Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

WASDE Report Marks Turning Point as Ethanol Gobbles Up Corn, NCC Says

July 13, 2011

WASHINGTON — July 13, 2011 — This week’s report on corn and other grains by the U.S. Department of Agriculture marks an important turning point in the evolution of agriculture, according to the National Chicken Council: for the first time, the government is predicting that more corn will be used in this crop year for motor fuel than used for animal feed to help produce food for people.

“Raising poultry and livestock as food for people is taking second place to putting ethanol derived from corn into America’s gasoline tanks,” said Bill Roenigk, senior vice president and chief economist for NCC. “Because of an arbitrary federal mandate, larger and larger amounts of ethanol will be produced from the corn crop, and less will be used to feed the animals needed for America’s dinner plates.”

The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) from USDA predict that 5 billion bushels of corn will be used for feed and related purposes in the 2010/2011 crop year, which runs through September, while 5.05 billion bushels will be used for ethanol and byproducts. The report marks the first time that ethanol usage will exceed feed usage, Roenigk said. The disparity will grow next year as 5.05 billion bushels are used for feed and 5.15 billion bushels go into the ethanol category, USDA predicts. Ethanol will claim 37 percent of corn usage next year, USDA says.

“USDA’s overall estimates of corn production are thought by many analysts to be somewhat optimistic,” Roenigk noted. “They expect that less corn overall will be produced. If that is correct, than even less corn will be available for poultry and livestock feed because the ethanol sector will always get enough to fulfill the mandate. Ethanol producers will always be able to outbid livestock and poultry producers because the fuel industry is required by law to buy ethanol.”

The mandated demand for ethanol has contributed to the skyrocketing cost of corn, which now carries a price tag nearly three times as much as the cost five years ago, when the ethanol demand began to move the market, Roenigk noted. Chicken companies have spent more than $20 billion in added feed costs since then, he said.

WASDE accounts for the fact that the ethanol industry throws off a certain amount of byproducts, such as dried distillers’ grain with solubles (DDGS), which can be used as a feed supplement for livestock and poultry. However, it lacks the nutritional and energy values of corn.

“Producers would rather have corn, but since sufficient quantities are not available at reasonable prices, they will use some DDGS to try to stay in business,” Roenigk said.

Chicken companies are under tremendous pressure from the price of corn, which is by far the largest single factor in the cost of producing a live chicken, he said. At least one chicken company went bankrupt and sold its assets recently, contributing to consolidation within the industry, while others have announced production cutbacks and laid off workers, all because of the rising cost of production driven by the high cost of corn, he said.

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce, process and market chickens and chicken products. Member companies of NCC account for more than 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

Maryland’s Attorney General “Provably Wrong” About Safety of Chicken, NCC Says

June 30, 2009

The Attorney General of Maryland, Douglas Gansler (D), has written an opinion article in The Washington Post stating that chicken is “laced with arsenic.” Mr. Gansler is wrong: absolutely, provably wrong.

If Mr. Gansler were actually to read up on this subject, rather than take his lead from various activists, he would study the findings of the federal agency charged with monitoring the presence of arsenic and other substances in certain foods.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is widely found. As the World Health Organization puts it: “Arsenic is ubiquitous, found in air, water, fuels, and marine life. The daily human intake of arsenic contained in food is in the range 0.5–1 milligrams.” Because trace amounts of arsenic occur widely, the Food & Drug Administration sets a tolerance level in foods. For chicken, that level is 0.5 parts per million.

“The truth is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service samples chicken among many other food for residues of arsenic and many other chemical compounds. The sampling for 2007 showed exactly zero violations among the chickens sampled. Zero,” NCC President George Watts wrote in a letter to the Washington Post.

FSIS also reports findings that do not violate the tolerance level. Some of the samples of chicken livers had findings of arsenic above the level of detection but below the tolerance level. This is because elements such as arsenic tend to “bioaccumulate” in the liver. You would have to eat an enormous amount of chopped liver before you would come close to having a problem, even on a theoretical basis.

As for chicken meat, which is what people normally eat, the agency found no samples with any arsenic at all. This shows that any arsenic present was so insignificant that it was below the level of laboratory detection.

It also shows that chicken is not “laced” with arsenic, whatever Mr. Gansler might think.

Animal health products that include arsenic as one of their chemical building blocks are used in some chicken flocks by some poultry companies. These products are effective in preventing coccidiosis in chickens, which is an infection by microscopic parasites. The use of these products is regulated by FDA.

These products are used to keep the chickens healthy, and a withdrawal period is observed to ensure that these products are not present when the chickens are processed for food. The fact that zero violations were found is proof that the prescribed withdrawal period is observed.

Mr. Gansler claims to have signed up a number of the other state attorneys general in his quest to ban the use of safe, effective products in poultry production. His colleagues might want to look at the facts and take their cue from the experts rather than from an uninformed politician.

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

New Movie on U.S. Food System Seen as One-Sided and Misleading

June 5, 2009

A new documentary movie on the American food industry is “one-sided, negative, and misleading” and promotes a model of an agricultural system that could not possibly produce enough food to feed consumers in the United States and around the world, according to the National Chicken Council.

The movie, entitled “Food, Inc.,” opened Thursday in New York and will begin showing in Los Angeles and San Francisco next Friday, with engagements in a limited number of cities to follow.

“The truth is that the chicken industry produces, processes and markets chickens and chicken products in a safe, responsible manner that delivers wholesome, high-quality products to consumers at affordable prices,” NCC said.

The film shows Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, who has a “pastured poultry” operation, arguing that small-scale production would produce better food. In a rebuttal posted to the web site www.nationalchickencouncil.com, NCC says that small-scale operations occupy only a small niche in the overall system.

“Small-scale farms and ranches simply could not provide sufficient food for 300 million Americans and millions of other people around the world,” NCC says. “There is simply not enough land or labor available to make the model work.” If the mainstream chicken industry attempted to achieve its annual production of more than nine billion birds on a “pastured poultry” basis, it would need 45 million acres — more than all the farmland in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas combined, NCC estimated. “There is simply no way that much land would be available,” NCC said.

The cost to consumers would also be prohibitive, NCC added, noting that products from small-scale producers are typically more expensive than products from mainstream producers.

“If a consumer wants to pay more, that is his or her business, but insisting that only expensive products from small-scale operations are worth eating is pure snobbery,” the NCC statement said.

Reviews of the new film have been mixed. The Village Voice in New York called it “tedious” and “cluttered.”

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

Recession Boosts Grocery Store Sales of Chicken, Analyst and Industry Executives Say

May 8, 2009

SAN ANTONIO — May 1, 2009 — The recession is boosting sales of chicken at retail grocery stores as consumers look for value even while they cut back on expenditures at casual dining restaurants, a leading analyst and several top industry executives told a seminar for food writers held here recently.

The amount of chicken sold in larger grocery stores increased about four percent in the year ending in February compared with the previous 12 months, Todd Hale, senior vice president for consumer and shopper insights of the Nielsen Company, told writers at a seminar sponsored by the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. Turkey saw a three percent volume growth, as did pork, while sales of beef were flat and seafood declined about six percent, he said.

“There’s been pretty good growth on a volume basis for the poultry industry,” Hale said, in breaking down grocery store sales data monitored by Nielsen.

Chicken breasts were the leading item with a five percent growth rate, Hale said, adding that nearly all chicken parts saw sales growth during the past year.

Meanwhile, restaurant sales have dropped 10 percent to 15 percent in response to the recession, said Monty Henderson, president and chief operating officer of George’s, Inc., a chicken company, speaking on a panel of top industry executives. “People are saving money by dining out less,” he said.

Product innovation is important in foodservice, added Bernard Leonard, group vice president/food service of Tyson Foods, as restaurant concepts try to weather the downturn.

“In foodservice, particularly in casual dining, same-store sales are down, and one of the responses we have seen is in innovation,” Leonard said. He said restaurant concepts are launching new appetizers, entrees and other items, sometimes on a value basis, to “pull that traffic in. Innovation is helping them to sustain their business.”

As Hale noted, the picture is brighter at the retail grocery level, said Lampkin Butts, president and chief operating office of Sanderson Farms.

“What we’re seeing at retail is very good demand for chicken products,” he said. Sales of fresh chicken at retail grocery stores in 2008 were up 7.5 percent over the year before, Butts said.

“The other thing we are seeing at retail is substitution,” he added. “Consumers are stretching their food dollar, they are looking for value, and they will substitute lower-priced protein for high-priced beef or high-priced pork.”

Meanwhile, products labeled “organic’’ throughout the grocery store have been hit hard by the recession, Hale said, with monthly sales growth dropping from 24 percent in March 2008 to only one percent in March 2009. The number of products making the “organic” label claim has also dropped, he said.

Chicken Industry Committed to Food Safety, Industry Expert Tells Congress

April 23, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, April 23, 2009

The chicken industry is strongly committed to food safety and has continued to improve its performance, especially in reducing the presence of potentially harmful microorganisms on raw product, an industry expert told Congress Thursday.

The number of processing plants in the very best category of performance continues to increase, Dr. Elizabeth Krushinskie, speaking for the National Chicken Council, told a subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture. She said the steady improvement is demonstrated by data published by the Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under its food safety program known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).

The key to success, she said, has been the industry’s commitment to food safety.

“The poultry industry has done a very good job at producing safe, wholesome, high quality foods,” Dr. Krushinskie said. “The industry is continually developing new interventions and related technologies, and refining its food safety systems, to enhance food safety. FSIS mandates HACCP plans and verifies compliance with the plans, but it is the plants that conduct hazard analyses and adopt and implement controls to address potential food safety hazards,” she noted.

“In reviews of the effectiveness of HACCP and the performance standards, FSIS has reported that nearly all broiler plants are complying with the Salmonella performance standards and that Salmonella prevalence in most product categories is lower since HACCP implementation than in baseline studies conducted before implementation,” said Dr. Krushinskie, who is also director of quality assurance and food safety for Mountaire Farms in Millsboro, Delaware.

In 2006, she noted, FSIS began posting industry performance categories to highlight how well the industry was doing in meeting the Salmonella standards, listing individual plants according to their success in meeting strict standards.

“These data reveal remarkable improvements,” Dr. Krushinskie said. “Between the first quarter of 2006 and the fourth quarter of 2008, the percent of broiler establishments operating at the category 1 performance level – achieving Salmonella prevalence levels averaging less than 10 percent – increased from 35.5 percent to 82 percent.”

Dr. Krushinkie also urged the committee to steer clear of any proposals to fund the work of food safety agencies, such as FSIS and the Food & Drug Administration, through fees charged to companies regulated by the agencies.

“Although adequate funding is crucial to the effectiveness of any regulatory agency, user fees are not the answer,” she said. “Congress should continue to fund regulatory agencies through appropriations,” rather than by fees tied to the agencies’ activities.

“These activities are central to the government’s role in enforcing the law; they are government activities, not voluntary services for which companies receive commercial benefits,” she said.

The National Chicken Council, based in Washington, D.C., represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

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Joint Councils Announced by Poultry Industry Organizations

April 8, 2009

For Immediate Release
U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation

April 8, 2009

ATLANTA – U. S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Chicken Council, and National Turkey Federation have formed joint councils on human resources and safety. The Joint Poultry Industry Human Resources Council and the Joint Poultry Industry Safety and Health Council consolidate what previously were separate committees that addressed similar issues.

The objective is to enhance the coordination of industry programs in these areas. The industry faces challenges that are common to all three organizations, and the joint councils will streamline their efforts and eliminate duplication.

The three organizations established the goals of the new councils:
• Provide a strong unified voice for the poultry industry.
• Promote information exchange between the associations and their members.
• More effectively utilize industry and association resources.
• Reduce the burden on industry representatives by combining the committees.
• Each association may still address species-specific concerns.

“Our three associations bonded our respective Environmental Committees together a few years ago, allowing the industry to speak with a common voice and effectively utilize each organization’s strengths,” said John Starkey, president of U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. “We believe this move will enable the industry to enjoy the same efficiency and effectiveness in the critical HR and safety areas,” he added.

George Watts, president of the National Chicken Council also commended the joint effort. “We are pleased to join with the National Turkey Federation and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association in forming industry councils on human resources and safety,” he said. “Workplace safety and health is a key objective and core value for all poultry processing companies. The councils will provide a strong unified voice for the poultry industry and will help us effectively focus time and effort on important issues.”

“The turkey industry is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment where employees can work with respect and dignity,” said National Turkey Federation president Joel Brandenberger. “The joint councils will allow NTF, the National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association to collaborate on important worker safety and health issues in a manner that enhances the benefits to members of all three associations. NTF is looking forward to working with the other organizations in this exciting effort,” he said.