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Articles from 2014 In January


National Beef Announces Plan to Close Brawley Facility

National Beef Packing Company (National Beef) announced plans to close its beef processing facility located in Brawley, California. The last day of production is expected to be April 4, 2014. Approximately 1,300 employees working at the facility will be impacted by this closure and will be offered support, including assistance finding employment at other National Beef facilities.

A declining supply of fed cattle available for the Brawley facility was a key driver of the decision to close the plant, said Tim Klein, chief executive officer, National Beef. “This was a very difficult decision for us to make because of the impact on our employees and suppliers. We are optimistic about the long-term prospects for U.S. beef demand and we will continue to focus on expanding our position as the industry leader in value-added beef products.”

“We have a committed, hard-working team of employees and suppliers in Brawley, and we truly understand the impact this will have on them,” said Brian Webb, vice president and general manager, National Beef. “We are grateful for their service to our company and we will work closely with them during this transition.”

National Beef has not determined the future status of the facility. National Beef acquired the Brawley facility in 2006.

FSMA animal food rule comment period extended

As requested by those in the feed industry, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially extended the comment period deadline on the proposed animal food rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Animal feed and pet food industry trade associations previously had been made aware of FDA’s intent to do so, but welcomed the announcement of the extension in the Federal Register.

The announcement comes after the American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA), National Grain and Feed Assn. (NGFA), National Renderers Assn. (NRA) and the Pet Food Institute (PFI) submitted a joint request for extension to FDA on Nov. 22, 2013. The extension moves the comment period deadline from Feb. 26 to March 31, 2014.

“Although the submission deadline could only be pushed back a few weeks due to a court- mandated timeline, the extension gives our organizations valuable time to continue to review the rule and develop comprehensive and substantive comments for submission to the agency,” said the AFIA, NGFA, NRA and PFI in a joint statement.

The associations’ decision to request an extension was based on the significant scope and magnitude of the proposed rule for animal feed and pet food. With the extension, the comment period on the animal food rule will be open only five months. In contrast, the human food proposed rule, which animal food rule mirrored, was open for nine months.

“Our associations filed a request for extension due to the massive undertaking of assessing the rule given its requirements—some of which potentially are being implemented for the first time by some sectors of the industry, such as Current Good Manufacturing Practices—and undesirably short comment period. Our extension request also noted we are wading through the animal food rule along with multiple other FSMA proposed rules,” said the four trade associations.

In addition to the proposed animal food rule, officially titled “Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals,” industry groups are reviewing separate rules on foreign supplier verification, third-party auditors and intentional adulteration. In addition, FDA today posted on its website its proposed rules implementing FSMA’s sanitary food transportation provisions, with official publication in the Federal Register due next week.

The agency said it is unlikely to grant extensions for other FSMA proposed rules due to the strict timeline the agency is required to follow under court order.

 “Our organizations are still knee-deep in reviewing the proposed rules and crafting comments. We will continue to work alongside FDA and collaboratively with one another as we move toward finalizing the most significant animal feed and pet food regulation proposed in the agency’s history,” the groups added.

Soybean consumption outpacing supply

Soybean consumption outpacing supply

THE pace of consumption of U.S. soybeans continues to draw a lot of market attention. Domestic soybean consumption accelerated in December 2013, and export commitments have continued to exceed expectations into the new year.

According to University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good, even with the normal seasonal slowdown in exports of soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil, consumption seems to be on track to exceed the available supply and needs to be slowed.

For the 2013-14 marketing year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected a domestic soybean crush of 1.7 billion bu. and exports of 1.495 billion bu. With seed, feed and residual use of 109 million bu., consumption at the projected level would leave ending stocks of 150 million bu., or 4.5% of projected consumption, for the year.

The current projection of domestic crush is 11 million bu. (0.7%) larger than the crush during the previous marketing year and 45 million bu. larger than projected last September.

Based on estimates from the National Oilseed Processors Assn. (NOPA), the crush during September 2013 — the first month of the marketing year — was 9% smaller than the crush during September 2012. The monthly crush, however, exceeded that of a year earlier in each month from October through December 2013, with the cumulative crush during those three months exceeding the previous year's crush by 2.5%.

While the total crush during the first four months of the marketing year is only marginally larger than that of a year ago, the recent pace has exceeded expectations and suggests that the marketing year total could likely exceed the current USDA projection.

USDA's projection of marketing year exports is 175 million bu. (13%) larger than last year's exports, which were actually limited by small supplies and high prices. Good said this projection is very close to the record-large exports of 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Even with record-large soybean production outside the U.S in 2012-13 and expectations for even greater foreign production in 2013-14, Good said exports are still expected to be large.

Good explained that the large export projections reflect expectations for very strong demand from China, which is projected to import 2.535 billion bu. of soybeans from all origins during the current marketing year, up from about 2.2 billion bu. in each of the previous two years.

Through the first 21 weeks of the current marketing year, USDA reported soybean export inspections to all destinations at 1.115 billion bu., 17% more than cumulative inspections of a year ago. Good suggested that this means the pace of shipments to date is higher than the pace implied by USDA's projection of the size of the year-over-year increase in exports.

Meanwhile, the magnitude of unshipped sales is also much larger than that of last year. As of Jan. 16, USDA reported that those outstanding sales stood at 514 million bu., compared to 307 million bu. at the same time last year. Nearly 53% of those sales were to China, and 23% were to unknown destinations.

Total export commitments (shipments plus outstanding sales) stood at 1.549 billion bu., 54 million bu. more than USDA's projection of exports for the entire year. Sixty-four percent of the commitments were to China.

If exports for the current marketing year reach 1.549 billion bu., Good said year-ending stocks would total only 96 million bu., or 2.8% of projected consumption. According to Good, stocks cannot realistically be reduced to such a low level, with 125 million bu. being a likely minimum level of ending stocks.

In other words, exporters appear to be selling soybeans that will not be available.

Good said there are a number of ways that the difference between USDA's projections and the current pace of consumption will be resolved, including a slowdown in the pace of the domestic crush, cancellation of some export sales, rolling some export sales into the 2014-15 marketing year, larger imports of South American soybeans this summer, smaller year-ending stocks than currently projected or a combination of these factors.

Prices for the 2013 soybean crop will be determined by how the balance between soybean supply and consumption is maintained. Cancellation of export sales would be the most negative development for prices. Good pointed out that the market continues to expect cancellations by China, but none have been confirmed.

A slowdown in the pace of the domestic crush would also indicate that supplies are adequate and would point to lower prices. Because of this, Good suggested that a lot of attention will be focused on the January NOPA crush report.

A continuation of large export shipments and sales would be the friendliest for prices, indicating that larger imports will be needed this summer and that year-ending stocks will be smaller than currently predicted. Good said for now, prices appear to be locked into a broad sideways pattern until the likely pathway becomes more obvious.

 

Railroad delays

Sources near Kansas City, Mo., told Feedstuffs that railroad companies are having transportation difficulties due to winter weather, and these troubles have spread to grain elevators. Additionally, they said railroad companies are prioritizing oil over grains, making it even more difficult for grain shippers to keep bushels moving via rail.

Some elevators in the northern states have even quit bidding for cash grain because they are full and can't get the railcars needed for shipping orders. Many are only bidding for May, June and July corn, with one source reporting that bins are so full that it could be two to three months before things get straightened out.

Oats have been particularly affected, with no buying happening at all. An oat supplier in Wisconsin reported seeing oil trains going by every day but hadn't received any deliveries of oats. Sources said Canadian loadings are now two months behind schedule.

"The U.S. can't get (rail-delivered) oats or get rid of their corn," one market watcher said.

Corn prices are depressed, while oat prices are going up daily. The source said the market thinks there is a surplus of corn but suggested that it may all be merely a transportation issue.

 

Weather outlook

With harsh winter conditions continuing for most of the country, Drew Lerner, president and senior agricultural meteorologist of World Weather Inc., released a weather outlook last week that did not suggest that better days are ahead in the near future.

Lerner said he expects cold temperatures to last through early April, and then from mid-April through most of May, expected rains could make planting difficult.

However, despite challenging weather conditions for the rest of winter into spring, Lerner said next summer may bring El Nino weather that will provide for good growing conditions.

 

Market watch

Soybean consumption outpacing supply
U.S. corn prices remained fairly steady last week. Tom Leffler with Farm Futures said the corn market is really just treading water and trying to stay as close to its January highs as it can, with very little price-bullish news to support it. Nearby prices fluctuated only a few cents through the week, ending 6 cents higher at $4.335/bu. at last Thursday's close.

Although robust demand recently supported soybean prices, the 2013-14 (October through September) soybean market outlook now hinges on the pending large crop forecast. The forecast for Brazil indicates a widening gap between soybean production and total use (crush plus exports), which may signal lower prices ahead.

High prices have increased the area planted to soybeans in Brazil, which led USDA to raise its 2013-14 soybean production forecast for Brazil to 89.0 million metric tons (Figure). The new forecast is up 1.0 mmt from the previous estimate, well above last year's record crop of 82.0 mmt and nearly equal to this year's U.S. harvest of 89.5 mmt.

U.S. soybean prices posted losses again last week as nearby prices fell 16.25 cents midweek to close slightly higher last Thursday at $12.75/bu. Rumors of China canceling orders and the Lunar New Year holidays may have been to blame, but a recent currency crisis in Argentina meant farmers in the country had to sell some of their inventory to free up cash.

Last week, the peso fell 12.5 points to the U.S. dollar. To limit the loss, Argentina's government was taking action to allow it to drop only eight points to the U.S. dollar.

 

Ingredient watch

Feedstuff prices were mostly mixed for the week. Soybean meal found support from the higher soybean complex. Demand was moderate and supplies readily available for most ingredients.

A West Coast source said a huge fire at an almond huller facility in California last week reportedly destroyed almost 30,000 tons of almond hulls at an estimated value of more than $2.5 million. The loss, plus the drought situation in California, has driven up the price of almond hulls $15-20 per ton.

Volume:86 Issue:05

Propane shortage expands

Propane shortage expands

Propane shortage expands
MORE than 30 states across the U.S. have declared a state of emergency as propane transportation has limited the supply, causing prices to spike (Figure).

According to the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), the supply of propane is not the problem; rather, the real problem is getting propane from where it is stored to where it is needed. In fact, PERC said the U.S. is producing more propane now than at any time in decades.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently reported that cold weather has led to record-high withdrawals from natural gas storage, as well as propane. These were the largest drawdowns in the 20-year history of the survey and the second time this year that the record was broken.

The urgency of the situation caused Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to recently send a letter to President Barack Obama urging government action.

"With the lack of supply and increased demand due to recent cold weather, propane prices have drastically increased," Branstad explained. "This has negatively impacted Iowa families, businesses and agricultural producers across the state of Iowa. Prices in some Midwest locations have now exceeded $5/gal. Such prices are unsustainable for families, farmers and businesses."

According to the National Propane Gas Assn. (NPGA), several factors are hindering the industry's ability to distribute propane.

Abundant grain crops were harvested in the Upper Midwest almost simultaneously this past fall. Ordinarily, the harvest progresses in stages throughout the region, but in late 2013, the harvests happened at the same time over a wide area. This required massive amounts of propane in order to dry the crops prior to storage.

At the same time, infrastructure realignments inhibited the transportation of propane. The Cochin pipeline, which provided 40% of the product used by Minnesota suppliers, was shut down for repairs. This triggered a chain reaction, causing suppliers to go farther out to load their supply.

Canadian imports to the Northeast were also impaired by rail rerouting. This forced Minnesota and Wisconsin retailers to get their propane at pipelines in Iowa, which increased demand in that state.

As the harvest demand ended, a massive winter storm rolled across much of the country. Demand for residential, commercial and agricultural heat soared. The average number of heating degree days for this winter is more than 10% higher than last year. The forecast continues to show colder-than-normal weather for much of the U.S.

NPGA indicated that Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin have been particularly hard hit, but spot shortages occurred throughout the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently issued a regional order for the Midwest, East and South that will allow transporters to move propane more freely throughout the most affected regions. The rare regional orders apply to 10 states in the Midwest, 14 in the East and nine in the South.

The sharp increase in oil and natural gas production has created unprecedented competition for access to pipelines and railcars. PERC said propane drivers, suppliers and customer service representatives have been working around the clock to make propane deliveries as quickly as possible. Additionally, all available transport tankers, delivery trucks, railcars, barges and pipelines are being mobilized; ships with propane cargoes are moving into Northeast ports.

NPGA and the nation's 3,000 propane companies are working closely with state and federal authorities to facilitate the movement of propane.

A 2011 study by ICF International estimated that about 6 million households use propane as their primary heating fuel, and roughly 3.9 million of those households are in states under an hours-of-service exemption.

Groups like the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) also recently weighed in on the issue out of concern for livestock producers.

In a statement on its website, NPPC said, "In addition to concerns related to heating homes, NPPC is concerned with the impact on producers regarding short-term spot market availability and costs associated in providing heat for their operations."

NPPC is working with Congress, the Obama Administration and the energy industry to address the immediate supply situation and with Congress regarding investigation and oversight on the issue.

Volume:86 Issue:05

Livestock & poultry cash market comparisons, 2/3/14

Livestock & poultry cash market comparisons, 2/3/14

Livestock and meat ($)

Jan. 29

Jan. 22

6 months ago

Year ago

Steers, Choice, carcass, 550-700 lb., cwt., Omaha

231.81

240.05

186.32

186.76

Steers, Choice, 1,050-1,200 lb., cwt. Okla/Texas

N/A

147.00

119.00

125.00

Feeder Steers, 600-700 lb., cwt., Oklahoma City

180.50A

179.50A

159.00A

157.62A

Lean Hogs, Carcass, Iowa-Minn. 167-187 lb.(1)

79.94

78.98

96.33

85.45

Feeder Pigs, 40 lb. National Direct Delivered(2)

98.58

95.35

53.04

75.70

SEW Pigs, 10 lb., National direct delivered (per head)

85.16

86.33

33.61

51.98

Choice Beef, cutout, cwt.

230.75

238.55

186.66

185.31

Pork Loin, 185 lb. 51-52% lean, cutout, cwt.(3)

100.00

97.25

106.66

82.24

Hog Corn Ratio

18.8

19.3

15.0

11.6

Steer Corn Ratio

31.9

32.5

17.9

16.3

Poultry and eggs (cents)

 

 

 

 

Chickens, Grade A, Fresh lb. Chicago

91.96a

92.18a

92.17a

91.55a

Hen Turkeys, Grade A, Frozen, lb., Chicago

99.50Aa

99.50Aa

99.00Aa

95.00Aa

Young Tom Turkeys, Grade A. Frozen lb. Chicago

97.50Aa

97.00Aa

98.00Aa

95.00Aa

Eggs, Grade A, Large, doz., Chicago

125.50

112.50

102.50

131.50

N/A: not available

A: average

 

 

 

(1) Replaces live hogs; live hogs are 0.755 of quote.
(2) Replaces Sioux Falls, 50-60 lbs. (2/26/07)
(3) National FOB plant, replaces national daily carlot.
Livestock, meat, poultry and egg prices from USDA.

 

Volume:86 Issue:05

Beef industry may see black ink

Beef industry may see black ink

Beef industry may see black ink
RANCHERS' moods are improving with the start of a new year as feed costs remain low and beef prices are robust.

Jim Robb from the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) told Feedstuffs that 2014 will be unique for the entire agriculture industry mainly because most input costs should be lower, especially for purchased feed. LMIC is estimating costs to be $50 less per cow.

After several stressful years and tough decisions, cow/calf operations should experience a reprieve in 2014, with their estimated cash returns doubling (Figure 1).

Nevertheless, Robb explained that it is important to keep in mind that many ranches have dramatically reduced their herd size as a result of high corn prices and past droughts, meaning the total number of cows is less than normal. So, for 2014, Robb noted that the total cow/calf return will not perfectly mimic his estimate.

Packers and cattle feeders will experience the most pressure. Pushing current record beef prices into the marketplace will be challenging for those sectors.

Based on models that do not include the use of beta-agonists, LMIC estimated that cattle feeder returns should improve from 2013 but won't return to the positive level of 2010 (Figure 2). Potentially, if feed costs continue to decline, the best returns could come in late 2014, according to Robb.

Consumer demand for beef in 2013 was strong, and that is a good thing for the cattle markets. However, as retail prices reach ever-higher levels, some pushback is expected. Still, Robb projects the strong demand for beef to continue in 2014 as restaurant sales remain high.

"Restaurant sales are one of those keys to the beef market, more important than any other livestock species," he explained. "The restaurant component, especially in some segments, is a little more robust than in recent years, and that is important to the beef complex."

As demonstrated by the $1.06 drop in Choice cutout prices last Thursday, the record-high wholesale price that held through most of January is not sustainable.

The beef export market finished 2013 better than expected largely due to Japan's change in cattle age requirement to match international standards. More important, beef demand rose as Japan's economy improved, while pork demand actually softened.

Robb said the beef export market in 2014 should continue its strong trend. With high beef prices, the total value should repeat record highs at the end of this year, although actual volume may decrease marginally. Overall, the demand side is slightly positive or neutral for the beef export market.

"The U.S. is setting the standard for world growth now," Robb said. "The U.S. economy will be the driving force for the demand portfolio in 2014. As the U.S. economy grows, so will beef demand."

On the other hand, a record-tight cattle supply is not breaking news and also is reflected in the markets. Since corn prices started to erode after July 4, 2013, fed cattle and yearling prices have been aggressive; however, Robb warned that it will run out of steam at some point.

For the beef market, 2014 should be a promising year on the whole, but uncertainties are always around the corner.

The increase in feeder and fed cattle prices for 2014 has already arrived, with 700 lb. feeders priced at $170 and the fed cattle market in the mid-$140s, Robb said.

In 2013, the average price was $170 for 500-600 lb. steers in the southern Plains, and the last quarter was strong, which is extremely unusual. Robb is forecasting — for the first time ever — prices of more than $2/lb. for steers in the southern Plains in 2014.

Fed cattle prices last year averaged $125.88/cwt., up 2.5% from 2012, and are projected to be in range of $136-139/cwt. for 2014 (Table 1).

The beef industry should be keeping an eye on porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in the hog industry. It is quite possible that a flood of pork will hit the market in 2015 and 2016 as the pork industry gets PEDV under control.

Another important issue to watch is the drought in California and nearby states. At a time when cattle in this region are normally on grass, the drought is forcing ranchers to make tough decisions. Sale barns in California reported a record number of cattle showings last week. This year will be a tough go for that part of the U.S.

The overall inventory in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Services "Cattle on Feed" report came in close to prior report estimates (Table 2). Everyone in the industry is completely aware that the cattle supply is limited, and the report reflects that.

Still, the report was overshadowed by market activity at the start of last week, Robb said.

In the livestock and poultry market last week, record-high wholesale prices in the cattle market for the first three weeks of January are expected to weaken demand for beef as retailers and consumers resist high prices.

The rumor on the trade floor is that lower prices for beef cutouts will trigger the cash cattle trade to push away from recent record highs.

Last Thursday, live cattle closed 8 cents lower than the previous week, at $142.15/cwt. Feeder cattle were $1.50 higher than the week before, closing at $171.675/cwt. last Thursday.

It was reported that pork packers slightly increased hog prices, with eastern buyers paying at the top of the base price line at $78.82/cwt. last week to get supplies as cold temperatures and winter storms continued.

Hog supplies remained tight, with USDA testing data the week of Jan. 19 reporting 215 cases of PEDV, a large spike. USDA reported slaughter for the week as of last Thursday at 1.572 million hogs, down 88,000 from a year ago.

In addition, Tyson, in its quarterly report, said it expects to see 3% fewer hogs in the upcoming months. Market analysts are anticipating a move upward in hog prices as a result of low pork production.

In the chicken market, offerings were light to moderate and demand also light. Wholesale broiler and fryer prices were steady overall, but market activity was slow.

Egg market prices were 7-15 cents higher last week, depending on the region. Large-sized eggs were $1.27-1.31/doz. in the Northeast, $1.34-1.37/doz. in the Southeast and $1.23-1.26/doz. in the Midwest.

 

1. Beef production and cattle prices

 

-Beef production (billion lb.)-

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

 

26.195

25.910

25.718

24.087

 

-Cattle prices ($/cwt.)-

 

 

500-600 lb. calves

700-800 lb. yearlings

Fed steers

 

2011

148.37

135.04

114.74

 

2012

168.26

148.81

122.86

 

2013

172.15

150.69

130.00

 

2014

200.00

169.00

136.00

 

Source: Livestock Marketing Information Center.

 

2. Jan. 1 feedlot inventory (million head)

Category

2012

2013

2014

% of prior year

Jan. 1 Inventory

11.861

11.193

10.593

94.6

Dec. marketings

1.745

1.736

99.5

Dec. placements

1.664

1.681

101

Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service.

 

 

Volume:86 Issue:05

Grain & ingredient cash market comparisons, 2/3/14

Grain & ingredient cash market comparisons, 2/3/14

Major feed ingredients

Jan. 29

Jan. 22

6 months ago

Year ago

Corn No. 2, Chicago, bu.

 

 

 

 

Processor bid*

4.32A

4.28A

6.02A

7.58A

Terminal bid*

4.17A

4.16A

4.87A

7.56A

Milo, Kansas City, cwt.

7.71

7.60

9.35

13.21

Soybeans, Chicago, bu., processor bid

12.76A

12.95A

13.52A

15.06A

Soybean Meal, 48% Decatur Bid

481.30A

477.40A

462.40

443.90A

Cottonseed Meal, Memphis, ton

365.00

365.00

335.00

290.00

Linseed Meal, Solvent, Minneapolis

335.00

335.00

345.00

295.00

Meat and Bone Meal, Chicago, ton

460.00

460.00

510.00

370.00

Fish Meal, Menhaden, Atlanta, ton

1,125.00

1,125.00

1,575.00

1,595.00

Corn Gluten Meal, 60%, Chicago, ton

665.00

660.00

590.00

600.00

Distillers Dried Grains, Chicago, ton

200.00

190.00

235.00

270.00

17% Dehy. Alfalfa Pellets, KC, ton

355.00

355.00

358.00

375.00

Millfeeds, Midds, Minneapolis, ton

130.00

120.00

180.00

230.00

Molasses, Cane, Houston, ton

150.00

150.00

160.00

165.00

Dried Citrus Pulp, Atlanta, ton

200.00

200.00

317.00

255.00

Whey, Whole, Chicago, cwt.

58.00

57.75

54.25

62.25

Rolled Oats, Minneapolis, ton

542.00

532.00

568.00

542.00

Barley, Los Angeles , cwt.

10.90

10.90

14.20

15.10

Feeding Wheat, Kansas City, bu.

5.65

5.80

7.30

8.86

* Chicago corn and soybean prices for latest and previous week are the middle of the range of to-arrive bids; soybean meal prices are midrange of processor quotes. Chicago corn and soybean prices provided by USDA Market News. Six months, year ago comparisons are all spot cash. Based on prices reported by Feedstuffs' market reporters.

A: average

N/A: not available

 

Volume:86 Issue:05

Adjust composition of enzyme levels over time

Adjust composition of enzyme levels over time

*Drs. N.E. Ward and M. de Beer are with DSM Nutritional Products, Parsippany, N.J.

POULTRY nutritionists are challenged with providing proper nutrition to the immature intestinal system of the chick during the starter phase.

In the days following hatch, the young bird is physiologically limited in the amount of energy, amino acids and other nutritional attributes it can obtain from high-quality feeds (Batal and Parsons, 2002).

Non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) complicate this process by encumbering nutrients and interfering with digestibility. This is more problematic at an early age, in part because the effects imposed by NSPs are more pronounced in younger chicks.

Still, suboptimal digestibility can be the consequence beyond intestinal immaturity or the presence of NSPs. Poor-quality ingredients, disease conditions, starch overloading and other factors can tax feed costs.

Of course, early growth is vital for subsequent performance and meat yield (Ross, 2009). Satellite cells — remarkably dependent on early nutrition — set the stage for muscle development in the mature bird (Halevy et al., 2003). Cell formation is rapid and transient in the first days of life, and suboptimal nutrition at this age can pervert lifetime performance and limit meat yield (Noy and Sklan, 1999; Halevy et al., 2001).

 

Substrate accessibility

Carbohydrases, proteases and phytases can potentially resolve some digestibility issues and improve substrate utilization (Adeola and Cowieson, 2011). Many nutritionists use multiple enzymes but often are unsure of the proper combination and how to best account for their value when using least-cost formulation software.

Carbohydrases for NSPs are important because of their contribution to metabolizable energy (ME) — the primary driver for feed costs.

The soluble NSPs associated with wet litter, pasty vents and other performance issues in wheat- and barley-based diets are visibly responsive to xylanases and glucanases. Compared to these grains, however, corn/soybean meal-based diets are far more reticent to carbohydrases (Cowieson, 2010; Slominski, 2011). Corn contains similar amounts of NSPs as wheat, yet nutritional inefficiencies are vague because performance constraints are less conspicuous with corn.

The effectiveness of carbohydrases is greatly affected by NSP accessibility, or the physical proximity of the enzyme to NSP. By sequentially fractionating cell walls in soybean meal to expose NSP components, Ouhida et al. (2001) and others have reported significant increases in enzymatic NSP degradation relative to the intact cell wall.

Reviewed earlier (Feedstuffs, Jan. 27), the NSP in any grain is a complicated composite of different chemical structures and bonds that overlap and intertwine. The sheer density of the cell wall matrix can hinder enzyme penetration to the inner core; thus, systematic degradation by several enzymes is a prudent strategy. Pure cloned enzymes with one major activity may not effectively degrade NSPs in soybean meal or cereals, and the exposure of NSP components simply favors degradation (Huisman et al., 1999).

 

Broad enzyme selection

Grinding, conditioning and pelleting improves NSP exposure to enzymes, as does gizzard action. Solubility of NSPs, the presence of side chains and the complexity of various types of NSP fiber from different ingredients make the selection of the enzyme mix critical.

In poultry trials with xylanase or glucanase or a combination of protease, amylase and xylanase, Slominski (2011) noted that the lack of response of birds on corn/soybean meal diets indicates that a more diversified group of NSP enzymes seems necessary.

University of Manitoba research found that the complexity of the enzyme mix was highly correlated with improved ileal protein digestibility and feed:gain (Meng et al., 2005). Two simple but important factors were identified: (1) an appropriate group of enzymes is essential and (2) enzyme combinations must target specific NSPs.

Hence, enzymes that are not appropriately paired with NSP substrates exert no benefit. Predictably, an enzyme combination that worked best for soybean meal, canola and peas was not the most optimal for wheat because leguminous NSPs differ significantly from cereal NSPs (Meng et al., 2005).

Xylanase, for example, will serve little purpose with NSPs in soybean and canola meals since the substrate for this enzyme is low in legumes.

Other work concurs that ingredients require carbohydrases specific to the NSP (Malathi and Devegowda, 2001). For corn/soybean meal, pectinase combinations with hemicellulase or with hemicellulase plus cellulase generally showed improved digestibility for protein and organic matter, as well as apparent ME, over the non-enzyme control (Tahir et al., 2006). In vitro digestibility of corn/soybean meal was improved by a mix of seven enzymes, but individually, only cellulase had the same effect (Saleh et al., 2004).

Certainly, enzymes with debranching side activities should not be overlooked (Huisman et al., 1999). The highly branched nature of corn arabinoxylans, as well as pectins in soybean meal, indicates a need for this type of enzyme. Removing the branches improves exposure of the arabinoxylans to xylanase and the pectins to pectinase.

The primary contribution from feed proteases is improved amino acid digestibility and live performance (Dozier et al., 2010; Angel et al., 2011; Freitas et al., 2011).

A combination of protease and several carbohydrases more effectively solubilized protein and cell wall components in soybean meal than either one did alone at higher concentrations (Marsman et al., 1997). Little work has focused on proteases plus pectinases or galactosidases for corn/soybean meal diets, possibly because pectinases are not widely available.

Some NSPs can chelate phytate (Kim et al., 2005), which is highly associated with protein vacuoles (Bohn et al., 2007). Ileal phosphorus digestibility was more effectively improved with a mix of NSP enzymes plus phytase, as opposed to phytase alone (Woyengo et al., 2010). The appropriate mix of carbohydrases along with protease might permit a greater phytic acid degradation in the presence of phytase.

 

Dynamic supplementation

The Figure denotes the dynamics taking place over a typical growout period. During this time, the ingredient mix naturally changes to meet nutrient requirements with a least-cost formulation. These modifications are accompanied by changes in dietary NSP composition and level, which can be 10-15% of the feed.

At the same time, the neonate's gut is rapidly developing. Amino acid digestibility is poor in early versus older ages, leaving a significant amount of dietary protein undigested. Once the digestive system matures, amino acid digestibility increases, leaving less opportunity for exogenous proteases to improve digestion.

From starter to finisher, NSP levels can change 30% or more. In a corn/soybean meal-based diet, for example, NSPs such as pectins and oligosaccharides from soybean meal are a bigger concern during the starter phase. As the growout ensues, inclusion of soybean meal declines while the inclusion levels of corn and dried distillers grains plus solubles (DDGS) increase, meaning arabinoxylans become more prevalent.

As the NSP substrates change, it stands to reason that primary NSP enzymes should change. The same goes for other substrates such as protein, for example, where a protease could make greater contributions early in the feeding period, when protein content is highest.

 

Enzyme studies

We conducted a series of studies to supplement an enzyme mix to address intestinal tract maturity while simultaneously addressing the substrate levels and types over the life span of the growing broiler. The enzymes target pectins and oligosaccharides, as well as cereal NSPs, protein, starch and phytate.

Previous experimental work helped establish the basis behind enzyme levels to address physiological age and feed substrate levels. These include pectinase, xylanase, amylase, glucanase, debranching enzymes, protease and phytase.

Respiratory chamber research. Indirect calorimetry measures oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production to quantify nutrient utilization (McLean and Tobin, 1987). Closed respiratory chamber systems with a living animal can assess energy expenditures and can quantify energy losses due to challenges such as coccidiosis (Teeter, 2010). Indirect calorimetry also can provide insight on the efficacy of enzymes for improved ME (Caldas et al., 2014).

In a trial using respiration chambers, Cobb broilers were fed a commercial diet with and without the enzyme product. This enzyme product lowered (P < 0.0006) metabolic oxygen uptake and lowered (P < 0.001) carbon dioxide production (Table 1), indicating a more efficient use of the feed. Ultimately, this translated into improved ME by 51 kcal/kg of final feed.

Previously, researchers at Oklahoma State University found a similar enzyme composition to improve (P < 0.05) the "effective caloric value" (ECV) in feed for broilers (Teeter et al., 2012) when using respiration chambers. The elevated ECV corresponded with improved (P < 0.05) bodyweights and feed:gain in the same study, indicating a good agreement between the chamber research and live performance of floor pen birds.

Chick battery studies. Early research was expanded to include battery studies to test the ability of this enzyme product to improve bodyweight and feed conversion. In one experiment, day-old Ross 708 male broiler chicks were randomly allocated across base dietary treatments of corn/soybean meal with 3% corn DDGS.

The enzyme product was added to the negative control diet, which was formulated to be lower in ME, phosphorus and protein compared to the positive control.

The enzyme product increased bodyweight by 6.7% and 5.5% and improved feed:gain by 6.2% and 3.9% on days 10 and 17, respectively, in broiler chicks (Table 2).

The positive control group was fed a starter diet similar to typical commercial diets, yet the performance of the negative control plus enzyme group outperformed the control group. This suggests that the enzyme composite eliminated some anti-nutritional components in the normal starter diet in this trial.

Early life performance is indicative of lifetime performance, and here, 17-day performance was improved over both control groups.

Floor pen research. The final phase in development focused on floor pen research in broilers to test the product under conditions similar to those in commercial practice. In one experiment, day-old Cobb x Cobb 500 chicks were randomly allocated at the rate of 45 birds per pen, with 12 replications per treatment.

Diets were consistent with commercial formulations. Deficits in ME, amino acids, phosphorus and calcium were present in the negative control diets.

Throughout the life of the bird, the nutritional deficit was recouped by the enzyme mixture without performance loss for either bodyweight or feed conversion ratio. Each phase was provided a different enzyme composite to account for both physiological development and available substrates. This avoids a conventional static approach with one enzyme or group of enzymes across all feeds, which does not account for intestinal and substrate changes.

 

Summary

At hatch, the chick is not adequately prepared to efficiently digest feed. This, along with the changing levels and composition of NSPs over the production period, necessitates an adjustment in enzyme supplementation.

Appropriate enzyme selection is crucial to account for the range in NSP components in feed ingredients and the levels of physiological maturity. Not all enzyme synergies are understood, but certainly, sufficient information is available to develop multi-component enzymes for corn/soybean meal diets to improve the efficiency of meat production.

 

References

Adeola, O., and A.J. Cowieson. 2011. Opportunities and challenges in using exogenous enzymes to improve nonruminant animal production. J. Anim. Sci. 89:3189-3218.

Angel, C.R., W. Saylor, S.L. Vieira and N. Ward. 2011. Effects of a mono-component protease on performance and protein utilization in 7- to 22-day-old broiler chickens. Poult. Sci. 90:2281-2286.

Batal, A., and C. Parsons. 2002. Effects of age on nutrient digestibility of chicks fed different diets. Poult. Sci. 81:400-407.

Bohn, L., L. Josefsen, A.S. Meyer and S.K. Rasmussen. 2007. Quantitative analysis of phytate globoids isolated from wheat bran and characterization of their sequential dephosphorylation by wheat phytase. J. Agric. Food Chem. 18:7547-7552.

Caldas, J., K. Vignale, N. Boonsinchai, M. Putsakum, J. England and C. Coon. 2014. Indirect calorimetry approach to measure energy savings from exogenous enzymes. Abstr. M28, Inter. Poult. Sci. Forum, Atlanta, Ga.

Cowieson, A. 2010. Strategic selection of exogenous enzymes for corn/soy-based poultry diets. J. Poult. Sci. 47:1-7.

Dozier, W.A., N.E. Ward and S.L. Vieira. 2010. Broiler responses of diets with ProAct protease supplementation. Eur. Poult. Conf., Tours, France.

Freitas, D.M., S.L. Viera, C.R. Angel, A. Favero and A. Maiorka. 2011. Performance and nutrient utilization of broilers fed diets supplemented with a novel mono component protease. J. Appl. Poult. Res. 20:322-334.

Halevy, O., A. Krispin, Y. Leshem, J.P. McMurtry and S. Yahav. 2001. Early-age-heat exposure affects skeletal muscle satellite cell proliferation and differentiation in chicks. Am. J. Physiol. 281:R302-R317.

Halevy, O., Y. Nadel, M. Barak, I. Rozenboim and D. Sklan. 2003. Early posthatch feeding stimulates satellite cell proliferation and skeletal muscle growth in turkey poults. J. Nutr. 133:1376-1382.

Huisman, M.M.H., H.A. Schols and A.G.J. Voragen. 1999. Enzymatic degradation of cell wall polysaccharides from soybean meal. Carbohydrate Polymers 38:299-307.

Kim, J.C., P.H. Simmins, B.P. Mullan and J.R. Pluske. 2005. The digestible energy value of wheat for pigs, with special reference to the post-weaned animal (Review). Animal Feed Sci. Technol. 122:257-287.

Malathi, V., and G. Devegowda. 2001. In vitro evaluation of non-starch polysaccharide digestibility of feed ingredients by enzymes. Poult. Sci. 80:302-305.

Marsman, G.J.P., H. Gruppen, A.J. Mul and A.G. Voragen. 1997. In vitro accessibility of untreated, toasted and extruded soybean meals for proteases and carbohydrases. J. Agric. Food Chem. 45:4088-4095.

McLean, J.A., and Tobin, 1987. In: Animal & Human Calorimetry. Press Syndicate, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Meng, X., B.A. Slominski, C.M. Nyachoti, L.D. Campbell and W. Guenter. 2005. Degradation of cell wall polysaccharides by combinations of carbohydrase enzymes and their effect on nutrient utilization and broiler chicken performance. Poult. Sci. 84:37-47.

Noy, Y., and D. Sklan. 1999. Different types of early feeding and performance in chicks and poults. J. Appl. Poult. Res. 8:16-24.

Ouhida, I., J.F. Perez and J. Gasa. 2002. Soybean (Glycine max) cell wall composition and availability to feed enzymes. J. Agric. Food Chem. 50:1933-1938.

Ross. 2009. Broiler Management Guide. Huntsville, Ala.

Salih, F., A. Ohtsuka, T. Tanaka and K. Hayashi. 2003. Effect of enzymes of microbial origin on in vitro digestibilities of dry matter and crude protein in maize. J. Poult. Sci. 40:274-281.

Slominski, B.A. 2011. Recent advances in research on enzymes for poultry. Poult. Sci. 90:2013-2023.

Tahir, M., F. Saleh, A. Ohtsuka and K. Hayashi. 2006. Pectinase plays an important role in stimulating digestibility of a corn-soybean meal diet in broilers. J. Poult Sci. 43:323-329.

Teeter, R.G., C. Carroway, K. Hilton, A. Beker and N.E. Ward. 2011. Enzyme effects on ADG, FCR and effective caloric value in broilers exhibiting coccidiosis within the 42 day growth curve. Poult. Sci. Abstr. 262, University of Georgia, Athens.

Woyengo, T.A., B.A. Slominski and R.O. Jones. 2010. Growth performance and nutrient utilization of broiler chickens fed diets supplemented with phytase alone or in combination with citric acid and multicarbohydrase. Poult. Sci. 89:2221-2229.

 

Adjust composition of enzyme levels over time

1. Effect of enzyme product on oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide production in 18-day-old broiler chicks

 

 

Control +

 

Variable

Control

product

P-value

Oxygen uptake, L/kg bodyweight*

40.7

39.6

< 0.0006

Carbon dioxide production, L/kg bodyweight

42.8

41.1

< 0.001

ME/kg final feed

2,964

3,015

< 0.01

*Bodyweight as metabolic bodyweight.

Caldas et al., 2014.

 

2. Effect of enzyme product on 10-day and 17-day chick performance

 

-Day 10-

-Day 17-

Treatment

Bodyweight, g

FCR

Bodyweight, g

FCR

Positive control

236.3b

1.303ab

596.9b

1.371a

Negative control

221.5c

1.324a

568.5c

1.380a

Enzyme product

252.4a

1.222c

630.1a

1.317b

a,b,cP < 0.05 within column.

Notes: Positive control = 3,031 kcal/kg (1,375 kcal/lb.). Negative control = positive control minus 77 kcal/kg (35 kcal/lb.) and reductions in available phosphorus, calcium and digestible amino acids.

 

3. Performance of broilers supplemented with enzyme product from 1 to 49 days of age

 

-Starter (day 18)-

-Grower (day 35)-

-Finisher (day 49)-

 

BW, g

FCR

BW, g

FCR

BW, g

FCR

Positive control1

607.8a

1.448a

1,746a

1.634a

2,767a

1.688a

Negative control2

571.5b

1.490b

1,678b

1.678b

2,694b

1.726b

Negative control + enzyme

612.3a

1.458a

1,755a

1.649a

2,762a

1.698a

a,b,cP < 0.05 within column with 12 replications per treatment.

1Positive control: Starter 3,018 kcal/kg (1,372 kcal/lb.), grower 3,093 kcal/kg (1,406 kcal/lb.), finisher 3,153 kcal/kg (1,433 kcal/lb.).

2Negative control: Reduced ME by 77 kcal/kg (35 kcal/lb.), 88 kcal/kg (40 kcal/lb.) and 99 kcal/kg (45 kcal/lb.) in starter, grower and finisher, respectively, and reductions in available phosphorus, calcium and digestible amino acids. BW = bodyweight.

 

 

Volume:86 Issue:05

New research reported at poultry scientific forum

New research reported at poultry scientific forum

*Dr. William A. Dudley-Cash is a poultry and fish nutritionist and has his own consulting firm in Modesto, Cal. To expedite answers to questions concerning this column, please direct inquiries to Feedstuffs, Bottom Line of Nutrition, 7900 International Dr., Suite 650, Bloomington, Minn. 55425, or email comments@feedstuffs.com.

THE International Poultry Scientific Forum is a concurrent meeting of the Southern Poultry Science Society and the Southern Conference on Avian Diseases that is sponsored by the two groups as well as the U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn.

The forum is held prior to the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, Ga. Two hundred-eighty-three papers were presented orally or by poster. The abstracts may be downloaded from www.ippexpo.org/ipsf.

 

Reduced-oil DDGS

Producers of dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) are frequently removing part of the oil from their product for the production of biodiesel and other uses. Removing part of the oil will most likely reduce the energy value of the DDGS produced and may have other nutritional effects.

In abstract M25, K. Perryman, J. Hess and W. Dozier III of Auburn University reported research on the nitrogen-corrected apparent metabolizable energy (AMEn) and standardized ileal amino acid digestibility (SIAAD) of reduced-oil DDGS.

Two experiments were conducted using Ross x Ross 708 chicks to determine the effects of oil extraction from corn DDGS on nutrient value.

Three samples of DDGS that varied in oil content were used in the research. The analysis of the three samples is shown in Table 1.

The ether extract content of the DDGS samples varied from 6.06% for the low-ether extract DDGS (L-DDGS) to 11.59% for the high-ether extract DDGS (H-DDGS). The starch content also varied from 4.9% for L-DDGS to 6.7% for H-DDGS, while crude fiber varied from 10.0% for L-DDGS to 8.8% for H-DDGS. The other nutrient values did not vary in a consistent manner.

In experiment 1, 576 chicks were randomly assigned 12 birds per cage to 48 grower battery cages, with 12 replicate cages per treatment.

Four dietary treatments were fed from 21 to 28 days of age. Treatment 1 consisted of 85% of a corn/soybean meal basal diet plus 15% dextrose. Treatments 2, 3 and 4 consisted of the 85% corn/soybean meal basal diet plus 15% of each of the experimental DDGS samples, respectively.

A 48-hour excreta collection was conducted for AMEn determination from 26 to 28 days of age (Table 1). There were significant differences in AMEn content, with a range from 1,975 kcal/kg for L-DDGS to 3,137 kcal/kg for H-DDGS.

In experiment 2, 432 chicks were randomly assigned 12 birds per cage to 36 battery grower cages, with 12 replicate cages per treatment.

The broilers were fed one of three semi-purified diets that consisted of 76% of the three experimental samples of DDGS, respectively, as the sole source of amino acids from 21 to 30 days of age. These broilers were used for the determination of SIAAD coefficients.

The results for selected amino acids are shown in Table 1. Oil extraction significantly reduced the SIAAD coefficients for methionine, cysteine, tryptophan and arginine. No significant differences in SIAAD coefficients were reported for lysine, threonine and valine.

 

The Bottom Line

These results indicate that the removal of oil from DDGS reduces the AMEn content and lowers the SIAAD coefficients for selected amino acids. These changes in important nutrient values must be taken into account when purchasing DDGS as well as when formulating diets that contain DDGS.

 

Litter quality

Yueming Dersjant-Li et al. with Danisco Animal Nutrition/Dupont in the U.K. and Schothorst Feed Research B.V. in the Netherlands reported a study designed to measure the effect of supplementing a broiler diet with mixed enzymes and a direct-fed microbial (DFM) on litter quality and foot pad lesion score (abstract T117).

The experiment consisted of two dietary treatments: a control and a test diet (control diet supplemented with test products). In the experiment, 7,000 day-old male Ross 308 broilers were distributed over 10 floor pens, with 700 broilers per pen and five replicate pens per treatment. Fresh wood shavings were used as bedding material in all pens.

Pelleted diets were fed ad libitum in a three-phase feeding program, and water was freely available. The test diet was supplemented with a source of mixed enzymes (xylanase, amylase and protease) and a DFM containing three bacillus strains. The experimental facilities simulated commercial production conditions.

The results of the research are shown in Table 2. The test treatment significantly improved litter dry matter (DM) content and litter score. This was associated with a low water-to-feed ratio and a high ileal digesta DM content for the test group. The result was a significantly reduced foot pad lesion score for the test group: 2.06 versus 2.47.

The enzyme and DFM combination also numerically reduced the calcium content and significantly reduced the soluble phosphorus content of the litter on a DM basis.

The researchers reported that a numerically lower Clostridium perfringens population was observed in the ileal (log 7.2 versus 8.3) and cecal (log 8.8 versus 9.7) digesta of broilers fed the test diet compared to the control.

 

The Bottom Line

Under the conditions of this research, supplementing a broiler diet with mixed enzymes in combination with a DFM resulted in improved litter quality and reduced foot pad lesion scores. Foot and leg problems are reported to be among the biggest management challenges in the broiler industry.

 

1. Analysis of experimental DDGS and results

DDGS analysis, % DM

L-DDGS

M-DDGS

H-DDGS

Ether extract

6.06

8.80

11.59

Crude protein

30.3

28.5

30.7

Starch

4.9

5.9

6.7

Ash

5.4

5.4

5.0

Neutral detergent fiber

32.9

37.1

33.0

Total fiber

31.4

36.6

33.6

Crude fiber

10.0

9.4

8.8

Experimental results

AMEn, kcal/kg

1,975

2,644

3,137

SIAAD, %

Methionine

0.735

0.788

0.803

Cysteine

0.654

0.661

0.717

Tryptophan

0.825

0.843

0.888

Arginine

0.779

0.792

0.817

 

2. Effects of enzymes plus DFM

Item

Control

Test diet

Water:feed ratio, 0-42 days

1.84a

1.79b

Ileal digesta DM, %, day 41

16.6

17.3

Litter quality score, day 21

5.3b

6.5a

Litter DM, %, day 41

45.5b

50.3a

Litter calcium, % DM, day 41

13.58

12.62

Litter soluble phosphorus, % DM, day 41

2.32a

1.84b

Foot pad lesion score*, day 41

2.47a

2.06b

a,bMeans in a row without a common superscript are significantly different (P < 0.05).

*Lesion score: 0 = no evidence of foot pad dermatitis; 4 = severe foot pad dermatitis.

 

Volume:86 Issue:05

Don't chicken out on poultry inspection (commentary)

Don&#039;t chicken out on poultry inspection (commentary)

ON April 24, 2013, Mother Jones ran a story by Tom Philpott titled "USDA Ruffles Feathers with New Poultry Inspection Policy."

Like so many posts I read about the proposed new poultry inspection system, it is loaded with innuendos and inflammatory comments and is often just plain wrong.

To lay the groundwork for this response to Philpott, let's talk about modernization of the poultry inspection system.

First of all, the Poultry Products Inspection Act was signed into law in 1957 by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower. A lot has changed since then, but not the way the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects poultry.

One of the less obvious things that has changed is the condition of the birds we eat. Back then, the intent of the law was to have federal inspectors in poultry slaughter plants look at carcasses for things that might harm our health, like tumors, abscesses and signs of sepsis.

Now, the birds are much healthier and much younger as a result of advances in animal husbandry and genetics over the last 56 years. Most of today's broilers go to harvest between 35 and 42 days of age.

Another change is what the inspectors are looking for. As birds fly by at a maximum speed of slightly less than two seconds per bird, the inspectors pull birds off the line that have broken wings and legs or still have feathers attached. They are doing quality control for the chicken industry.

Those things don't make us sick; pathogens do. You can't see pathogens with the naked eye.

The modernized inspection system will be a copy of the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), which has been in place in 20 broiler establishments and five turkey plants for 14 years, and its safety has been demonstrated repeatedly.

There will still be a Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) inspector on the line, but the carcasses delivered will be sorted already. If the inspector finds feathers, sepsis, etc., he or she will be able to shut down the line — something that is not possible in today's establishments with conventional inspection.

Currently, there is one off-line inspector per plant doing food safety procedures. With the new system, there will be one per line. If those added off-line inspectors find unacceptable salmonella contamination rates, they can shut down the lines. That is not possible today either.

So, in Philpott's post, some clarifications need to be made:

* "There are three fewer inspectors for a production line running 25% faster."

Not true. First of all, that statement assumes that there are four FSIS on-line inspectors in every chicken plant, and that is just not the case.

Second, it fails to explain that federal inspectors, i.e., union members, will be replaced by inspectors paid by the establishment and that the birds will still be inspected for bruises and fractures, but now the company will be paying its own employees for that quality control instead of you and me, the taxpayers, being on the hook for the cost. Also, more than four people will be on the faster lines in order to protect the brand name.

* "The department expects to save $90 million over three years by firing inspectors."

Again, not true. FSIS estimates that 1,500 full-time slaughter inspectors will get upgrades from GS7 to GS8, moving from on-line jobs inspecting a chicken carcass every two minutes (30 birds per hour, 240 birds per day) to an off-line position in the plants.

These off-line inspectors are trained to provide verification measures such as examining plant records, focusing on hazard analysis and critical control points plans, drawing samples for pathogen testing and visually examining the plant and its contents for sanitation issues. They are trying to protect public health, not brand name integrity.

Off-line inspection will not only bring better compensation, but inspectors in the current HIMP say the work is much more stimulating and rewarding.

Over the implementation time frame, USDA undersecretary for food safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen told me that there may be a reduction of 750-800 positions, but she also told me that "this will be done entirely through attrition, without backfilling, etc., no layoffs."

In other words, no inspectors get fired. None.

So, why the uproar about jobs? Isn't efficiency something we want more of from our government?

Well, if the bargaining unit loses 800 members, it loses income from dues, and maybe a chairman gets replaced. It's a silly reason to keep the status quo, if you ask me.

* "To control pathogens, the poultry plants would be allowed to conduct 'online reprocessing' — that is, dousing all the bird carcasses that pass through the line, 'whether they are contaminated or not,' with water laced with chlorine."

Wow! That's obviously another attempt to inflame consumers, but guess what? This is not a new treatment to try to reduce the pathogen load; it has been routine practice in most large plants for years.

The article quotes Food & Water Watch stating that the highest error rate in HIMP plants was inspectors missing dressing defects such as feathers. Again, that is a plant quality assurance problem, not a public health concern. I buy chicken meat, and if I find feathers, I don't get sick; I just change brands.

About one-third of the article is about worker safety. This only serves as a distraction and is a concern for the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, not a food safety concern. The companies can hire as many workers as they feel they need to safely fabricate these carcasses.

So many discussants try to work in the number of FSIS full-timers, worker safety and industry economics.

This is ALL about food safety and bringing poultry inspection into the 21st century. The rest — like reducing costs, more affordable poultry meat and who does quality control — are not the issues that will affect my health. Lower salmonella and campylobacter contamination rates will do that — and more off-line inspectors can help get us there.

Here's hoping that as a result of the misdirected debate and all the misinformation being distributed, the Obama Administration will not "chicken" out on its announced goals.

*Dr. Richard Raymond is a former U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for food safety.

Volume:86 Issue:05