in the food service segment following imposition of COVID-19 restrictions.


The USDA Southern States (SS) benchmark prices in cents per lb. (rounded to nearest cent) as documented in the Broiler Market News Reports January 8th 2021 are tabulated with a comparison with the previous week:-



Farmers Received $23.5 Billion Under CFAP


In a recent press release, the USDA quantified payments to farmers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) initiated in May 2020.  Approximately $10.5 billion was assigned under CFAP 1 and $13.0 billion under CFAP 2.  Approximately 1.4 million applications were approved under the two consecutive CFAP disbursements.


Under the 2020 Coronavirus Relief Bill, an additional $13 billion will be made available to assist agriculture with $5 billion to row-crop farmers and additional amounts to livestock producers.


In addition to CFAP, farmers received $23 million over 2018 and 2019 to compensate for losses sustained as a result of market disruption stemming from the trade war with China.


Aleph Farms Establishes MoU with Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan


According to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Aleph Farms of Rehovot, Israel will establish a strategic alliance with the Food Group of Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan to provide technology leading to cultivation of whole-muscle product. 


Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms, stated “The MoU with Mitsubishi Corporation marks an important milestone for us as we methodically build the foundations of our global go-to-market activities with selective partners.”


Aleph Farms has established relationships with Cargill and the Migros Supermarket Group in Switzerland and is part of the “BioFarm Two Fork Strategy”.


Aleph Farms and Mitsubishi Corporation are members of the Cellular Agricultural Study Group functioning under the Japanese Center for Rural-Making Strategy.  The intent with the consortium is to promote products and technologies to enhance competitiveness of Japan and conform to government goals of carbon neutrality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Mountaire Farms Plant Employees Reject Union Membership


Approximately 1,000 Mountaire Farms employees, located at the Selbyville, DE. plant, have advised the company that they no longer wish to be represented by Local 355 of the Teamsters Union.  Accordingly, the Company has advised the Union that they have withdrawn recognition and will stop collecting union dues from paychecks.


During 2020 a ballot to decertify the United Food and Commercial Union Local 27 was deferred following a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board.  The issue arose mid-year when the NLRB directed that ballots cast by workers should be sealed until the Board reviewed legal precedents protecting unions from being ousted while collective bargaining was in progress.  The petitioner for the UFCW case was assisted by the National Right to Work Foundation that represents workers in decertification cases.


Mountaire inherited union representation at the Selbyville plant following acquisition of the facility in 1977.  Conflict between the union and Mountaire Farms intensified at the beginning of the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak.





Publix to Initiate COVID Vaccination


Pharmacies within Publix Supermarkets in collaboration with the Florida Department of Health have commenced administering COVID-19 vaccines in twenty-two stores in three counties in Florida.  Publix will expand the Pilot Program to six other states subject to a successful rollout.


Current information indicated that as of January 7th, 17 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been distributed but only five million had actually been administered.



The pilot program motivated by Governor Ron DeSantis commenced during the second week of January 2021 and appears to be a desperation move based on lack of planning. The State of Florida is offering COVID -19 vaccines to all residents over 65 years of age. Currently Seniors are camping out overnight in their cars and on sidewalks to receive their first dose of vaccine since there are insufficient central locations to process recipients at a rate commensurate with the urgency required.   Unless at least 70 percent of the U.S. population can be immunized, by early- summer restoration of our economy and way of life will not be achieved. 


Photo ops are no substitute for protection.


Albertsons Encountering COVID-Related Employee Protests in DCs.


Protests were staged at distribution centers operated by Albertsons in Tolleson, AZ and Roanoke, TX.  At issue is the complaint that drivers and warehouse workers are not adequately protected against COVID-19.  Workers at both centers are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).


Management of Albertsons claim that they are following CDC guidelines and have pledged to "bargain in good faith with the goal of working towards a resolution that benefits our associates and our company".  Albertsons has introduced measures to prevent infection in stores including provision of PPE, cleaning and sanitation and extending sick leave benefits.  Albertsons has worked with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) to classify grocery workers as emergency responders. 


It appears that drivers and warehouse workers are concerned that same degree of protection has not been extended. Alternatively the IBT, a more militant union than UFCW is bargaining for an extension of benefits.


China Suspends Imports from Pork Plant in Brazil


The Agriculture Ministry of Brazil confirmed that on December 28th, the General Administration for Customs suspended imports of pork from Aurora Alimentos plant as a result of alleged outbreaks of COVID-19.


In recent weeks, China has imposed bans on beef and pork plants in the U.S. and Brazil and has claimed that the infection can be transmitted on both product and packaging, a contention considered as “unlikely” by the World Health Organization.


Role of Biosecurity in Preventing ASF in Vietnam


A team from Kansas State University evaluated biosecurity procedures in Vietnam that reported over 9,000 outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) through early November 2019.  The purpose of the study* was to ascertain possible recovery of ASF virus from feed ingredients, mixed feed, the feedmill environment and delivery vehicles.  A secondary component to the study was to determine the frequency of isolation of ASF virus appliying PCR on samples from vehicles used to transport hogs.


Conclusions from the study were:

  • Feed ingredients were not contaminated with ASF virus.
  • Feed was not contaminated, although it was pelleted and Kemin Sal-Curb (™) was added as a virucidal agent.
  • ASF virus was not generally recovered from environmental swabs within feed plants. A recovery rate of 0.5 percent was obtained.  The positive sample was obtained from an area where truck drivers congregated.  One percent of the samples from the cabs of feed delivery vehicles yielded ASF but a lower proportion from the exterior of feed delivery trailers.
  • Company-owned hog transport vehicles yielded 10 percent positives from cabs, although no positives were obtained from the exterior surface or tires of trucks that had been decontaminated.
  • In contrast, 14 percent of samples were positive from vehicles operated by owners of hogs delivering animals to a transit center from small farms.  All positive samples were obtained from surfaces in vehicle cabs.


The results obtained by the investigators suggest that appropriate mill biosecurity will eliminate feed manufacture as a source of ASF virus.  Obviously transport of live hogs is associated with a higher risk of transmission.


The results of the investigation in Vietnam could be applied to the U.S. in devising programs to prevent introduction and dissemination of avian influenza (AI).  With respect to the egg-production industry, mash feed that is fed has not been subjected to a heat treatment.  Inclusion of formaldehyde additives will effectively suppress non spore-forming bacterial pathogens and many viruses, but at the expense of potency of some enzyme additives.  Feed mills located within production complexes should not present a problem if self-contained. 


Central feed mills supplying contract turkey and broiler parent and growout farms represent a risk of disseminating AIIntroduction of avian influenza into any single farm may conceivably be disseminated within the complex unless appropriate biosecurity procedures are followed. 

Given the results of the study in Vietnam on ASF it would appear that vehicle delivery drivers must follow appropriate biosecurity procedures to prevent contamination of cabs that are obviously difficult to render non-infectious.  Disposable outer clothing and footwear, the use of washable floor mats, and common sense precautions should reduce the likelihood of transmitting infection from an affected farm through a complex.


*Gebhardt, J.T. et al, Lessons Learned from Preliminary Monitoring for African Swine Fever Virus in a Region of Ongoing Transmission. JAVMA.258:35-38 (2021).


McDonald's Introduces Three New Chicken Sandwiches


Belatedly, McDonald's recognized the success of competitors’ chicken sandwiches served by segment leader Chick-fil-A and newcomer Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen.  Both companies have gained share of the QSR market by serving high-quality chicken sandwiches.


In 2019, McDonald's franchisees agitated for an improved chicken sandwich.  The McDonald's behemoth labored mightily and has now come up with effectively what their major competition serves.  The chicken sandwich range will include the Crispy Chicken Sandwich topped with a pickle and served on a potato roll (sound familiar?); the Spicy Chicken Sandwich with a pepper sauce and the Deluxe Chicken Sandwich accompanied by lettuce, tomato and mayo.


Why did it take so long?  All they had to do was copy their competition.  It should not have required much reverse engineering to determine how a Chick-fil-A sandwich was prepared given the notorious You-Tube posting. Sourcing potato rolls, pickles and chicken breasts filets should not have been difficult.


Based on history, McDonald's is highly effective at reducing menu items, but has difficulty conceptualizing winners.  Based on their past performance it could be said that innovation at McDonald's is very much like breeding elephants.  It all takes place at a very high level, is accompanied by groaning and heaving and it takes many months to see any result.


The new chicken sandwich will be good for the franchisees and competition among QSR's is ultimately good for the chicken industry.


Turkey Week


Weekly Turkey Production and Prices January 8th 2020


Poult Production and Placement:

The December 16th edition of the USDA Turkey Hatchery Report, issued monthly, documented 26.9 million eggs in incubators on December 1st 2020 (26.7 million eggs on November 1st 2020) and up 1.7 percent (0.5 million eggs) from December 1st 2019.


A total of 22.2 million poults were hatched during November 2020 (23.3 million in October 2020), representing a decrease of 0.6 percent (0.1 million poults) from November 2019.


A total of 20.0 million poults were placed on farms in the U.S. in November 2020, (20.1 million in October 2020), 0.9 percent less than in November 2019. This suggests disposal of 1.1 million poults during the month (3.2 million in October 2020). Assuming all tom poults were placed, up to 9.9 percent of November-hatched hen poults or 5.0 percent of all November-hatched poults may not have been reared. This is an unsubstantiated estimate in a fluctuating demand for processed toms and hens in a COVID-affected year and with the approach of Christmas. See relative numbers of hen and tom poults processed under Production Data below.


For the twelve-month period December 2019 through November 2020 inclusive, 275.4 million poults were hatched and 251.7 million were placed. This suggests disposal of 23.7 million poults. Assuming all tom poults were placed, (representing a broad assumption as above), 17.2 percent of hen poults or 8.6 percent of all poults hatched during the period were not placed.


To be updated in the mid-January 2021 edition following release of monthly data


Turkey Production:

The January 8th 2021 edition of the USDA Turkey Market News Report (Vol. 68: No. 01) released January 8th confirmed the following provisional data for turkeys slaughtered under Federal inspection:-



Judge Rules for Both Foster Farms and United Farm Workers over COVID


Judge Brian L. McCabe ruled on a lawsuit filed by the United Farm Workers Union concerning precautions to prevent infection with COVID-19 in the Foster Farms, Livingston, CA. plant.  The order mandates that Foster Farms should follow the August 5th 2020 directive from the Merced County Health Officer with respect to masking, social distancing, hygiene measures and health screening.  The order was issued effective December 28th 2020. 


Judge McCabe denied an order relating to enforcement of conditions demanded by the Union.  This was based on the fact that the company is in compliance with required protective measures and that the current infection rate for workers in the facility is lower than the incidence rate for Merced County.  Since September 2020, the plant has recorded a one percent positive level of those sampled compared with 13 percent for the County.  It is noted that a large number of field agricultural workers are infected in Merced and adjoining counties, inflating both the incidence rate and the proportion of positive assays.


The measures taken by Foster Farms have obviously reduced the risk of infection within the Livingston Plant.  A subsequent hearing has been scheduled for January 29th, 2021 to provide Foster Farms with an opportunity to respond to the United Farm Workers request for an injunction.



China Meat Association Urging Decontamination of Packaging for Meat Products


Following the alleged isolation of SARS-CoV-2 , the virus responsible for COVID-19 on outer packaging, authorities in China have imposed a rigorous testing program to confirm freedom from infection.  As yet, authorities have released only fragmentary information on sampling procedures and rates of recovery although there have been reports of isolation of virus and claims of infection in cold-store workers.  Requirements imposed by customs authorities and regional jurisdictions have created delays in releasing consignments of meat imported into China and losses have been sustained by traders.

Potential for contamination?


A spokesperson for the China Meat Association has called on exporters in nations with high levels of COVID-19 in plants and communities to decontaminate packaging material to “ensure the safety of imported cold-chain food and boost consumer confidence in imported refrigerated products”.


Despite the claim by China that the virus can be detected on packaging and meat, presumably applying PCR, there is no evidence that frozen meat shipped from the U.S, the E.U., or Brazil could be infectious.  This opinion is supported by the World Health Organization that assigned a low risk of transmission on frozen food.


ABPA Projects 2020 Chicken Production for Brazil


The ABPA (Associação Brasileira de Proteína Animal), representing meat producers, released data on 2020 production.  Total chicken produced will amount to 13.8 million metric tons (30.4 billion lbs.), 4.5 percent higher than in 2019.  Of this total 30.6 percent will be exported, amounting to 4.23 million metric tons (9.3 billion lbs.).  Domestic consumption of 9.57 million metric tons represents a per capita uptake of 106 lb., based on a population of 190 million.


Resolution of Argentine Soybean Plant and Port Strikes Imminent?


Soybean meal production and exports have been at a standstill since workers at soybean crushing plants and at terminals in the Rosario export region commenced a strike on December 9th,


The organization representing soybean crushers has conceded both on wages and COVID-bonuses.  The Chamber offered to increase salaries by 35 percent over 2020 levels and provide each worker with a bonus of $840 to compensate for the risk of contracting COVID. 


There has been no response from organizers of either of the unions representing workers at crushing plants or grain inspectors.  Currently, more than 100 vessels are idled on the Parana River impacting the major grain traders, including Cargill, Bunge, Dreyfus, and Cofco.  The strike has resulted in a marked escalation in the price of soybeans and soybean meal, affecting domestic U.S. producers.  It is hoped that normal operations in Argentina will soon be restored, moderating commodity prices.


California Occupational Safety and Health Agency Fines Meat Processors


Fines totaling $153,000 were imposed on five meat plants in California by the State Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal OSHA).  Fines ranged from $58,000 for Smithfield Foods’ Farmer John plant down to $12,000 for California Farms Meat Company.


Violations included failure to train employees, supply face coverings and deficiencies in communication with workers concerning risks of COVID-19 exposure.  Three staffing agencies were also fined for failure to provide training and for not reporting COVID infections.


In September Cal/OSHA fined Overhill Farms $200,000 for failure to implement protective measures or to investigate outbreaks of COVID-19.


CHICK-NEWS has previously commented on the difference in approach between Cal OSHA and the Federal Agency with regard to investigations and fines for non-compliance with regulations and advisories.


U.S. Dollar Drops Against International Currencies Due to COVID


The economic consequence of COVID-19 has in large measure resulted in a 12 percent decline in the value of the U.S. dollar against a basket of international currencies.


This situation will help exporters of commodities and meat products including chicken and turkey.  On the debit side, purchases of imported equipment and feed additives will experience inflation as a result of a weakened dollar.


RCEP Agreement Will Not Influence U.S.-China Trade


On November 15th, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) was signed, joining the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.  The RCEP will take effect in mid-2021. According to USDA GAIN report CH2020-0168 released on December 23rd 2020, the agreement should have minimal affect on agricultural trade between the U.S. and China.


The RCEP agreement is noteworthy in that it is the first pact between Japan and China since before WWII.  The RCEP initiates a phased reduction in tariffs on Chinese chicken, fish and other agricultural products currently imposed by Japan, although this nation has reserved the right to exclude specified critical commodities from the tariff-reduction schedule.  These include rice, wheat, sugar, beef and pork.  USDA-FAS estimates that in 2019 Japan received 13 percent of total agricultural imports from China.


Members of the RCEP do not compete directly with U.S. for trade with China. Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam have existing bilateral free-trade agreements with China.



Upgrades to Inland Waterways


The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 was including in the year-end Appropriations Bill.  Approximately $1 billion will be made available over the next ten years to improve locks and to carryout dredging projects to improve barge traffic.


A significant provision of the legislation is establishing a cost-share formula by which 65 percent of taxpayer revenue and 35 percent from a tax on barge diesel fuel will contribute to a Waterway Trust Fund.  This will provide $100 million for renovation of installations on the upper Mississippi and Illinois waterways. A functional transport infrastructure from the corn belt to the Gulf is critical for the transport of ingredients for chicken production and for export.



HPAI in German Goose Farm


According to a report by the Chief Veterinary Officer for the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Germany, an outbreak of H5N8 strain avian influenza was diagnosed in a flock of 9,000 parent-level geese.  The farm was located near Grimma in Saxony and resulted in depletion with appropriate surveillance of surrounding farms.


According to the EU, Germany has recorded highly pathogenic avian influenza in twelve states with H5N8 predominating. Isolations of H5N5 and H5N3 have been made from free-living birds.  The EU has documented H5N8 infections in commercial poultry and free-living birds from twelve member nations.


California Law to Enforce Agreements Between Restaurants and Delivery Companies


Effective January 1st 2010, delivery companies must have a signed agreement with restaurants and food merchants for them to appear on their aps.  DoorDash claims that 95 percent of its orders came from partnered merchants during the first three quarters of 2020.  UberEats claims 70 percent compliance during the third quarter.  PostMates may be at a disadvantage since they have only 16 percent of their 700,000 merchants signed to agreements, but the law may only require removal of 40,000 unpartnered merchants from their platform.


Generally legal and socioeconomic innovations emerging in California spread westwards and this will creating problems for delivery companies. This will be an additional challenge over and above the predicted decline following restoration of restaurant dining in a post-covid era.


2020 USPOULTRY Annual Report


An Annual Report combining activities of USPOULTRY and the USPOULTRY Foundation was distributed on December 23rd.  The Association was active in research; human resources, safety and health; environmental management; food safety and production; education; information technology and communications.  


Achievements under the activity categories included:-
•    Research funding of over $1 million with $3 million currently committed. 
•    Providing guidance on ergonomics and incident investigation. 
•    Developing a training module on harassment discrimination and retaliation. 
•    Establishing a working poultry alliance with OSHA. 
•    Contributing to the amended WOTUS Rule relating to the Clean Water Act. 
•    Issuing technical recommendations on washing shell eggs. 
•    Advice on implementation of the New Poultry Inspection System. 
•    Devising and presenting poultry handling and transportation workshops. 
•    Organizing and presenting eleven annual industry seminars attended by more than 1,300 industry managers.
•     Providing 23 state poultry associations with IT support.


For FY 2020, funding of projects amounting to $3.1 million was directed towards research (35 percent of expenditures); environmental programs (15.1 percent); education projects (12 percent); food safety programs (10.2 percent); grants and support to allied poultry-related associations (6.0 percent).


With respect to the USPOULTRY Foundation, $1.3 million was distributed to support research (45.2 percent of grants); college student programs (33.4 percent); Future Farmers of America (20.9 percent); industry education recruitment funding (21.8 percent); poultry science departments (13.5 percent).


The report lacked an operating statement indicating sources of revenue and relevant expenditure categories including administration, travel, committee meetings in addition to the grants and programs enumerated.


Disillusionment with Instacart Over Expense


A number of supermarkets are questioning the value of their relationship with Instacart due to the commission charged that may exceed 10 percent on each order.  In the case of many small grocery chains, Instacart orders do not generate a positive margin. Despite establishing partnerships with many national chains, supermarkets have most cases excluded Instacart from curbside pickup in order to maintain profitability. Many of the larger chains have initiated their own home delivery and are offering discounts through loyalty programs.


Instacart experienced a boom in demand following the emergence of COVID-19.  Their workforce now stands at 500,000 and the Company has raised $525 million from thirty investors since 2012.  It is understood that Instacart lost $300 million in 2019 but claims to have broken even in November. To increase revenue, Instacart is now delivering pharmacy prescriptions and adult beverages and is leveraging its expertise in IT.


Instacart recently established a program with manufacturers to offer discount products on their  platforms. This latest initiative is regarded by chains as representing competition, creating further dissatisfaction.


U.S. Exports to China Increase in November


According to the General Administration of Customs for China, imports of broiler products in November amounted to 52,500 tons.  The composition of U.S. exports comprised 21,600 tons of chicken paws; 27,800 tons of bone-in chicken parts, predominantly dark meat; 2,200 tons of chicken-by products (hearts, gizzards and necks) and 900 tons of chicken wings.


For the first eleven months of 2020, U.S. export volume attained 343,000 tons valued at $613.7 million with a unit price of $1,789 per metric ton.


USAPEEC reported that U.S. shipments to China amounting to 52,500 tons of broiler products marginally exceeded the volume supplied by Brazil totaling 52,200 metric tons.  The U.S. export volume accounted for 38.6 percent of total chicken imports by China in November.





Stimulus Bill and Government Spending Package Enacted


Following signature by the President, the conjoined Covid Relief Bill and the Government Spending Package have now been enacted. This has averted a potential government shutdown and has released funding to relieve hardship caused by economic disruption caused by measures to control COVID-19.


Acoustic Monitoring Has Potential in Detecting Disease and Evaluating Welfare


A recent virtual presentation at an industry conference by Tom Darbonne and Dr. David Anderson of Georgia Tech demonstrated the potential for audio monitoring of flocks to obtain an early indication of non-clinically apparent disease or equipment malfunction.  The principle was developed by Dr. Anderson and has been the subject of research by Georgia Tech for a number of years. Initial research was supported by the State of Georgia and the Agricultural Technology Research Program at Georgia Tech. and with the cooperation of the Georgia Poultry Federation and integrators. More recent studies have been funded by the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research supported by McDonald's Corporation, Tyson Foods and other agribusiness companies. 


The intent of the technology is to monitor sounds generated by a flock and to provide an early warning of the presence of either disease or an environmental factor that could stress or disturb flocks.  Most trained clinicians can discern respiratory rales (‘snicks’) associated with either a post-vaccine reaction or the early stages of a respiratory disease such as ILT, MG or IB.  To gain an appreciation of abnormal sounds it is necessary to completely dim the lights and to deactivate the ventilation system in the house.  Interpretation of sounds is subjective and requires instruction and experience. 


Clinicians generally correlate the presence of respiratory rales in a flock with clinical signs such as lachrymation and gasping attributed to viral respiratory infections. Moist rales (‘gurgling’) accompanied by nasal discharge and facial swelling is more likely attributed to coryza or mycoplasmosis. In early stages of END and HPAI affected and depressed flocks may be extremely quiet as is apparent in cage-housed layers. The most frequently encountered situation with obvious abnormal flock sounds involves the high-pitched chirping of chicks subjected to low temperature. In the case of a chilled flock, distribution is characterized by huddling and confirmed by surface temperature readings.


The sounds generated by a flock affected with a respiratory virus such as ILT can be depicted in a spectrogram denoting the frequency of respiratory rales.  Spectrograms of healthy and affected flocks can be used to "train" systems to recognize specific deviations from normality.  Applying machine learning to the analysis of sounds generated by a flock requires the electronic labeling of specific sounds.  The more intense the labeling the more accurate will be the predictive model and hence the decision output.


Recognizing specific sounds made by a flock under commercial conditions is confounded by the noise of fans, operation of feeding equipment and concurrent sounds generated by the numerous unaffected chickens in a flock. To be effective the system will have to be refined to eliminate extraneous sounds.


Two development directions are currently under review.  The first involves installation of acoustic sensors in individual houses to provide data that can be integrated with other parameters that can be transmitted to a remote location to be interpreted. According to Tom Darbonne acoustic monitoring may provide an indication of response to feeding, lighting schedules or equipment failure The second application is the deployment of hand-held monitors that can be used by service persons and poultry health professionals for audits and investigations.


At some stage, the development of acoustic monitoring must generate a benefit and provide advantages over organoleptic evaluation of flocks with specific reference to characteristic sounds associated with normal activities, stress, fear, or disease.   Acoustic monitoring offers an extension to current subjective but mostly efficient evaluation of health and welfare represented by the concept of stockmanship.


If the technology is cost-effective it will be adopted by a progressive industry. If acoustic monitoring proves to be technology merely for the sake of technology we will not observe any commercial application. We still have trained servicepeople and poultry health professionals with eyes, ears, noses and an appreciation of temperature. They are able to integrate sensations and process inputs to derive a logical understanding of the health and welfare status of a flock. The challenge facing acoustic monitoring will be to demonstrate superior detection of disease or mismanagement compared to current human and instrument based monitoring.


Pharmacy and Grocery Workers Receive COVID Vaccine


According to Dr. Tom Van Gilder, Chief Medical Officer for Walmart, pharmacists and assistants at Walmart and Sam's Club stores in New Mexico have received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.  The decision to protect healthcare personnel in stores is consistent with CDC recommendations for this Phase 1a priority category.  The program will eventually involve as many as 5,000 Walmart and Sam's employees.  Albertsons has initiated a similar program for their various banners initiating vaccination in Alaska.


It is significant that the Moderna vaccine was used as this product has less stringent cold chain requirements compared to the Pfizer vaccine that requires storage in ultra-low temperature coolers and transport at -98F using dry ice and insulated containers.  The relative cost and logistic complications associated with the Pfizer vaccine will limit use of this product especially in rural areas and for small groups of recipients.


It is noteworthy that Germany has adopted the principle of bringing the recipients to the vaccine in locations such as conference centers to expedite administration in addition to establishing numerous designated vaccination centers.


Since the Pfizer vaccine became available on Monday 14th December and the Moderna product a week later two million priority category 1a people have received their first vaccine dose compared to a predicted 20 million. The doses administered to date were in the ‘easy’ category as they were in hospitals or long-term care facilities. It is evident that the “last mile” from distribution center to arm will be difficult. There will have to be a learning curve as different states modify the CDC suggested priority categories and share experience, hopefully with Federal assistance extended by the Task Force appointed by the incoming Administration.


Nestle to Expand Offerings from Freshly


Following the acquisition of Freshly Inc, Nestle has announced a new production operation in California to increase production under the FreshlyFit range of meals.  New menu items will include a chicken bowl with greens and pesto, turkey meatballs with vegetables, and shepherd's pie.


Meals devised by nutritionists will cost in the region of $9 per serving and require only heating before serving.  FreshlyFit menu items are gluten-free and contain 500 calories and 30 grams of protein per serving.


Air Sampling with Subsequent PCR to Diagnose Poultry Diseases


Force Technology of Horsholm, Denmark has developed a hand-held air sampler with a removable chamber that retains pathogens for subsequent PCR assay. The AeroCollect ® device is deployed in the house while traversing the flock.  The collection chamber is then removed and submitted to a diagnostic laboratory with request for specific PCR assays for designated pathogens. Results are transmitted electronically to submitters often within the same day.


The system obviously requires cooperation from a suitably equipped diagnostic laboratory.


In Denmark the system was developed to monitor for the presence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in broiler flocks, since their status determines whether or when birds are harvested and processed.


The manufacturers of AeroCollect ® claim that a wide range of viral and bacterial diseases can be diagnosed but obviously would be limited by the PCR tests the lab can conduct.  There is no indication of cost for either the hand-held sampler or subsequent laboratory assay.


The application of air sampling as a diagnostic procedure offers advantages over submission of specimens from individual sick or dead birds.Representative air sampling may preemptively detect the presence of a pathogen before the appearance of clinical signs.  This might be of value in surveillance of contact flocks following an outbreak of a catastrophic disease such as avian influenza within a control zone.



Dr. Carrie Castille Appointed as Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture


Dr. Carrie Castille has been appointed as the permanent Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) effective January 4th 2021.  Dr. Castille earned a baccalaureate degree in industrial engineering from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and an MS degree in environmental studies and a Ph.D in renewable natural resources from Louisiana State University.


Dr. Carrie Castille USDA NIFA

Dr. Castille served as an Assistant Professor in Agriculture and Natural Resources at Louisiana State University before moving to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.  She joined USDA in 2017 after serving on the National Agriculture Research Extension Education and Economics Board from 2010 to 2017.  Dr. Castille was a recipient of the USDA Secretary’s Award of Excellence in 2003.


In commenting on the appointment, outgoing Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Sonny Perdue stated, “She will bring strong leadership to NIFA as they continue to build and strengthen partnership with our public land-grant universities and agricultural institutions across the nation.”


Argentine Soy-Workers’ Strike Continues. Echoes of Evita


According to Reuters up to 100 cargo vessels are awaiting loading in the major port complex of Rosario in Argentina. The location is responsible for 80 percent of Argentine farm exports.  The strike, which commenced on December 9th, involves members of the Argentine Oilseed Workers Federation, the Urgara Union representing grain inspectors and the SOEA Soy Crushers Union.


Union representatives and the owners of soy-crushing plants and the Port Administration are deadlocked and there is no immediate prospect of resuming activities from crushing through loading vessels. Kunless settled before 2021 the strike will have consequences for the economy of Argentina and importing nations reliant on corn, soybeans and soybean meal. Recent escalation in the price of soybeans and hence meal on the CME is in part due to the strike.


Vessels await berths at Port of Rossario, Argentina

At issue are salaries and benefits with workers impacted by high inflation due to mismanagement of the economy by the socialist administration of Argentine.


North American Meat Institute Appeal Rejected by 9th Circuit


In the December 23rd edition, CHICK-NEWS reported on an appeal by the North American Meat Institute claiming that California Proposition #12 enacted in 2018 was unconstitutional.  The North American Meat Institute petitioned for a rehearing en banc supported by an amicus brief from the Department of Justice and twenty states.


The Ninth Circuit unanimously rejected the request by the Institute to rehear its claims.  The decision of the Ninth Circuit supports the decision of a lower court that Proposition #12 is constitutional ending the quixotic attempt to overturn the ballot initiative. Lawsuits questioning the constitutionality of Proposition #2, enacted in 2008 were all rejected by Federal courts. 


Again, it is emphasized that the egg-production industry adapted to both Proposition #2 and the subsequent Proposition #12 by transitioning from cage housing to alternative systems including aviaries and barns to supply California and other states with similar legislation.


Rabobank Projects Lower Margins and Disease Impacting World Production of Chicken Meat


Nan-Dirk Mulder, Senior Analyst for Animal Protein at Rabobank encapsulated the major factors influencing profitability of the chicken industry for the coming year.  Areas of concern include: -


  • Rising ingredient prices.
  • The impact of COVID-19 on both domestic and export markets with disruption of consumer buying patterns.
  • Outbreaks of avian influenza in Europe and Asia.
  • Recovery of hog production in China leading to a change in consumer demand.

Nan-Dirk Mulder of Rabobank


The U.S. will experience lower export prices for commodity leg quarters and integrators will be faced with escalating feed costs that currently are the highest in six years.


According to Rabobank, Brazil has exercised control over growth in production, some of which has occurred as a result of COVID-19 in plants.


Although poultry meat production in China has increased by approximately 12 percent through 2020, a rebound in pork production will limit imports of both pork and chicken, proportional to the increase in domestic supply.


Rabobank consider that "operational excellence and procurement will be necessary given high prices for feed ingredients".  The report added "optimal efficiency in procurement as well as a high level of biosecurity and planning are necessary to mitigate the risk of disease".


COVID Stimulus Bill Includes Provision for Contract Growers


Following representations made by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and members of the Senate and Congressional Chicken Caucus a $1 billion provision was included in the COVID-19 Stimulus Bill passed on December 21st but yet to be signed by the President.


The allocation is specifically for contract growers of livestock and poultry to cover 80 percent of revenue losses attributed to COVID-19, including depopulation.  Contract growers were excluded from existing CFAP programs.  The Congressional Chicken Caucuses were assisted in their efforts by the American Farm Bureau Federation and state poultry federations.


Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council lobbied for financial assistance and authored a justification that appeared in Agri-Pulse in May.


Brown stated, “This is wonderful holiday news for our farm families that have been working tirelessly through the pandemic to make sure food is one less thing Americans have to worry about as we navigated through 2020.”


United Farm Workers Brings Suit Against Foster Farms over COVID at Livingston Plant


The United Farm Workers Union has brought suit against Foster Farms requesting court-ordered compliance with state health regulations designed to limit spread of COVID-19 in the Livingston plant located in Merced County.


In documents submitted to support the petition, the Union claims that CDC recommendations are not followed and in some areas of the plant social distancing is not implemented and the testing of workers for COVID-19 is inconsistent.


A spokesman for UFW stated, “We are not asking for immediate permanent closure of the plant, we are asking for them to become compliant with the law”.


Foster Farms has been proactive in implementing procedures to protect the health of workers although 400 of 3,700 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak.


Foster Farms responded to the lawsuit claiming:


  • The Company is committed to the health and welfare of employees and efforts have suppressed COVID to a level of one percent in plants since September despite the 13.5 percent prevalence rate in Merced County.


  • Foster Farms initiated screening to prevent symptomatic employees from entering facilities


  • Following CDC guidelines and recommendations from the Merced County Health Department, Foster Farms instituted mandatory face coverings, erected partitions between workstations, introduced sanitation of shared common spaces, staggered work breaks and extended break-areas. More recently the company installed HEPA filters and upgraded plant ventilation.


  • All employees are tested weekly and positive employees are directed to home quarantine.  The company has performed 50,000 tests since the beginning of the pandemic including 25,000 at the Livingston Complex.


  • Foster Farms has worked closely with Merced County Department of Public Health. 


The program of COVID prevention is directed by Dr. David Rollins an occupational health physician with assistance from Dr. David Acheson an infectious disease specialist who served as Chief Medical Officer at the USDA and FDA and Dr. Ben Miller an epidemiologist who has advised the FDA.


USDA to Undertake Oversight of GMO Animals


On December 21st, Dr. Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the USDA released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making to place jurisdiction of GMO animals under the USDA.


The proposed Rule conforms to a 2019 Presidential Executive Order directing Federal agencies to modernize regulatory frameworks to advance agricultural biotechnology.


The proposed Rule would transition regulatory oversight from the FDA to USDA to establish a “flexible, forward-looking, risk-proportionate and science-based regulatory framework that provides a predictable pathway to commercialization.”


The safety review would cover molecular characterization, animal health, efficacy, environmental considerations, food safety evaluation and processing.  If adopted the Rule would require regulations to be framed under authority of the Animal Health Protection Act, Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act.


Hormel Opens Refurbished Plant in Nebraska


Hormel Foods has completed expansion and installation of equipment at the Papillion, NE. plant producing under the Columbus Craft Meats brands.  Modification of the 530,000 square foot facility cost $60 million.

The plant will produce charcuterie products including salami, dried sausages and related products.






Tyson Foods Sued Over COVID Death of Employee


The widow of an employee of Philly Cheesesteak Company located in Philadelphia has sued Tyson Foods Inc. the recent owner of the enterprise. The suit alleges that Tyson Foods failed to provide the descendant with appropriate PPE during April 2020. 


The widow is seeking compensation and punitive damages for the death of her husband who was three years from retirement and presumably in a high-risk category based on age.


In the absence of indemnity Tyson Food will require the Plaintiff to prove that COVID infection was acquired in the workplace.


FDA Extends Comment Period on Traceability Rule


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended the public comment period for the Traceability Rule to be issued in terms of the Food Safety Modernization Act.


The comment period will now end February 22nd, 2021.


The extension was granted following representations that the time period was inadequate to analyze information and to review the proposed Rule.


Evaluation of a Combination of Biomin PoultryStar® and Biotronic® on Broiler Performance and Salmonella Recovery


Biomin recently sponsored a trial at Texas A & M University to evaluate the effect of a program comprising inclusion of PoultryStar® in both the starter and grower diet (0-28 days) and Biotronic® in the finisher (29-42 days).  The trial consisted of two treatments comprising the sequential administration of PoultryStar and Biotronic and a negative control. The trial comprised the treatment and a negative control each with eight replicates and eighteen birds per pen.


PoultryStar® is a synbiotic combination of probiotics and prebiotics to promote the proliferation of beneficial intestinal bacteria.  Biotronic® is an organic acid feed additive containing sodium formate, cinnamaldehyde and a patented permeabilizing complex. 


Through forty-two days of age there was a statistically significant 119g improvement in body weight in the treatment receiving the Biomin supplements. Feed intake was increased by 78g per bird but with a reduction in feed conversion of 0.05 points.


In evaluating carcass rinses, the combination of Biotin supplements achieved a significant reduction in recovery of Salmonella.


Darden Restaurants Posts Profit in Q2 Despite COVID Restrictions


On December 18th Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI) posted the results for the second quarter of fiscal 2021 for the period ending November 29th.  For the quarter, Darden earned $96 million on revenue of $1,657 million with an EPS of $0.73.  Comparative values for the second quarter of fiscal 2020 were net earnings of $24.7 million on revenue of $2,056 million with an EPS of $0.20.  During the second quarter of FY2019, the company incurred non-recurring expenses of $153 million, but benefited from a $31.6 million income tax adjustment.


Darden Restaurants operates 1,818 locations including 874 Olive Garden locations, 527 Longhorn Steakhouses and 160 other units including fine dining restaurants.  For the quarter, Darden posted a 23.4 percent decline in same restaurant sales with individual brands ranging from a decline of 11.1 percent in Longhorn to 31 percent for the Fine Dining segment with Olive Garden intermediate at 20 percent.

Eugene Lee CEO


Darden Restaurants posted total assets of $9,928 million of which $1,800million comprised goodwill and trademarks.  The company carries long-term debt and lease obligations of $5,100 million. 


In commenting on performance, Eugene Lee, CEO stated, "our restaurant teams continue to demonstrate remarkable flexibility and resilience while executing at a high level in serving our guests safely".  He added, "we continue to view this environment as a rare opportunity to meaningfully transform our business for long-term growth".


Following the announcement Darden named Ricardo Cardenas, previously CFO to be president and COO.  Eugene Lee will become Chairman, succeeding Charles Sonsteby but Lee will retain the position of CEO.


Darden Restaurants has a market capitalization of $15.12 billion.  The company has traded over the past fifty-two weeks in a range of $26.15 to $125.96.  The company closed at $116.16 on Friday, December 18th.


Over the trailing twelve months, operating margin was 1.6 percent and profit margin -1.7 percent.  Return on assets was 0.7 percent and on equity -4.7 percent.  In providing forward guidance for the third quarter the company predicted that total sales will fall between 65 percent and 70 percent of the corresponding quarter of the prior year and diluted net earnings per share will range from $0.50 to $0.75.


Effect of Peracetic Acid on Waste Water Treatment Systems


A study conducted by Dr. Spyros Pavlostathis of the Georgia Institute of Technology was conducted to determine the potential effect of peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide in plant effluent on waste-water treatment systems.  These antibacterial agents potentially interfere with the biological process of degradation resulting in failure of tests for environmental compliance. The study evaluated the decay rate of hydrogen peroxide and the long-term effects of peracetic acid on the aerobic, nitrifying and denitrifying processes in dissolved air flotation treatment of effluent.


The study determined that critical processes including breakdown of aerobic and anoxic organic matter and nitrification in waste-water from poultry processing plants was not affected by normal plant operation despite the presence of residual peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide. There was however an effect at the end of a plant shift when spin chillers are emptied or following infrequent accidental spillage of peracetic acid.


The study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology provided valuable information leading to the management of chemicals required to suppress pathogens but maintaining the adequate function of biological waste-water treatment plants.


The study was supported by by the USPOULTRY Foundation.



To our Subscribers and Sponsors



On behalf of the Team producing our two websites we extend to our friends and families our best wishes for Christmas. We trust that the problems and hardship of 2020 will be only a memory in 2021.



We thank you for your support during the past year and look forward to sharing improved health, prosperity and happiness for our  Families, Nation and Industry. 


Barbara and Simon


Cooper Farms Contributes to Alleviation of Hunger


Cooper Farms has joined with local companies, Central Insurance and Tecumseh Packaging Solutions to distribute Christmas meals to local families in need in the Van Wert area of Northwest Ohio.  Each Christmas dinner contains a Cooper Farms turkey and dressing, green bean casserole and fixings prepared by Willow Bend and distributed by the First United Methodist Food Pantry and the Salvation Army.


USDA Purchases Chicken for Food Assistance Programs


According to a USDA December 17th release, the Department has undertaken to purchase 54,000 tons of chilled whole chicken at a price range of $0.88 to $0.89 per pound.  The USDA will also purchase 234,000 tons of chilled legs at a price of $0.23 per pound.  Deliveries will be made from February 1st through 28th 2021. Product will be distributed to domestic food assistance and child nutrition programs.


Ethanol Industry Requests Federal Support


The Renewable Fuels Association is publicizing an analysis conducted by economist Dr. Scott Richman justifying Federal support for an industry which clearly cannot function without mandates and preferential treatment. Viability is historically assured by bipartisan support provided by corn-state legislators on both sides of the aisles in the House and Senate. Ethanol has become a proverbial “third rail” in Midwest politics. Due to COVID travel restrictions and work-from-home, gasoline consumption has dropped by over 15 percent in 2020 resulting in claimed collective losses for the U.S. ethanol industry of $3.8 billion.  Between March and November, ethanol producers were forced to reduce production by two billion gallons.  Of concern to the ethanol industry is the current rising incidence and hospitalization rate for COVID-19 threatening the introduction of restrictions that will further depress gasoline and hence ethanol consumption.

Geoff Cooper RFA

Geoff Cooper, president of the Renewable Fuels Association stated, “Our new analysis provides an in-depth look at how rural communities have suffered.  The decrease in ethanol production has idled or permanently closed plants across the heartland and caused job losses in rural communities where good employment is often hard to find.”  Cooper added, “As an industry deemed critical and essential to America, we call on Congress to act swiftly to provide some targeted relief to our nation’s renewable fuels industry.”


As a sweetener, the RFA claim that they have contributed to alleviating COVID by manufacturing hand sanitizer and capturing carbon dioxide to manufacture dry ice required for the Pfizer vaccine. This contention is really scraping the bottom of the figurative barrel.


FDA Approves GMO GalSafe Hogs


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted approval for genetically modified hogs produced by Revivicor Inc, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics.  The hogs have been modified to eliminate alpha-gal on the surface of cells.  This change will minimize potential allergic reactions to pork and reduce the risk of organ rejection in transplant patients.  Modified hogs will be marketed under the GalSafe brand. These hogs are effectively identical to conventional hogs with the exception of the elimination of alpha-gal expression.  In their extensive evaluation, the FDA found no environmental or safety concerns.  Elimination of alpha-gal could allow for xenotransplants from specially-selected SPF GalSafe hogs to human recipients. 


Although the market for meat from GalSafe hogs is negligible the approval of the technology by FDA represents an acceptance in principle of GMO technology for food animals and follows approval of AquaBounty™ salmon.  Studies are in progress to develop hogs that are resistant to specific infections including porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome by gene deletion.


It will be interesting to observe consumer acceptance of meat products from gene-deleted or otherwise modified animals and fish. The comercialization of GMO pork and salmon may create market opportunities for modified chickens that are refractory to specific diseases or express economically beneficial traits.


TikTok Posting Elicits Interest in Chick-Fil-A ® Nuggets


An apparently clandestine video allegedly filmed by a Chick-Fil-A® employee has garnered 13 million views on TikTok.  The video shows a sequence of transferring chilled pre-cut breast meat from a plastic container through the stages of a milk wash, breading, sifting, and deep-fat frying.  The entire sequence depicts acceptable food safety and handling.


Chick-Fil-A® has not commented on the video, but in the past has sanctioned workers for unauthorized postings.  In this case, there was nothing to hide and the Company has obviously benefitted from the unintended (or actually intended?) publicity.


Smartmade Egg White And Turkey Sausage Breakfast Wrap


This new product comprises scrambled egg whites coupled with turkey sausage, tomatoes and roasted peppers, topped with cheese sauce nestled inside a whole grain tortilla wrap for a nutritious snack or meal.


Foie Gras Production in France Threatened Again by HPAI


Veterinary authorities in France announced that two duck farms in Southwest France were infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza, presumably strain H5N8.  According to USDA-FAS GAIN report F42020-0026 released on December 11th the farms are located in the Landis Region and were promptly depopulated.  Strain H5N8 has been isolated from wild swans in Eastern France and a wild goose in Western France confirming that the infection is being shed by migratory waterfowl in common with other nations in Eastern and Western Europe. Outbreaks involving H5N8 avian influenza virus in Japan and South Korea are due to a different strain to the virus encountered in Europe, according to the FAO.


The Foie Gras industry in France is especially vulnerable to HPAI as ducks and geese are raised free-range for at least two weeks during the growing period. It is estimated that there are 4,000 farms with questionable biosecurity producing Foie Gras in France, heavily concentrated in a number of regions susceptible to avian influenza introduced by migratory waterfowl.


 The 2016-2017 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza reduced production by 32 percent and control required culling of four million ducks and geese.  It is estimated that losses through reduced sales and collapse of the export market cost producers $300 million.


The current HPI outbreak and the threat of further cases has added to the woes of Foie Gras production given the closure of restaurants following COVID restrictions.


France produces 75 percent of global Foie Gras with an annual output of approximately 17,000 metric tons, a quarter of which is exported earning France $125 million annually. 


Tyson Takes Action Over Worker Allegations


Dean Banks. CEO Tyson Foods

Following allegations of inappropriate behavior by managers at the Waterloo, IA hog plant, Tyson Foods commissioned an investigation headed by former Attorney General, Eric Holder.  Dean Banks, President and CEO of Tyson Foods announced the termination of seven plant management stating "the behaviors exhibited by these individuals do not represent the Tyson  values which is why we took immediate and appropriate action to get to the truth.  Now that the investigation is concluded we are taking action based on the findings". 
Following a second visit to the facility, Banks announced that Tyson is reaffirming its commitment both to plant workers and to the community.  The Company will intensify communication with team members and establish a working group with the local community to ensure collaboration on issues affecting the plant and City.


NYC Invokes SEC to Investigate the Tyson Foods Response to COVID


Scott M Stringer, Comptroller of New York City has addressed a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requesting an investigation of Tyson Foods for "flagrantly misrepresenting its poor pandemic response".  Stringer is responsible as a fiduciary for the New York City Retirement System.


Stringer maintains that the response by Tyson Foods to the COVID-19 outbreak in numerous plants was "slow and minimal resulting in infections, hospitalizations and deaths among its workforce".  Stringer maintains that disclosures by the company in the SEC Form 10-K provided insufficient detail for shareholders.

Scott Shewell NYC Comptroller


Scott M Stringer, Comptroller of New York City has addressed a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requesting an investigation of Tyson Foods for "flagrantly misrepresenting its poor pandemic response".  Stringer is responsible as a fiduciary for the New York City Retirement System.


Stringer maintains that the response by Tyson Foods to the COVID-19 outbreak in numerous plants was "slow and minimal resulting in infections, hospitalizations and deaths among its workforce".  Stringer maintains that disclosures by the company in the SEC Form 10-K provided insufficient detail for shareholders.


It is a matter of record that Tyson was proactive among meat packers in following CDC guidelines and clearly was a leader in implementing testing procedures, providing pay for workers forced to quarantine and supplying PPE.


It is however clear that a comprehensive investigation of meat-packing and chicken processing operations in the U.S. should be conducted to determine factors associated with transmission of COVID-19 among workers and to develop more appropriate preventive measures. With a few exceptions, meat packers and especially chicken processors responded to the recommendations of medical authorities, cooperated with public health authorities and strove to maintain the food supply during a time of uncertainty regarding the disease.


Organic Consumer Association Lawsuit Against Smithfield Foods to Continue


A request by Smithfield Foods to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Organic Consumer Association was denied by the District of Columbia Superior Court. 


The lawsuit filed in May alleged misleading claims by Smithfield characterizing its products as "the safest U.S. born and bred products possible".  Smithfield Foods filed for summary judgment claiming that the Organic Consumer Association lacked standing.  In denying the petition the Court did not address the merits of the claim and Smithfield will accordingly defend the case.


U.S. Soybean Export Commitments


According to the Foreign Agricultural Service Global Market Analysis issued in December, China has tripled soybean import commitments for the 2020-2021market year compared to the previous period.  For the 2017/2018 market year, China purchased slightly more than 17 million metric tons of soybeans. In contrast during the 2018/2019 market year, China did not purchase any soybeans from the U.S. as a result of the trade war initiated by the outgoing Administration.



For the 2019/2020 market year, 17 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans were exported with China receiving 7 million metric tons after the signing of the January 2020 Phase-One Trade Agreement.  For the 2020-2021 market year China has imported 22 million metric tons as of the end of November 2020.  An additional quantity of 8 million metric tons was exported to the EU and other nations. USDA project market year 2020/2021 commitments by China to attain 30 million metric tons. It is recognized that fluctuation in exchange rates, prices quoted by competitors of the U.S., weather conditions, domestic demand in China and political considerations will modify the actual quantum of exports.


The greater the proportion of the U.S. soy crop exported the higher will be the domestic price of soybean meal and hence cost of production.


North American Meat Institute Petitions for Hearing on California Proposition 12


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed claims that California Proposition #12 enacted in 2018 was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the Commerce Clause by creating barriers to interstate commerce. 


NAMI has now petitioned for a rehearing en banc (by the entire court). The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an amicus brief together with 20 states supporting the petition.


California Proposition #12 incorporates similar provisions regarding compliance with welfare standards that were the basis of the 2008 Proposition #2.  Over succeeding years, courts rejected successive challenges to Proposition #2. It is highly probable that a similar fate will befall litigation opposing the proposition.  With respect to the red meat portion of California Proposition #12, the major provisions relate to housing of veal calves and gestation crates for sows.  Most of the major hog packers and integrators have transitioned to group housing of sows so this aspect is essentially moot.


The egg-production industry has adapted to both Proposition #2 and Proposition #12 by transitioning from cage housing to alternative systems including aviaries and barns, adequate to supplement in-state production in California.


PMI Extends Strategic Alliance with Royal Agrifirm of Holland


PMI the feed-additive business of Land O’ Lakes has extended the relationship with Royal Agrifirm Group, also a farmer-owned cooperative in the Netherlands to market PMI swine and poultry products throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America.


In past months, Land O’ Lakes has cooperated with Agrifirm in a joint-venture feed production facility in China and PMI has distributed Agrimprove brand feed ingredients in the U.S.


In commenting on the agreement, Adam DeRosier, General Manager of PMI stated, “We are excited to expand our relationship with our trusted partner, Royal Agrifirm Group.  They bring tremendous complimentary capabilities through their global footprint and operating expertise and this will be a catalyst for continued growth for PMI.


Johan de Schepper a member of the Executive Committee of the Agrifirm Group stated, “This agreement means we can provide more solutions to our customers.  Global know-how and local manufacturing provides more flexibility and faster access to these technologies.”


2021 Poultry Market Intelligence Forum


The 2021 Poultry Market Intelligence Forum will take place on Wednesday, January 27th from 09h00 to noon.  The virtual program will be presented at no charge to registered attendees.  Speakers will include Dr. Paul Aho of Poultry Perspective and Will Sawyer of CoBank.  In addition to a review of global markets for chicken, turkey and egg products, Christian Richter of the Policy Group will provide a Washington Update.


The IPPE Marketplace will take place from January 25th through 29th and will feature 1,000 exhibitors and will include live and on-demand education programs and TechTalks.


For further information on the Poultry Market Intelligence Forum and the IPPE Marketplace access <www.ippeexpo.org>.


Will Sawyer

Dr. Paul Aho




Sanderson Farms Reports on Q4 and FY 2020


Joe F Sanderson Jr. Chairman and CEO

In a press release dated December 17th Sanderson Farms (SAFM) announced results for the 4th Quarter and FY 2020 ending October 31st.      


The following table summarizes the results for the period compared with the values for the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal year (Values expressed as US$ x 1,000 except EPS)


4th Quarter Ending October 31st.



Difference (%)





Gross profit:




Operating income:             




Pre-tax Income

Net Income







Diluted earnings per share:




Gross Margin (%)




Operating Margin (%)




Profit Margin (%)




Long-term Debt:




12 Months Trailing:




           Return on Assets    (%)




           Return on Equity    (%)




           Operating Margin   (%)




           Profit Margin          (%)




Total Assets




Market Capitalization





For FY 2020 SAFM earned $28.3 million on sales of $3,564 million with an EPS of $1.27. Comparable values for FY 2019 were, a net loss of $53,9 million on sales of $3,440 million with a negative EPS of 2.41



52-Week Range in Share Price:  $102.13  to   $ 179.45   50-day Moving average  $136.07

Market post release  December 17th  10H30  $141.79 (+0.5 percent)

Forward P/E  37.5                       Beta 0.6


In commenting on Q4 and FY 2020 results, Joe F. Sanderson Chairman and CEO stated, “Over the course of the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended October 31, 2020, our company and industry faced extraordinary challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented social and economic impact the virus continues to have on the United States. He added “while demand from our food service customers has remained under pressure, demand for chicken products sold to retail grocery store customers remained strong through the end of the fiscal year. We believe these conditions will continue until consumers return to restaurants and resume dining away from home in large numbers. Therefore, we are continuing to shift our production toward the tray packs that are in high demand in the retail grocery market.”

 Sanderson noted “for the fiscal year, we reported record volume of poultry products sold of 4.81 billion pounds, compared to 4.53 billion pounds in fiscal 2019. Grain prices were slightly lower during fiscal 2020 compared with prices paid in fiscal 2019, and feed costs in processed flocks were lower by 3.4 percent.”

He concluded “as of October 31, 2020, our balance sheet reflected $1.85 billion in assets, stockholders’ equity of $1.42 billion and net working capital of $354.0 million. We believe our balance sheet provides us with the financial strength to both support our organic growth strategy and consistently manage our operations through the cycles that characterize our industry. We continue to evaluate a new site as part of our next phase of organic growth, and we hope to be in a position to announce the location and begin work on a new poultry complex during the first half of calendar 2021,”


Eden Valley Poultry in NS. Canada Suspended Production Due to COVID


Eden Valley Poultry Inc, located in Berwick, NS closed on December 9th for a two week period.  This action was taken as a result of an increase in COVID-19 incidence among the 450 workers in the plant.  It is intended to undertake deep cleaning of the plant during the downtime. It is however generally accepted that COVID-19 is essentially an airborne infection with respect to meatpacking and processing facilities.


Closing the plant has created a problem for growers with flocks scheduled to be depleted during the two weeks preceding Christmas.  In the event of insufficient space, euthanization of flocks may be necessary with chicks taking precedence over mature broilers.  Dietary manipulation may reduce growth rate, although possibly at the expense of fat deposition. Any delay in processing incurs additional costs for growers and welfare conditions deteriorate with increasing biomass.  Higher downgrades can also be expected.

Empty Shackles at Eden Valley Plant


At the present time, growers will find difficulty in locating alternative plants to Eden Valley.  A potential approach may be to test workers and run the plant with non-affected employees before the two-week period has expired albeit at a slower line speed.

The latest reports as of December 22nd confirm resumption of operations at the plant.



Prepared Meals to Compete with Meal Kits in 2021


Meal kits received a boost from COVID-related home cooking in 2020, but it appears that prepared meals may gain market share in 2021.  As the economy recovers, consumers will be disinclined to spend time in their kitchens preparing meals from scratch.  Ready-to-heat offers advantages in terms of convenience as personal time becomes more valuable. Effectively this segment of the market represents an upgraded and vastly improved third-generation of the “TV Dinner” of the 1950s and 1960s.


Nestle recently acquired Freshly, the largest supplier of ready-to-eat meals. HelloFresh should benefit from the trend and is expanding menus and generating additional business through the purchase of Factor75.


Food Market values the direct-to-consumer meal segment at $1 billion with considerable competition from supermarket chains. Major banners offer both meal kits and prepared meals in addition to packaged deli options and salad and hot bars (when COVID restrictions are lifted).


South Korea Imposes Nationwide Quarantine on All Poultry Farms


On Friday, December 11th Veterinary regulators in South Korea faced with the tenth outbreak of H5N8 avian influenza imposed a blanket ban on movement on live birds, vehicles and personnel among poultry farms extending through Monday, December 14th with prospects of further restrictions.

Migratory birds. South Korea

Both Japan and Korea have recorded a number of outbreaks of H5N8 HPAI with the virus responsible, apparently distinct from the H5N8 strains circulating among migratory waterfowl and poultry in Europe. Japan has diagnosed outbreaks in 11 costal prefectures principally in the southern part of the nation presumably due to the migratory patterns of free-living birds.


Costco Releases Q1 Operating Results


On December 10th Costco Wholesale Corportation (COST) reported on the first quarter of FY2021 ending November 22nd. The company posted net income of $1,166 million on total revenue of $43,208 million with an EPS of $2.62.  Comparable values for Q1 2020 ending November 24th 2019 were net income of $844 million on total revenue of $37,040 million with an EPS of $1.90.


Costco has total assets of $60,217 million and carries long-term debt and operating lease obligations of $42,800 million.


Comparable sales for Q1 were U.S., 14.6 percent; Canada, 16.2 percent and other International 18.7 percent, contributing to a total company increase of 15.4 percent.  E-commerce increased by 86.4 percent.  Costco currently operates 803 warehouses with 558 in the U.S., 102 in Canada, 39 in Mexico and the remainder among nine nations in Asia and Europe.


COST has a market capitalization of $165.95 billion.  The company has traded over the past 52-weeks in a range of $271.28 to $393.15 with a 50-day moving average of $376.65.  Trailing twelve-month operating margin was 3.6 percent and profit margin 2.4 percent.  Trailing twelve-month return on assets was 7.5 percent and on equity 23.7 percent.


Butterball to Reduce Output at Carthage, MO Plant


Jay Jandrain, president and CEO of Butterball, announced that production at the Carthage, MO. turkey plant will be scaled back resulting in 450 workforce redundancies.  In a company statement, the justification for the change was stated to be “long-term adverse conditions in the commodities market, where Butterball has routinely sold excess protein produced at the facility resulting in the need to ramp down certain production processes at this location”.


Employees who will be displaced will be offered job openings at Huntsville and Ozark, AR plants.


Workers Stage Walkout at George’s Cutup Plant in Springdale


On December 8th approximately 25 workers staged a walkout protest at the Springdale, AR. plant operated by George’s.


At issue was the reversion to standard shifts that result in intermingling of arriving and departing workers, creating opportunities for transmission of COVID-19.  Staggered shifts were introduced earlier in the year to avoid close contact in narrow hallways.  The change in scheduling apparently raised other grievances including line speed, wages and lack of transparency with respect to COVID testing.


Given the proximate cause of the walkout, the problem could be resolved expeditiously by returning to staggered shifts. From comments by workers in Facing South, published by the Institute for Southern Studies, an advocacy group, it may be inferred that the underlying problem is a lack of communication between management and workers.


Tyson Foods Advances in Ranking by Newsweek as a Responsible Company


Tyson Foods moved up from 158th to 29th overall in the Newsweek 2021 list of "America's most responsible companies".  Tyson Foods was also ranked 4th in the Consumer Goods category compared to 19th in 2020.



Dean Banks, president and CEO of Tyson Foods stated, "we are proud to be recognized for our efforts, for our team members, support of our communities and sustainability for the planet".  Banks added, "our ambition is to be the most sustainable and transparent food company in the World, and we will continue to strengthen our position as a global protein supplier."


The ranking considered the achievements by Tyson Foods on sustainability, limiting antimicrobials, stewardship, animal welfare, land and water usage, philanthropy and employee training.


NCC Releases New Website


On December 11th, the National Chicken Council (NCC) unveiled a redesigned website <www.nationalchickencouncil.org>.  According to the NCC, the website incorporates data from the Chicken Check-In resource directed to consumers.  The NCC website incorporates statistics and is intended for stakeholders, media and policy makers.


Mike Brown, NCC President stated, "with new local information the National Chicken Council website more effectively delivers on the primary purpose of serving as a resource for our industry".


Chimeric HA Stalk Components Offer Prospect of Universal Influenza Vaccine


A universal influenza vaccine that will elicit immunity to all strains of influenza is the ‘Holy Grail’ of vaccine research.  Current vaccines incorporate the “head” of a hemagglutination (HA) surface component of the virus. The unique HA protein is recognised by the immune system of the host stimulating an antigenic resonse.  Due to variation in the composition of the “head”, vaccines must be constantly reconfigured to provide protection against emerging strains.  In contrast, the sequence of amino acids in the “stalk” of the HA surface protein is conserved.  Attempts to develop vaccines based on stalk protein have to date been unsuccessful due to the instability of HA stalk suspensions. 


Scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai University, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, developed chimeric HA preparations with the conserved stalk and a modified head that is not inactivated by circulating antibody as a result of previous exposure to arange of influenza viruses.


The stalk vaccine was evaluated in a Phase I study to confirm safety and to determine the extent of the immune response.  Antibodies produced by human subjects protected mice infected with the corresponding strain of influenza virus.


Development of a universal influenza vaccine based on HA stalk antigen will not be the subject of a  “warp speed” project, but will take at least two years to encompass a wide variety of influenza groups A and B.  Following development of a candidate vaccine based on stalk HA surface antigen, a Phase II trial will determine efficacy and safety in comparison with conventional HA vaccines.


Application of new vaccine technology in humans could, if successful, provide more effective vaccines against avian influenza since the principles of infection are common across mammalian and avian species.

Nachbagauer, R. et al. A Chimeric Hemagglutinin-Based Universal Influenza Virus Vaccine Approach Induces Broad and Long-Lasting Immunity in a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Phase I Trial. Nature Medicine (2020) doiorg/10:1038/s41591-020-118-7.



Seasonal flu vaccines induce antibodies against the “head” (slate) of the influenza surface protein hemagglutinin, but a new universal vaccine triggers antibodies (fragments of them shown in gray) that bind to the stalk (light blue) portion. JULIANNA HAN/WARD LAB/SCRIPPS RESEARCH



Foster Farms Restores Operations in Fresno Plant


On December 4th Foster Farms announced a suspension of operations at the Cherry Street Fresno Plant. After decontamination over the weekend the plant resumed production on Monday December 7th. During late November, extending into the first days of December, 193 out of a complement of a 1,400 workforce tested positive for COVID-19.  All employees were asymptomatic.  Those testing positive were advised to isolate while receiving medical benefits and wages.


Ira Brill, spokesperson for Foster Farms, stated that the Cherry Street workforce will be tested twice weekly after resumption of operations.  The company has operated in close collaboration with the Fresno Department of Public Health.


According to Foster Farms the prevalence of COVID-19 at the Fresno facility remained under one percent through the end of October, but increased in early November as the incidence rate increased in Fresno County.


Investors Pour Money into altMeat Venture


Mosa Meat, located in Maastricht in Southern Holland, has received $75 million in investment capital in their most recent round of Series B funding.  Investors include Blue Horizon Ventures, Target Global, Rubio Impact Ventures and the Mitsubishi Corporation. 


Maartin Bosch, CEO of Mosa Meat, stated “We are delighted to welcome our new partners.” He added, “They share our strong commitment to increasing the sustainability of our global food system.”  The infusion of capital is intended to extend current pilot production and to establish an industrial-scale capability in addition to promotional activities.


Controversy Over COVID Precautions for FSIS Inspectors


A recent article in The Government Executive criticized the USDA-Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for lack of action to prevent exposure of inspectors to COVID-19. Central to the claim is an inadequate supply of PEP.  An additional concern is that inspectors were not informed of the incidence rates of COVID within the plants where they were assigned.  It is noted that at the outset of the COVID outbreak, a number of FSIS inspectors contracted the disease and two fatalities were reported.


In a response, the FSIS stated that the article was "not accurate or based on reality" the Agency claims that there was enough protective equipment, and that face coverings and face shields were available and their use was mandatory.

FSIS inspectors in pre-COVID times

The FSIS also claims that it has "followed CDC's guidance and recommendations".  This is a somewhat specious argument since CDC guidelines were not based on a sound appreciation of the aerosol transmission of COVID-19 in confined areas. Initial preventive actions in March through April by many red meat companies lacked rigor. In contrast procedures introduced by progressive chicken companies were proactive and preceded the confusing recommendations issued by the CDC. The actions of the Agency were clearly influenced by directives from the White House, intent on maintaining the Nation’s protein supply and following a policy of consistently minimizing the risks and consequences of COVID-19 infection.


In the FSIS rebuttal, the Agency noted that policy was modified to allow inspectors in high-risk health category to self-certify with their supervisors and to be excused from inspection duties with full pay until protective gear became available.  This statement in itself is a self-admission that PPE was inadequate during the early months of 2021. The FSIS statement confirmed, "no regulated establishments closed during the pandemic due to lack of inspection personnel".  There were in fact cases of extended working hours as all plants were forced to operate under the April 28th Presidential Executive Order issued under the Defense Production Act on.  At this time, a number of major packers had closed pork and beef plants and the United Foods and Commercial Workers International Union claimed that 5,000 meat-packing workers had contracted COVID-19 with twenty fatalities. 


A study conducted by Columbia University determined that in the early stage of the COVID pandemic, one in eight cases was directly or indirectly related to a meat packing plant.  Through July 21st, the study estimated between 240,000 to 310,000 cases associated with proximity to livestock plants comprising eight percent of all U.S. cases at the time.  According to CDC data to the end of June, nine percent of workers at meat and poultry processing facilities in fourteen states had been diagnosed with COVID-19.  By the end of May, 240 plants in twenty-three states confirmed COVID-19 although it is acknowledged that testing was inadequate, and the number affected is obviously an underestimate.


It is now evident that factors predisposing to COVID transmission in meat packing plants during March through May included corporate denial and indifference to the infection, close proximity among workers, ineffective screening, absence of functional PEP and low air exchange rates and cold temperature in work zones. Collectively these deficiencies resulted in high incidence rates among workers concurrently exposing FSIS meat inspectors to common risks in a shared environment.


Japan Reports HPAI in Two Additional Prefectures


Highly pathogenic avian influenza caused by an H5N8 strain has now been diagnosed in eight of the 47 prefectures in Japan.


An outbreak on an egg production farm was diagnosed in Kinokawa City in the Wakayama Prefecture, resulting in prompt depopulation.  Three broiler farms in the Oita Prefecture were infected and flocks were depleted.  Collectively 130,000 chickens on the four farms were euthanized and buried.


Since the initial outbreaks, 2.5 million chickens have been killed with on-site disposal.  In April 2010 an avian influenza outbreak in Japan resulted in depletion of 1.8 million laying hens and broilers.


Tyson Foods Appoints Chief Medical Officer


Dr. Claudia Coplein has been appointed as the first Chief Medical Officer of Tyson Foods.  She will report to Johanna Soderstrom, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer and will be responsible for the health of all Company personnel.


Dr. Coplein earned a DO degree from New York Institute of Technology followed by a law degree from the University of Connecticut and Master’s degrees in Public Health, Business Administration from Colorado State University and an Environmental Management degree from Yale.

Dr Claudio Coplein


Her experience includes serving as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force and for the past 20 years has held leadership positions at MassMutual, MetLife and the General Electric Company.


The first challenge faced by Dr. Coplein will involve the installation of Marathon Health clinics in seven Tyson locations. During 2020 Tyson Foods invested $540 million to combat the coronavirus epidemic comprising additional worker pay and benefits, installation of workstation dividers and employing social distancing monitors in addition to increasing the resources of the Company medical team.


Germany Negotiating with China over Pork Imports


China imposed a blanket embargo on Germany in October following the emergence of African swine fever in wild boars moving westward from Poland.  Since mid-September, 240 individual carcasses of boars have yielded ASF virus but without cases in either commercial or backyard herds.


Germany is requesting that China accept the principle of regionalization as allowed by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).  In terms of OIE requirements China has no justification for banning imports of pork from Germany given that the infection is endemic in the importing nation.


Negotiations continue between Germany and China at the level of their respective Chief Veterinary Officers.  Germany has replied to a detailed questionnaire requested by China outlining procedures to prevent transmission of infection from free-living wild boars to domestic flocks.


The failure by China to recognize the OIE principle of regionalization an indication that the nation will honor only regulations resulting in self-benefit.  When confronted the standard approach to any controversial issue is continue negotiating and not to make any decision.  Since China is rebuilding depleted herds, there appears to be a measure of self-protection in the stand fast approach to German pork.  In the interim, broiler producers are clearly benefiting from the situation at the expense of consumers.


Hamlet Protein Appoints Sales Managers


In expanding U.S. outreach, Hamlet Protein has announced the appointment of two sales managers effective November 1st.  Chelcee Hindman will be based in Iowa and will work with producers of hogs, calves, and poultry with a concentration on midwest states.  Chelcee was raised on a crop and livestock farm in Iowa and earned her Baccalaureate degree from Iowa State University. 


Lamar Ridder, based in Florida, will be involved in poultry production in southern and southeastern states.  He earned a Baccalaureate degree from the University of Alabama.


Both Lamar and Chelcee have extensive experience in the livestock health industry having worked with major suppliers of pharmaceuticals, feed additives and biologics.  Their appointments complement the activities of Dr. Kyle Brown, appointed as Poultry Nutritionist for North and Central America after recently completing his Ph.D at Texas A&M.


In commenting on the appointments, Grady Fain, Regional Director for North and Central America for Hamlet Protein noted, “We believe that high quality feed for young animals is the key to optimizing productivity.  We also believe that North America will maintain a dominant role in the global animal protein market.  We are well positioned to further grow in swine and poultry.”


Despite the uncertain economic outlook for 2021 due to COVID, Hamlet Protein continues to invest in personnel, research and production capacity as the Company is confident of the underlying market strength of the livestock industry and the value of superior nutrition of young animals and birds.


Transfer of Fecal Microbiota from Warthogs to Pigs Evaluated


A recent study conducted in Spain suggested that transfer of fecal organisms from warthogs to domestic hogs can confirm a level of immunity to African Swine Fever (ASF).  The study did indicate that the composition of intestinal bacteria can be changed by fecal transfer across species at least over the short term.


In challenge studies, there was evidence of sero-conversion against ASF. The investigators were unable to demonstrate protection against ASF virus since there was no mortality in the challenged negative controls.


Given the pathogenicity of ASF virus effective and durable protection under commercial conditions will best be attained using a vaccine. A number of candidates are under development  and should be available for extensive clinical trials in 2021. 


Zhang, J. et al Fecal Microbiota Transplantation from Warthog to Pig Confirms the Influence of the Gut Microbiota on African Swine Fever Susceptibility. Scientific Reports 10:17605 October 2020


Combination Plant and Chicken Protein Formulation Contributes to Acceptability of Perdue Chicken Plus™ Nuggets


Directed specifically at the children’s market, Perdue Farms is now marketing Chicken Plus ™ Nuggets shaped as dinosaurs.  The nuggets and complementary tenders and patties comprise equal quantities of antibiotic-free chicken meat and a vegetable protein component derived from cauliflower and chickpeas.  Food Network recently voted the Perdue Chicken Plus™ product the “best tasting frozen chicken nuggets”. The vegetable protein component is provided by The Better Meat Company, co-founded by Paul Shapiro.


Hybrid meat and vegetable protein combinations appeal to flexitarians based on health and environmental considerations.


Chick-Fil-A® Suing Major Broiler Producers


Chick-Fil-A®, with a reputed $11 billion in annual revenue, has sued AgriStats and 16 major broiler integrators alleging anti competitive activity from 2016 onwards.  The latest iteration captioned Chick-Fil-A v AgriStats et al 20-CV-07205, was filed on December 7th in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago.


Chick-Fil-A® maintains that suppliers “possess significant market power in the market for broilers and that their conduct had actual anti-competitive effects with no or insufficient offsetting pro-competitive justifications”.  Essentially the Chick-Fil-A® suit parallels similar litigation filed on behalf of retail chains and restaurants. In all probability cases will be consolidated given commonality of issues.


The most recent filing must be viewed in the light of criminal indictments against executives at Pilgrim's Pride Corporation and Claxton Foods and a settlement entered into between Pilgrim’s Pride and the Department of Justice.


To review postings on this topic enter Pilgrim’s Pride in the SEARCH block.



Dollar General Announces Expansion


In a recent press release, Dollar General announced that it will add 1,050 new locations in 2021 and complete 1,750 store renovations.  The new stores will add to the approximately 17,000 in the U.S. Stores will range from 7,500 to 15,000 square feet with units located where possible in existing buildings with a concentration on rural communities.


For the 3rd quarter ended October 30th 2020, Dollar General (DG) posted net income of $574.3 million on net sales of $8,199 million with a diluted EPS of $2.31.  Comparable values for the quarter ended November 1st 2019 were net income of $365.6 million on net sales of $6,991 million with a diluted EPS of $1.42.


Dollar General has benefited from increased sales during the COVID-19 crisis. Todd Vasos, the company CEO attributes increased margins to introduction of fresh items under the DG Fresh initiative.


Dollar General has a market capitalization of $52.1 billion.  The company has traded over the past 52-weeks over a range of $120.00 to $225.25 with a 50-day moving average of $214.03.  12-month trailing operating margin was 10.5 percent and profit margin, 7.8 percent.  The return on assets was 8.8 percent and on equity 37.4 percent.


Broiler Production in Romania to Decline in 2020


According to USDA-FAS GAIN report RO2020-0031, domestic production in Romania will decline 9.3 percent from 2019 to attain a level of 460,000 metric tons.  USDA attributes the reduction to the affect of COVID that has almost eliminated restaurant dining. Imports from EU nations and Ukraine have depressed domestic production.


In 2020, net imports will amount to 49,100 metric tons although total imports from other EU-28 nations will attain 124,000 metric tons offset by exports of 77,500 metric tons in 2020.  Given a population of 19.5 million, average per capita consumption is 56.4 pounds representing 45 percent of the meat consumed in the Nation.  Pork at 35 percent is the second most popular meat, down from 41 percent in 2010.


The Romanian chicken industry is characterized by vertical integration with 80 percent of product marketed in chilled form.  The Government of Romania extends subsidies to the poultry sector based on a livestock-unit basis for individual growers.


Meat Industry and Unions Urge COVID Priority Vaccination for Workers


In a rare instance of unity, meat packing companies, unions and advocates for worker's rights are jointly urging priority status for workers in meat and poultry plants to receive COVID vaccine.  Organizations involved include the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)), the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) and the United Food and Commercial Worker's International Union. (UFCWI)


The UFCWI stated, "America's grocery, meat packing and food processing workers have been on the front line of this deadly pandemic since day-one, putting themselves in harm's way to feed our families during the crisis".  The statement continued, "as the largest union for America's essential workers in grocery, meat packing and food processing, UFCWI is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prioritize these brave men and women for early access to COVID-19 vaccine, immediately after healthcare workers".


Julie Anna Potts, President and CEO of the North America Meat Institute commented, "the men and women of the meat and poultry industry help keep America's grocery stores stocked and our farm economy working".  She added, "they should be highly prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination following our Nation's brave healthcare workers". NAMI claim that vaccination would be justified on the basis of diversity among the workforce and that vaccination would limit spread of COVID in rural communities.


LULAC stated that meat-packing workers deserved to be protected as soon as possible as a high-risk group.


Government of Israel Throws Resources Behind Cell-Cultured Meat


In a visit to cell-cultured meat developer Aleph Farms, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that a Government agency will be established to assist developers of the technology and to oversee stakeholders operating in the field. 


The Israeli Innovation Authority operates incubators that have provided facilities for The Kitchen Hub and Fresh Start.  Aleph Farms initially operated under The Kitchen Hub incubator and was afforded assistance by the Bio-Medical Engineering facility of the Israel Institute of Technology.


Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms stated, "the new national plan for alternative proteins involved six different ministries and capitalizes on Israel's unique capabilities".

Prime Minister Netanyahu at Aleph Farms


Muyan Foods in China Erecting 85,000-Sow Complex


Muyan Foods is nearing completion of a hog complex in Neixiang County in Henan Province.  According to Reuters the facility will comprise twenty-one buildings each of six levels. The projected output is 2.1 million marketable hogs annually from 85,000 gilts and sows housed.


The justification for this high concentration of animals in multistory structures is questioned given that China has yet to develop a vaccine against African swine fever.  There are no details on how waste will be processed. Based on existing intensive livestock operations in China, aerobic digesters will be installed to convert waste to power for the complex.


Tyson Foods Extends COVID Prevention in All Plants


Tyson Foods has invested more than $540 million to upgrade U.S. facilities to protect workers from COVID-19.  The company has engaged the services of Matrix Medical Network to implement a monitoring program using state-of-the-art algorithms to detect increases in incidence rate, both in plants and the communities where facilities are located.  Action taken by Tyson Foods include:

  • Ongoing program of weekly meetings to educate workers in all facilities
  • Installing new signage and issuing information in multiple languages describing reccomended activities to prevent infection both in plants and in the community
  • Installing HEPA air filtration in plant breakrooms
  • Continuous daily cleaning in all facilities
  • Installing infrared temperature scanners
  • Designating social distancing monitors
  • Providing employees with PPE
  • Hiring 200 additional nurses, bringing the company complement of medical professionals to  600 involved in conducting health screens and to track cases
  • Establishing clinics at seven large plant locations to provide workers and families with healthcare assistance


Company efforts have been guided by an independent panel of experts, including the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University.


Tom Brower, Senior Vice President of Health and Safety for Tyson Foods stated, “Given the widely reported rise of COVID-19 cases across the U.S. and other parts of the world, we know we must remain diligent in our efforts to protect our team members.”  He added, “In addition to strategic testing we are committed to work with outside health experts to find new, even more effective ways, to tackle the virus.”


USDA Chicken Purchases


On December 4th USDA-AMS announced purchase of chicken products for the school lunch program and other domestic food assistance initiatives for fiscal 2021.  Products to be acquired include:



  • 450 tons of consumer split breasts at $2.43 to $2.52 per lb.


  • 340 tons of cut-up chicken in 40 lb. packs at $0.90 to $0.96 per lb.


  • 1,663 tons of whole bagged chicken in 40 lb. packs at $0.83 to $0.93 per lb.


  • 20 tons of cut-up chicken in 40 lb. packs at $2.65 per lb.


Total purchase quantity will be 2,471 tons.


Shenandoah Valley Organic to Erect Harrisonburg, VA. Plant


Shenandoah Valley Organic intends to erect a 75,000 square foot plant in Harrisonburg VA.  Corwin Heatwole, founder and CEO of the chicken company noted, “Our production team and our farmers live here in Virginia and come with tremendous experience in the poultry industry. We are fortunate to live in this beautiful Valley but are close to large East Coast markets where organic poultry demand is high.” 


The company was founded in 2014 and has received three tranches of venture capital funding respectively in 2017 ($3.7 million); 2018 ($5.5 million) and most recently in 2020 ($15 million) for the plant.

Bettina Ring, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for the state of Virginia stated, “In 2013, we were proud to help Shenandoah Valley Organic to get started with one of our first AFID awards. The partnerships this project highlights, between farmer and processor as well as the private and public sectors, are great examples of how we can help bring economic vitality and opportunity to all corners of the Commonwealth.”


JBS Enhancing COVID Prevention at Greeley CO. Beef Plant


Reacting to criticism from public health officials and unions relating to the initial Company response following the emergence of COVID-19 in March and April, JBS has now intensified measures to protect workers and indirectly the community in Weld County. 


JBS has placed 202 workers representing the vulnerable population from the plant granting on protective leave with full pay and benefits.  In March, employees 70 years and older were placed on leave. This policy has been expanded to include those over the age of 60.  JBS is providing regular testing for COVID, supplying PPE and has installed ionization equipment to inactivate airborne virus in critical areas.  Other actions include staggering start and break times, health screening and checking temperatures of workers at the beginning of each shift.



SCOTUS to Consider California Regulation of Union Activity


The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid.  The underlying case was the subject of an opinion by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that California regulations allow union organizers access to agricultural employees on the employers’ private property. 


According to the California Agriculture Labor Relations Act, union organizers have the right of access to workers for the purpose of meeting and talking to solicit their support.  The California Act places restrictions on time, place and number of organizers.  Landowners allege that United Farm Workers’ Union representatives disrupt work by intrusive practices including intimidation and the use of bullhorns.  The plaintiffs invoked the “Takings Clause” of the Fifth Amendment to deny access to unions.  This contention was rejected by the Ninth Circuit that ruled in favor of the union. The Court concluded that Cedar Point Nursery did not suffer permanent damage from the activities of union organizers.


Pennsylvania COVID-19 Indemnity Bill Vetoed


Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania recently vetoed House Bill 1737.  This legislation would have provided broad protection for employers against all lawsuits arising from COVID-19 among employees.  In vetoing the bill, Governor Wolf stated that the bill as drafted provided "overreaching immunity" and thereby created opportunities for employers to reduce the intensity of preventive measures against COVID-19 infection in plants.


January IPPA Meetings Cancelled Due to COVID 19

A previous decision by the organizers of the International Poultry and Processing Exposition to cancel the in-person components of the 2021 meeting is reflected in an announcement that the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) will cancel their trade show and in-person meeting. It is anticipated that some events and associated educational programs will be presented online. 


Among international events, Interpack 2021 has been cancelled by Messe Dusseldorf, the organizers of the event. The exhibition was scheduled to take place at the end of February 2021.


Vietnam to Follow China on COVID Surveillance of Imported Foods?


Vietnam has emerged as a significant market for U.S. leg quarters and feet receiving 132,552 metric tons of product valued at $127 million shipped over the first nine months of 2020.  Possibly following the lead of China, the Ministry of Health in Vietnam is considering imposing COVID-19 surveillance on packaging and meat products imported to the nation. 


Vietnam reacted to the emergence of COVID-19 with prompt and effective control involving obligatory quarantine and lock-downs.  The nation of 96 million has recorded only 1,300 confirmed cases and 35 fatalities. As with China public health officials are concerned over reintroduction of infection.


U.S. to Promote Frozen Chicken for Taiwan Market


According to an article by Garrett Borkhuis in the December 7th edition of the USAPEEC MondayLine the U.S. currently enjoys over 90 percent market share of chicken imported into Taiwan.  Through September 2020 the U.S. exported 188,000 metric tons of product comprising leg quarters and drumsticks valued at $175 million.  The dominance of the U.S. is in part due to Brazil being excluded from the market.  This is attributed to opposition from domestic producers with considerable influence on the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.  Domestic producers promote chilled product on the basis of safety and freshness and are pressing for labels denoting country of origin.


To promote U.S. product, USAPEEC has organized food safety seminars to convince consumers that frozen chicken is in no way inferior with respect to safety and quality compared to chilled chicken. Following market research, U.S. promotional efforts are directed to lunch-box presentations representing 30 percent of consumption of broiler meat in Taiwan.


Broiler Production in China Compensates for Loss in Hog Output


Data released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China, as circulated by the U.S. Soybean Association, demonstrated the ability of the broiler industry in China to rapidly expand and compensate for sharply decreased hog production.  African swine fever emerged in China in late 2018 and has only recently responded to preventive measures.  It is questioned why a nation with competence in molecular biology faced with a devastating disease has not developed an effective vaccine against African swine fever.  During the past two years, officials in China have implemented biosecurity, herd depletion of affected farms and restriction on movement of live hogs.  Perhaps the most important change, as predicted in 2018, has been  restructure of production marked by integration and a shift in the size of hog farms favoring implementation of biosecurity and eliminating the need to transport live hogs.


In 2017, hog feed represented 45 percent of total production of approximately 220 million metric tons of feed in China.  Broiler formulations comprised 29 percent of feed manufactured. The effect of African swine fever during the fourth quarter of 2018 was evident as a one percent reduction in hog feed consumed, amounting to 97.2 million metric tons.  Concurrently in 2018, broiler feed increased by 8 percent to 65.1 million metric tons. 


The impact of African swine fever was more evident in 2019 as hog feed declined from the previous year by 22 percent to 76.6 million metric tons.  In the same year, consumption of broiler feed increased by 30 percent to 84.7 million metric tons.  There was no effective increase in total feed manufactured between 2018 and 2019 with layer, aqua and ruminant feeds remaining constant for the three-year period.


 It is evident that broiler producers in comparison to pork or beef producers are more capable of expanding production within limited time, attributed to the inherently faster rate of reproduction of chickens.  Faced with increased demand, parent breeders were molted, hatchery capacity was increased and growing and processing facilities were expeditiously expanded.  It is noteworthy that the increase in availability of chicken in China involved white-feathered broilers with little or no increase from the ‘yellow bird’ segment.  The capacity for broiler producers to increase production over the short term is obviously beneficial in the face of protein shortages caused by disease in competing domestic meat-producing species.  The ability to expand production is however a two-edged sword since it facilitates oversupply with lower realization resulting in inevitable losses. That as they say is a different movie.


Import Protocols for U.S. Animal and Plants into China Concluded


Ten months after signing the U.S.-China Phase-One Trade Agreement, the China Department of Animal and Plant Quarantine under the General Administration of Customs has agreed to 37 inspection protocols.  This belated action will facilitate trade with the U.S. although it is now clear that China will not fulfill its obligations with respect to the designated value of agricultural commodities and other goods in 2020.


 Based on 2017 import levels it was agreed that China would purchase U.S. products to an additional value of $200 billion within two years of signing the Phase-One agreement.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, China purchased 3.4 million tons of U.S. soybeans in October double the quantity recorded for October 2019 in addition to 1.63 million tons of U.S. crude oil representing a record for the month.


The time taken to negotiate the protocols confirms the adage that “the devil is in the details”.


U.K. to Ban Export of Live Animals for Slaughter


George Eustice, U.K. Secretary of the Department of the Environment, has announced regulations that would prohibit the export of live animals for slaughter.  This initiative is based on improving the welfare of animals through all stages of life.  Brexit has created an opportunity to ban export of live animals.  In 2018 approximately 6,000 sheep and goats were exported to the EU principally for ritual slaughter.  Animal welfare activists emphasize the stress to which animals are subject to during transport and inhumane slaughter in nations of destination.


The proposed regulations relate to animals shipped from the UK for slaughter.  This would not affect export of animals for breeding, since the value of livestock in this category presumes adequate space, expedited transport and care before and during movement.


Transport of animals for slaughter has come under scrutiny following recent disasters involving both cattle and sheep shipped from producing nations including Australia, New Zealand using non-seaworthy vessels and under inhumane conditions.



David Scott to Chair House Agriculture Committee


Representative David Scott was elected Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee this past week. He was elected to Congress in 2002 to represent the newly established 13th Congressional District encompassing parts of Clayton, Fulton, and Douglas counties. Scott currently heads the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit and has served on the Agriculture Committee since 2003.  Scott will be the first African American to lead the House Agriculture Committee.  He replaces Rep. Colin Peterson, (D-MN) who failed in his reelection campaign in November.


Scott (75) was born in Ayner, South Carolina on a farm and was raised by his grandparents while his parents worked in northern states. He earned a B.A. in finance from Florida A&M University and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  He served in the Georgia House from 1974 to 1982 and in the Georgia Senate from 1983 to 2002.  Rep. Scott was named the 18th most bipartisan legislator in the 114th Congress.

Rep. David Scott


Rep. Scott has been the subject of controversy, having supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions.  The Citizens for Responsibility named him among the most 25 corrupt members of Congress for questionable diversion of campaign funds to a billboard company operated by his spouse and other family members.


Details on JBS USA Settlement Released

In the November 11th edition of CHICK-NEWS, it was reported that JBS USA, controlled by JBS SA of Brazil, had settled with plaintiffs in Pork Antitrust Litigation filed in 2018.  According to documents released, JBS will pay $24.5 million into a settlement fund to reimburse plaintiffs for damages alleged and for legal expenses. 



Co-defendants in the lawsuit include Clemens Food Group, Hormel Foods Corp., Seaboard Foods, Smithfield Foods, Triumph Foods and Tyson Foods.  Central to the issue is AgriStats, the compiler and distributor of a benchmark costing system that has been implicated by plaintiffs in broiler-related litigation.  Plaintiffs claim that subscription to the AgriStats system provided data that could be construed as indirect collusion.


In addition to the settlement fee, JBS will provide “specified cooperation” that will obviously assist plaintiffs in recovering damages against remaining defendants. The agreement reached through negotiations supervised by a mediator were approved by Judge John Tunheim of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota.


On October 25th sister company Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., controlled by JBS SA, agreed to a $110 million penalty imposed by the Department of Justice to settle criminal charges of collusion with other broiler integrators to rig bids.


Avian Influenza Diagnosed in Miyazaki Prefecture of Japan


The Ministry of Agriculture of Japan has announced outbreaks of avian influenza, presumably H5N8 strain, on broiler farms near Hyuga and Tsuno in Miyazaki Prefecture in Southwestern Japan. A total of 70,000 birds were depleted. According to USDA-FAS GAIN Report JA2020-0196 released December 3rd, Miyazaka Prefecture produces twenty percent of broilers in Japan and has 28 million birds.


These outbreaks bring the total of HPAI cases to 14 this year with recent outbreaks in Kagawa Hyogo and Kyushu Prefectures contributing to depletion of approximately 1.9 million chickens comprising 300,000 broilers and 1.6 million egg-producing flocks in Japan since the beginning of November. The FAS Station in Tokyo estimates the population of chickens in Japan at 138 million broilers and 185 million laying hens, contributing to 63 percent self-sufficiency.


Sequential outbreaks within a limited period in diverse areas of Japan indicates dissemination of virus by migratory waterfowl as is currently the case in Eastern and Western Europe and South Korea.


Salmonella Outbreak in France Impacts Children


The National Reference Center for Salmonella at the Pasteur Institute in Paris recorded 26 cases of salmonellosis in October and November with 17 patients classified as children. 


The causal agent was Salmonella Bovismorbificans.  The vehicle of infection was identified as a dried sausage product manufactured by France Salaison according to the Directorate General for Health, equivalent to the U.S. CDC.  The implicated dry sausage product was stocked by all the major supermarket chains in France and product was also incorporated into further processed items, including sandwiches.  Authorities in France have issued warnings to consumers with illustrations of the affected products and brand names.

Sausage Implicated in Outbreak


Argentine Soybeans and Product Exports Impacted by Worker Strike


Workers involved in handling oil seeds and grain inspectors in the Rosario Hub comprising 25 loading points, initiated a strike on Tuesday, December 1st threatening to cripple the potential of Argentina to export soybeans, soybean oil and soybean meal necessary to earn foreign exchange.


For the record Argentina has posted a 19 percent decline in GNP over the past 12 months, and GNP was down 51 percent over the third quarter of 2020. Consumer prices have risen 41 percent in 2020 year-to-date and unemployment has risen concurreently to 12 percent. The interest rate has gained 464 basis points and the currency of Argentine has declined 24 percent against the U.S. Dollar over the past 12 months.



Empty loading berth Rosario Port Complex

Idled Soybean Crushing Plant

Prolonged inflation as a result of fiscal mismanagement by the socialist government has created a sense of desperation among workers and numerous sectors are threatening strike action to obtain a living wage.  Organizers for the unions concerned claim that CAARA-CEC, the employers’ association has not negotiated in good faith.  This contention is denied by the Chamber representing companies exporting commodities, claiming excessive demands by workers who previously staged a strike in October.


To complicate the issue captains of pilot boats necessary to assist in the docking and movement of ocean-going bulk carriers have staged a standdown although it is anticipated that the Federal Coast Guard will restore services.


Latin American Poultry Summit to be Virtual in 2021


According to a release by USPOULTRY, the 2021 Latin American Poultry Summit will take place on Monday, January 25th and Tuesday, January 26th from 10h00 to 12h30.


The theme for 2021 will be “Examining Key Growth Parameters for the Future”.  The program is sponsored by the International Poultry Expo (IPPE) and Asociación Latino Americana de Avicultura.  The program will take place against a backdrop of disruptions in supply chains and alteration in consumer behavior attributed to the COVID outbreak. 

The program will be presented in Spanish and registration will open on December 14th with registration information available at <latinamericanpoultrysummit.org>.


Avian Influenza Affecting Free-Living Swans in the UK


A report in The Guardian published on November 27th confirms avian influenza strain H5N8 in swans in Cumbria, Worcestershire, Devon and in diverse city parks. 


The geographic extent of infection in this apparently highly susceptible species denotes the broad dissemination of H5N8 avian influenza virus by migratory waterfowl.  Other species affected include pink-footed geese, graylag geese, Canada geese and non-anseriformes including raptors and shore birds. Swans were affected by HPAI in Holland in November.


Outbreaks of H5N8 avian influenza have occurred in domestic poultry in the Counties of Kent, Cheshire, Leicestershire and Herefordshire.  A flock of 10,000 turkeys was depleted during the past week in Yorkshire as result of H5N8 infection.  This followed depletion of a 13,500-hen flock in Cheshire. 


U.K. veterinary authorities have issued a nationwide warning to poultry producers to maintain high levels of biosecurity including confinement.  Where outbreaks have occurred, appropriate OIE protocols relating to quarantine, depletion and surveillance have been implemented.


Economic Impact of Poultry Meat Industries


In a December 2nd release the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY), National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation released an updated economic impact study that highlights the positive impact of the poultry meat industry on jobs, wages, and to Federal and state revenue in the United States.


The study revised since the 2018 edition, classifies poultry meat into chicken and turkey segments.


Key economic data include:-


  • The chicken industry accounts for 1,613,881 jobs, $91.3 billion in wages, $433.2 billion in economic activity and $31.5 billion in government revenue.
  • The turkey industry is responsible for 387,346 jobs, $22.0 billion in wages, $103.4 billion in economic activity and $7.6 billion in government revenue.


“We are pleased to continue providing this valuable tool across the industry that shows the positive economic impact the poultry industry has on our nation and communities,” said John Starkey, president of USPOULTRY.


The data is hosted on interactive websites that can be viewed collectively or by individual product, and then sorted nationally by state, congressional district, state house district or state senate district, and county. For more information on the economic impact access:






Canadian Food Inspection Agency Recalls Home-Prepared Chicken and Beef


Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued a food safety warning for home-prepared beef and chicken packed in half-liter Mason jars without labels.  A resident of Tignish on Prince Edward Island prepared bottled meat that may contain spores of Clostridium botulinum.  There have been no reports of illness as a result of consumption of the implicated product that has not been formally recalled.


Intensified Inspections for COVID-19 on Imported Beef Creating Disruption in China


During June, authorities in China mandated routine sampling of imported meat and seafood products to screen for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.  The intensity in sampling increased during late November following cases of COVID-19 among meat handlers in the ports of Qingdao and Tianjin.


Delays in the release of imported products subject to obligatory testing and the risk of condemnation have resulted in cancellation of orders by concerned brokers.  Fear of resurgence in COVID-19 acquired from meat and seafood has resulted in closure of the Xinfadi market in Beijing, regarded as a source of community infection in June and July.  According to Reuters, this market handles 18,000 tons of vegetables, 20,000 tons of fruit and 15,000 tons of seafood daily.

Xinfadi Market

Required inspections at the port of arrival in China and intensified disinfection of containers and contact surfaces in markets have added to the cost of imported beef. Negative publicity directed at imported meat and seafood has dampened demand resulting in cancellation of orders for shipments of beef from Australia, Brazil and the U.S.


There is speculation that the program of increased surveillance for COVID-19 virus on imported products is intended as an indirect protectionist measure. This may coincide with the increase in supply of domestic pork following rebuilding of herds affected by African swine fever in 1919 and early 2020.


Taiwan Decision to Import U.S. Pork Creates Confrontation in Legislature


In August, President Tsai Ing-wen announced that U.S. pork would be imported, effective January 1st without a requirement that herds of origin would not receive ractopamine. This beta agonist feed additive is banned in the EU, China, Taiwan and many other nations.


Taiwan Protest

The issue of pork imports from the U.S. has become politicized with the opposition Kuomintang using the issue to embarrass the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.  For weeks, the Kuomintang representatives have prevented the premier Su Tseng-chang from addressing the Legislature.  Tempers flared last week with the Kuomintang emphasizing their opposition by throwing pig intestines and sounding air horns in the chamber.


The Kuomintang issued a statement that "to protect people's health and protect the bottom line of food safety, the opposition party must resist".  Physical altercations and demonstrations are apparently a regular occurrence in the Taiwan Legislature.


JBS USA and Plumrose USA Donate $600,000 to the Ottumwa Family YMCA


JBS USA and Sister Company Plumrose USA have donated $600,000 to the YMCA in Ottumwa, IA. to expand childcare facilities. This city will be among five possible locations for a proposed Plumrose charcuterie plant. The donation could be construed as a down payment for anticipated civic acceptance and approval.


It is noted that the need for childcare for plant workers has increased as a result of the COVID outbreak.  It is possible that to retain employees and generate loyalty in the future, packers and processors will have to consider providing childcare onsite as is common in the EU.


Smithfield Donates Funds for Minority Education Camps


Smithfield Foods will contribute $300,000 to support Heritage STEM Camps Foundation.  This organization encourages young minority women to undertake studies in science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM).  The summer camp focuses on agriculture and technology for twelve- to eighteen-year-old students resident in Virginia and North Carolina where the Company operates. 



Smithfield previously committed $500,000 to support programs to assist minorities to undertake careers in agriculture.


U.K. Experiencing COVID-19 in Packing Plants


Kepak Group, a major U.K. meat processor has reported outbreaks in processing plants located at Bodmin in Cornwall and also at Portlethen and Aberdeenshire in Scotland.  In the Cornwall facility 106 cases were diagnosed out of 271 tested with 80 percent asymptomatic.  The facility in Scotland has 78 cases and may be involved in a widespread community outbreak in the Grampian region.


Kepak operates 15 plants across the U.K. and Ireland and was established over 50 years ago. The Company is cooperating with the Food Standards Agencies of Scotland and the U.K. together with local authorities.  In a release the company confirmed that health and wellbeing of workers is a priority. Accordingly appropriate measures to prevent COVID-19 are in effect. The Company and plants are designated as an Essential Service Provider and all facilities have remained open and functional since March.


GAO Evaluates CDC Response to Foodborne Infections


A report authored by Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and the Environment with the Government Accountability Office responded to a Congressional request from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), to evaluate the response of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to multistate foodborne outbreaks.


Currently the CDC considers the severity of illnesses and the vulnerability of consumers in recommended whether a specific food item is a source of infection and accordingly selects an appropriate response that may include:-

  • A reactive media statement to be used to respond to inquiries from the media
  • An Investigation Notice to provide information about an outbreak not yet associated with a specific food source
  • A Food Safety Alert to provide specific advice to consumers and the food industry regarding serving or selling an implicated product


This approach is exemplified in the current outbreak of E.coli O157, most possibly associated with leafy greens.  The CDC has released an Investigation Notice although a source for the multistate outbreak has not been identified.


The GAO report makes the following recommendations

  • The Director of the CDC should develop a plan to address risks associated with wider use of culture-independent diagnostic tests that have increased the ability of FoodNet-affiliated to identify outbreaks
  • The Director of the CDC should make publicly available the decision-making process relating to compilation and issue of reports on outbreaks of multistate foodborne illness
  • The Director of the CDC should implement a program of performance assessment relating to outbreaks of foodborne illness including performance goals and measures


Albertsons Companies Extending Own Brands Range of Prepared Meals


Albertsons Companies has introduced twelve new convenience meals that will be available under the Open Nature Savory Skillet™ brand in more than 2,250 stores. Among the easy-to-prepare meals are prime rib roast with mushroom gravy, Mexican-style pulled pork with pineapple, chicken marsala, seafood and andouille sausage jambalaya and Chinese-style beef with broccoli.  It is evident that Albertsons has positioned the meals to cater for diverse ethnic tastes.


Meals can be purchased in-store or ordered on-line for delivery or pick-up using Albertsons website.


Barcode Label to Ascertain Freshness of Poultry and Meat Products


Scientists at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore in cooperation with colleagues at Monash University in Australia and Jiangnan University in China have developed a system to detect spoiled meat and poultry*. 


The principle involves placing a barcode strip incorporating twenty porous nanocomposites of chitosan and dyes on a cellulose acetate base in inner packaging of the product. The strip reacts with volatiles produced by decaying meat.  The status of the contents of the package can be ascertained within 30 seconds using a cell-phone reader incorporating ‘deep convolutional neural network (artificial intelligence) technology’.


The developers claim an accuracy of 98.5 percent in detecting spoiled meat products compared to 61.7 percent for current artificial scent-screening systems.  The barcode and cell phone combination was tested with beef, fish and chicken stored at 25C.  Accuracy was determined from measurements taken from six packages at different time intervals over 48 hours yielding 4,000 images.  Spoiled meats could be identified with total accuracy and with a range of 96-99 percent sensitivity for either fresh or slightly spoiled meat products.


It is evident that the system, if applied commercially, would enable institutional kitchens and consumers to correlate freshness with ‘use by’ dates. Unnecessary disposal would be prevented contributing to sustainability.


*Guo, L. et al Portable food-freshness prediction platform based on colorimetric barcode combinatorics and deep convolutional neural networks Advanced Materials.doi.org/10.1002/8dma.202004805. October 1, 2020


AGR Partners Seeking Investment Opportunities


AGR Partners, with a broad portfolio in agriculture, is seeking to build relationships with owners, management teams, and co-investors where their expertise can add strategic and operational value.



AGR is considering the following areas:-


  • Food and Agribusiness companies with products and services supporting the food chain
  • Investment of $15-$75 million
  • Established businesses with $50 to $500 million in annual revenue
  • Investments structured as equity, convertible debt or subordinated debt

Ejnar Knudsen


AGR Partners provides capital to agribusiness enterprises through non-controlling equity and subordinated debt to cultivate long-term growth in agribusiness and food companies.


AGR Partners was founded in 2012 and is an established private equity firm addressing the cyclical nature of agriculture with an appreciation of the duration needed to achieve returns. The Company has investments in Ridley in Australia, Green Plains, Gowan Company, Village Wine Estates, Western Milling, and Materra Farming. 


For further information, contact Ejnar Knudsen eknudsen@agrpartners.com (530) 564-0626. Davis, California.


Smithfield Foods CEO Transition Expedited


Dennis Organ, designated as the incoming CEO of Smithfield Foods, will take the reins of the company at the beginning of December, one month ahead of schedule.  Outgoing and long serving CEO Kenneth M. Sullivan will continue with the company as an advisor and  will be visiting with plants across the company through December, retiring on January 3, 2021.

Kenneth Organ

Smithfield Foods CEO Designate


Indiana State Department of Agriculture Distributes CARES Act Funding to Meat Processors


The Department of Agriculture of the state of Indiana is distributing $4 million assigned as Federal funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) to 41 local meat processing businesses.  According to Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch, the grants must be matched with a 50 percent cash requirement.  This translates to approximately $200,000 for each of the plants. It is intended that the funding will be used to promote worker safety, increase slaughter volume or other operational needs.

Lieutenant Governor Crouch stated “Grants will address issues caused by COVID-19 and help meet consumer demand in both normal and emergency situations.”


The Role of Packing Plants in Community COVID Infection


Mid-year statistics suggested a correlation between the presence of a meat packing plant in a county and the level of community infection.  Analysis of available data confirmed the role of meat plants in elevating community prevalence.  Following research by epidemiologists at Columbia University* it was demonstrated that the presence of a slaughtering plant in a county contributes to four to six additional COVID-19 cases per 1,000 population.  This represents a 50 to 75 percent increase from the baseline.  Concurrently, mortality rates are elevated by close to 0.1 death per 1,000 people or a 37 to 50 percent increase over the baseline.  Taking into account the total U.S. population, it is calculated that packing plants contributed to an additional 240,000 to 310,000 additional cases and 4,300 to 5,200 additional deaths among people not working in livestock processing plants in specific counties.


Conversely when plants were closed as a result of high levels of COVID infection, the incidence of the infection in the community declined.  The report noted the deficiencies in accounting for all cases given the decentralized and sporadic nature of contact tracing and availability of testing, especially among counties with inadequate public health resources.  Consistent with press reports, there were obvious incentives for both local and state authorities and individual companies to suppress case reporting. 

*Taylor, C.A. et al Livestock Plants and COVID-19 Transmission. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010115117, November 19, 2020.


China Implicates Imported Pork in COVID Cases


On November 23rd China ascribed two cases of COVID-19 to imported hog heads from North America entering the port city of Tianjin.  According to officials at the Tianjin Center for Disease Control and Prevention, samples taken from an area where hog heads had been deposited yielded the same coronavirus as those isolated from two patients that handled the product.  This case is under evaluation along with a second claim involving a worker in contact with frozen pork imported from Germany.



Effective Ventilation is Critical in Reducing COVID Spread


It is now acknowledged that COVID-19 is transmitted principally by aerosol inhalation. Direct or indirect contact with contaminated surfaces is less important.  Accordingly epidemiologists  recommend air exchange rates of three to six times per hour for confined spaces such as restaurants and commercial locations with close contact including egg packing and meat processing plants. Occupants of modern office and residential buildings without an opportunity to open windows are obviously vulnerable to infection.


The probability of transmission within an area can be markedly reduced by air-filtration capable of removing particles down to 0.3 microns in diameter.  HEPA will achieve entrapment of 99 percent of particles greater than 0.3 microns, but less expensive and proportionately less effective filters are available to reduce transmission rates.  Unfortunately, the greater the efficiency of filtration the higher the ventilation capacity required.  If air handling systems are upgraded with more efficient filtration both capital and operating costs are incurred. As an interim expedient free-standing air filtration systems can be installed to remove particles that may carry SARS-CoV-2 also requiring purchase of units and additional but minor cost for power.


In many confined situations such as locker rooms and break rooms, dry hydrogen peroxide generators are recommended as they will effectively inactivate viruses suspended on air particles. Information on these units can be accessed by clicking on to the Synexis logo on the right side of the welcome page.



China Canceling Soybean Orders


Importers of soybeans in China. are now negotiating cancellation of orders (“washing”) with U.S. suppliers with respect to consignments scheduled for December and January.  Soybeans increased in price during November as the rate of ordering rose, presumably to comply with the requirements of the Phase-One agreement signed in January.  Since China is the largest importer of soybeans in the World, accounting for more than 60 percent of shipments, they became a self-fulfilling prophecy driving up the price by their own activity. 


The increase in price of soybeans has sharply reduced the crushing margin in China by as much as 13 percent in November.  The basis (premium above futures price) has dropped 30 percent from $0.93 per bushel during the first week in November to $0.65 per bushel for the past week, suggesting a sharp decline in demand.  The cooling of purchases by China should be reflected in a corresponding decline in the CME price for soybeans.  On June 25th. 2020, soybeans traded on the CME at $8.63 per bushel ascending by 38 percent to $11.91 per bushel on November 24th.


West Liberty Foods Veteran to Retire


Gerald Lessard will retire from West Liberty Foods after a16-year tenure.  Lessard is currently Vice-president of operations for West Liberty Foods and is also responsible for Liberty Cold, a warehouse and distribution center.


Lessard has 40-years experience in the protein industry having held positions of responsibility with Zacky Farms and the Butterball Company.


In commenting on the retirement, Ed Garrett, CEO stated, “Gerald has always been a source of valuable knowledge for West Liberty Foods.”  He added, “His innovative mindset allowed West Liberty Foods to find manufacturing solutions and reach operational excellence.”

Gerald Lessard


White House Annual Turkey Pardoning Ceremony


Ron Kradel and 2020 Presidential Turkey

Ron Kardel, Chairman of The National Turkey Federation presented the national Thanksgiving turkey to the President and First Lady during the annual national White House event on November 24th. 


Kardel stated, "this Thanksgiving, possibly more than ever before we are grateful for the opportunity to spend time with loved ones no matter what celebrations may look like.  This event not only represents the unity and togetherness of the holidays, but also the hard work and dedication of the turkey industry".  Kardel, a six-generation Iowa farmer raised the two national Thanksgiving turkeys that will live out their lives at Iowa State University.


Hormel CEO Predicts Restoration of Food Service in 2021


In the conference call following the release of Q4 and FY2020 results, Jim Snee, Chairman, president and CEO of Hormel Foods predicted a return to dining-out in 2021.  This opinion is obviously dependent on effective control of COVID-19.  His optimism is based on deployment of effective vaccines that should be available during the first quarter of 2021.  Whether a sufficient proportion of our population will be immunized as a matter for conjecture.  Currently there is a disinclination among certain demographics to receive the vaccine and there are innumerable challenges to distributing and administering vaccines requiring a cold chain.  Epidemiologists consider that at least 60 percent of the population of the U.S. will have to be immune to COVID-19 to establish a level of herd immunity sufficient to suppress, but not necessary eliminate the disease.

Jim Snee CEO Hormel Foods

Tempering optimism with reality, Snee anticipates a delay in attaining pre-COVID levels of food service activity. He envisages a gradual transition from home consumption to eating out.  Companies committed to food service such as Sysco, U.S. Foods, McLane, Performance, Compass Group, Sodexo and other distributors will be dependent on restoration of travel and in addition, resumption of normal activities by schools and universities. 


Take-out, home delivery and pick-up have sustained the QSR segment and supported many casual dining chains during the COVID period, although volume and hence profit throughout the food service sector is far lower than in corresponding quarters of 2019.


Walmart to Introduce Direct Delivery of Online Orders from Stores


It is anticipated that major chains operating online ordering with omnichannel distribution will be stressed by an influx of orders in December.  Accordingly Walmart will introduce fulfillment from stores that operate a same-day delivery service.  The program will involve 2,800 out of the 4,500 Walmart stores in the U.S.  According to Tom Wood, Senior Vice-president of Customer Product and Store Fulfillment, Walmart can optimize the use of inventory and assets and potentially save on packaging and handling by adopting an ex-store strategy. 


It is significant that Target reported a high proportion of online sales completed by stores through either customer pick-up or by delivery using Shipt. Evidentially Walmart and possibly other chains have recognized the potential efficiency and economy from fulfillment using existing local stores.  The concentration of stores in areas of high population density will serve as a competitive advantage against Amazon.  This company is using some Whole Foods locations as dark stores in urban areas to deliver groceries.  Ocado of the UK and other companies facilitating retail logistics in the EU and Israel have developed technology to be retrofitted to existing supermarkets and hypermarkets. These modifications and installations provide expedited customer service at a lower cost than a remote dedicated fulfillment center.


Thanksgiving Message


Barbara and I send to all our sponsors, subscribers and industry friends our best wishes for a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.  This year, 2020 will be like no other. Many of you, as with our family, will have to accept a zoom gathering in place of the usual fellowship and interaction. We are the lucky ones. A sobering thought is that one in four of our fellow citizens is experiencing "food insecurity" Government-speak for hunger on this day.


At least we can look forward to the release of effective COVID vaccines in 2021 although our current statistics are a cause for concern. We must all recognize that masking, social distancing and commonsense decisions regarding gatherings will be necessary to drive down the incidence rate of COVID until we are protected by vaccines. Our hearts go out to those who have been affected and to the families of those who have passed away. The generosity of the Industry in helping those less fortunate is acknowledged but our efforts will have to continue well into the New Year.


As we gather around our tables we should be deeply thankful for our health, family support and wellbeing. Let us all commit to cooperating to restore our pre-COVID lives and assist those who have been impacted over the past nine months. We owe a debt of gratitude to first responders and medical providers who have worked tirelessly over an extended period. 


Copyright © 2021 Simon M. Shane