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Red meat, poultry cold stocks rise

marina_karkalicheva/iStock/Thinkstock Pork carcasses hanging in cooler

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest “Cold Storage” report showed that beef, pork, chicken and turkey supplies in cold storage on Dec. 31, 2019, totaled 2.22 billion lb., up 1.4% from the same period in 2018.

Total frozen poultry supplies on Dec. 31, 2019, were at 1.20 billion lb., down 1% from the previous month but up 1% from a year ago. Total stocks of chicken were down 2% from the previous month but up 9% from last year. Total pounds of turkey in freezers were up 5% from last month but down 23% from Dec. 31, 2018.

Red meat supplies in freezers totaled 1.10 billion lb., up 1% from the previous month and up 5% from last year. Total beef in freezers was up 1% from the previous month but down 3% from last year. Frozen pork supplies were up 1% from the previous month and up 15% from last year. Stocks of pork bellies continue to be large, up 25% from last month and up 61% from last year.

Total natural cheese stocks in refrigerated warehouses on Dec. 31, 2019, were down 1% from the previous month and down 2% from Dec. 31, 2018. Butter stocks were up 5% from last month and up 6% from a year ago.

Farm Bureau sets yearlong policy

AFBF Scott VanderWal AFBF.jpg
AFBF Vice President Scott VanderWal directs the voting session of the delegates on January 21, 2020 at the organization's annual meeting.

The largest farm group -- the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) -- wrapped up its multi-day annual meeting in Austin, Texas, finalizing grassroots policy directives from its delegates on Tuesday morning. Delegates agreed to policies to guide the organization’s work in 2020 on key topics ranging from dairy to labor and climate change to conservation compliance.

AFBF vice president Scott VanderWal said many producers are going into 2020 with a “long tail from 2019,” and farmers are looking at a tough year. He said he thinks the support for this Administration and recently advanced trade agreements remains “strong and solid,” but farmers are still concerned about income in 2020. He added that in his area in the Upper Midwest, many farmers face tough conversations across the desk from their bankers.

Dairy provisions

After a year-long process to review ways to modernize Federal Milk Marketing Orders, the AFBF delegates voted to support the creation of a flexible, farmer- and industry-led milk management system. This includes giving individual dairy farmers a voice by allowing them to vote independently and confidentially on rules governing milk prices. The new dairy policies, when combined, will form a strong foundation to guide the organization during future reform efforts to better coordinate milk supply and demand in the U.S.

In a press conference, VanderWal said there is a lot of frustration over the severe and long-standing lack of profitability for the dairy industry. He said the agreed-to policy directives aim to create a pricing structure in the U.S. that is fairer and reduces the overlap and duplicity that currently make the dairy industry less efficient. The goal is for this to translate into higher prices dairy producers receive from processors.

“If processors aren’t very efficient, it takes away from the milk check,” he said.

“Part of the policy we adopted would provide for producers to be able to vote in a referendum rather than a co-op voting for them,” VanderWal explained.

There was also strong agreement for component pricing.


Delegates updated labor and immigration policies, emphasizing that significant changes must be made to the H-2A program. While AFBF has long had policy in place to ensure an accessible, competitive guestworker program, the updates address problems with the adverse effect wage rate and emphasize the importance of year-round program access to all sectors of agriculture.

Last fall, AFBF opposed the House’s approach to an agricultural guestworker program despite being actively involved in discussions in developing the legislation over the year.

AFBF looks forward to working with Congress on efforts that align with these policy objectives,” the group said in a statement.

Climate change and conservation efforts

New policies are on the books supporting science-based climate change research and documentation of the agriculture industry’s tremendous advances toward climate-smart practices. Delegates also made it clear that they want federal climate change policy to reflect regional variations and that they oppose a state-by-state patchwork of climate change policies.

VanderWal said the organization remains committed to being responsible stewards of the land and look at ways to collaboratively reduce greenhouse gas emissions without government intervention.

There are significant new policies on conservation compliance. Delegates called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to significantly improve program transparency and due process for farmers. They specifically prioritized changes in USDA’s processes for wetland delineations and the appeals process. Delegates also adopted a new policy supporting the repeal of Swampbuster provisions. The changes highlight growing frustration with conservation compliance practices within USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.


Delegates voted to support allowing a higher tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC) level in hemp, giving AFBF staff the flexibility to engage in discussions with regulators about the appropriate legal level and to increase the window of time farmers are allowed to conduct THC testing, acknowledging the many questions about how the testing process will work and the potential for backlogs.

USDA has already heard concern from some senators who are saying the THC threshold is arbitrary and far too low.

SHIC funding brings SADS-CoV detection tools closer to completion

Jevtic/iStock/Thinkstock Pig sleeping_Jevtic_iStock_Thinkstock-590621604.jpg

In 2018, pigs in China experienced outbreaks of severe diarrhea with high mortality rates, which was associated with the emergent swine acute diarrhea syndrome coronavirus (SADS-CoV) related to the bat coronavirus HKU2, according to a post Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) executive director Paul Sundberg prepared for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

SHIC noted that porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and porcine deltacoronavirus (PDCoV) are closely related to SADS-CoV, and after PEDV and PDCoV were diagnosed in the U.S., the swine industry saw the emergence of SADS-CoV in Asia as a potential concern.

Should SADS-CoV be introduced into the U.S. as PEDV and PDCoV were, SHIC said the industry must be prepared to rapidly implement adequate control strategies to mitigate the impact of the disease on pork producers.

SHIC is supporting development of rapid diagnostic tools for the timely detection of SADS-CoV nucleic acid and/or antigens in clinical samples.

One of the first tools to combat emerging infectious disease agents is a diagnostic assay capable of rapidly detecting such pathogens, SHIC said. This includes a real-time multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for SADs-CoV, PEDV and PDCoV as well as development of antibody reagents for the virus.

SHIC noted that in a report published in January 2020, researcher Dr. Diego Diel of Cornell University said the project to develop these tools is on track, with good progress being made on both objectives. Preliminary quantitative PCR validation has been completed, and polyclonal antibodies specific to the SADS-CoV proteins are now available. While the reagents need to be validated, SHIC said their availability will allow proactive interventions by the swine industry should SADS-CoV ever enter the U.S.

Successful completion of the study will result in a diagnostic tool set to detect SADS-CoV in clinical samples. The availability of a multiplex real-time PCR for SADS-CoV, PEDV and PDCoV will allow precise and rapid diagnosis of specific SEC associated with outbreaks of enteric disease in pigs, SHIC said, and antibodies developed will allow the development of serological assays as well as antigen detection assays for SADS-CoV sero-surveillance or for the direct detection of the virus.

Funded by America's pork producers to protect and enhance the health of the U.S. swine herd, SHIC focuses its efforts on prevention, preparedness and response. As a conduit of information and research, SHIC encourages sharing of its publications and research for the benefit of swine health. Forward, reprint and quote SHIC material freely. For more information, visit http://www.swinehealth.org, or contact Sundberg at [email protected].

Phibro launches two new swine products

Tsekhmister/iStock piglet_    Tsekhmister_iStock-493551220.jpg

From mycotoxins to hypothermia, swine producers face a number of environmental challenges that threaten their pigs’ health — and their bottom lines. At the 2020 Iowa Pork Congress, Phibro Animal Health Corp. introduced two new products: one to help swine producers reduce the moisture in swine feed and the other to help piglets stay dry and start strong.

Reduced feed moisture

Mycotoxins threaten swine producers’ profits through decreased production and productive performance, often going undetected until pigs exhibit clinical signs of mycotoxin contamination — and by then, it’s often too late, Phibro said.

By controlling moisture in swine feed, the new nutritional specialty product Quantic Pulse has been designed to help swine producers reduce the likelihood of mycotoxin challenges, Phibro said.

Reducing moisture helps limit mold growth and limiting molds, such as those that produce two of the costliest mycotoxins — deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone (ZEN), can help improve bodyweight, average daily gain and average daily feed intake, the announcement said.

“Left untreated, these molds, and the subsequent mycotoxins that they can produce, are extremely detrimental to productivity,” said Phibro marketing director Paulo Rezende Napier. “By feeding Quantic Pulse daily at the recommended rate, producers can help protect their herds and optimize performance.”

In a 2019 contract research study, 124 barrows and gilts were fed three treatment diets, including a negative control (feed with no mycotoxins), a positive mycotoxin control (feed containing 4 ppm DON and 0.5 ppm ZEN from a naturally contaminated corn source) and the same positive mycotoxin control diet containing Quantic Pulse at an inclusion rate of 0.50% (10 lb. per U.S. ton). Based on bodyweight and average daily gain results, Quantic Pulse successfully mitigated the 4 ppm DON and 0.5 ppm ZEN levels, Phibro reported.

Piglet drying agent

Hypothermia, a major contributing factor in the mortality rate of neonatal piglets, poses another challenge to swine producers, Phibro said.

At birth, piglets lose heat rapidly — especially when wet. Now, swine producers have Dryd, a new drying agent from Phibro, that can absorb up to three times its own weight in moisture.

“Dryd helps producers offset cool, wet conditions at birth by absorbing excess moisture,” explained Mark Rooney, director of Phibro’s U.S. Swine Business Unit. “By keeping newborn piglets dry, they get off to a strong start, which can lead to improved survivability.”

In addition to hypothermia, crushing deaths have been shown to decrease when piglets are dry and warm. In a farrowing study by Andersen et al. in 2009, drying piglets in addition to employing heat lamps significantly decreased (P < 0.05) the number of litters in which at least one pig was crushed, Phibro said.

According to the company, Dryd features a blend of generally recognized as safe/Association of American Feed Control Officials-listed, all-natural ingredients that give it a significantly higher moisture capacity than comparable products. Dryd can also be used as a litter desiccant for ruminants and poultry. It is available in 30-lb bags for ease of handling.

Both products are now available, and producers can learn more by contacting their Phibro representative or by visiting pahc.com.

Brazil poised to overtake U.S. as leading soybean producer

Corn and Soybean Digest Corn and Soybean Outlook

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) recently reported that a successful 2019-20 growing season will place Brazil as the top global soybean producer, with FAS forecasting planted area at 36.8 million hectares for the season. The forecast was raised from the prior update due to market exuberance over soybean prices in the last several months.

According to FAS, the Brazilian real weakened against the dollar from about 4.09 reals to the dollar in October to 4.17 reals for the first two weeks of December. This pushed some producers to sow a slightly larger area than they otherwise would have, FAS explained.

“Notably, the area expansion could have been larger if the local market believed that global soybean consumption would be higher. There is still a lot of consternation over dampened Chinese demand due to the widespread prevalence of African swine fever (ASF), which has decimated swine herds and curbed feed needs. Additionally, producers are keenly following the emerging trade truce between the United States and China.”

FAS projects that Brazil will set another production record in the 2019-20 crop year, at 123.5 million metric tons. Brazil’s previous record soybean crop was 122 mmt in the 2017-18 season.

The 2019-20 production forecast is based on a return to trend-line yields after the current season was adversely affected by inclement weather. FAS said as long as local weather across the key producing states does not deteriorate significantly, Brazil is expected to achieve the top spot.

USDA FASbrazil us soybean production 2020.png

Cell-based meat company closer to commercialization

anyaivanova/iStock/Getty Images lab-grown meat

Memphis Meats, the leading cell-based meat, poultry and seafood company, announced that it has closed a $161 million funding round. The company said the “breakthrough round” marks the largest funding moment in the history of the cell-based meat industry and will allow it to reach the historic milestone of bringing its products to consumers. In total, the company has raised more than $180 million.

Memphis Meats said it plans to use the funds to build a pilot production facility, grow its team and launch its products on the market. The company has not yet announced a date for product launch but is working with regulatory agencies to ensure a timely and safe market entry.

According to the company, the Series B funding round was led by SoftBank Group, Norwest and Temasek. New and existing investors, including Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Threshold Ventures, Cargill, Tyson Foods, Finistere, Future Ventures, Kimbal Musk, Fifty Years and CPT Capital, all joined the round as well. This round extends the Memphis Meats coalition to Asia, which the company said is a strategically valuable market for cell-based meat and faces significant challenges in meeting growing demand for meat. 

“We are excited to welcome these investors into our Big Tent,” Memphis Meats co-founder and chief executive officer Dr. Uma Valeti said. “Memphis Meats is revolutionizing how meat is brought to every table around the world. We are providing compelling and delicious choices by producing real meat from animal cells, its natural building blocks. Cell-based meat is poised to dramatically expand humanity’s capacity to feed a growing global population while preserving our culinary traditions and protecting our planet.”

Jeff Housenbold, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said, “I am delighted that SoftBank Group is supporting Memphis Meats and its talented team in their mission to deliver a more sustainable, humane and secure food system.”

Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute, noted, “We embrace innovation that can expand consumer choices and feed the growing demand for protein around the world. We’re delighted to see Memphis Meats continue to lead the way in developing this new technology.”

FAO conference to declare ASF a pandemic threat

zhaojiankang/iStock/Getty Images pigs on farm in China_zhaojiankang_iStock_Getty Images-700500398.jpg

The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that it will hold an international conference on African swine fever (ASF) April 28-29 in Rome, Italy.

FAO said the objectives of the African Swine Fever Pandemic: A Global Challenge to Food Security, Wildlife Management & Conservation conference will be to:

  • Issue a political declaration on the ASF pandemic threat from governments, industry, academia and stakeholders;
  • Review existing and recently developed tools, mechanisms and practices to address ASF;
  • Discuss the progressive improvement pathway for biosecurity in pig production to ensure sustained production and trade, and
  • Release a global call for action.

In issuing the "call to action" for the conference, FAO called ASF "an unprecedented animal health crisis" and noted that the current situation presents "a global risk of a significant impact on animal health and welfare, national and international economies, rural development, social and political behavior, national food security and national and international markets."

FAO said the pandemic spread of ASF appears to be inevitable, and the disease is "likely to expand via domestic and wild pigs across most continents for years to come."

The conference will involve specialists from industry, research, academia and regional and international partners, FAO said.

ASF outbreaks result in massive losses of swine and pork products, making it economically devastating in countries with developed commercial pig farming, FAO said, noting, however, that countries with extensive pig production also suffer from epidemics. FAO said around 43% of pigs are kept in extensive production systems with inadequate biosecurity practices.

FAO said the capacity of the ASF virus to circulate in populations of wild boars and via ticks is extremely challenging. The virus is resistant and remains infectious for months in pork products and for more than 1,000 days in frozen pork.

According to FAO, almost half of the pig-producing countries in Africa reported outbreaks of ASF in 2012. In 2007, the ASF virus genotype II was discovered in the Republic of Georgia and spread to 17 countries across Europe. In August 2018, ASF emerged in China and subsequently spread to Mongolia, Vietnam, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Republic of Korea, Timor Leste and Indonesia.

Weaned pigs may need more dietary tryptophan

agnormark/iStock/Thinkstock young pigs

According to a multinational team of swine researchers writing in the January issue of Animal Feed Science & Technology, a consequence of general postweaning malaise in commercial pig production is increased synthesis of acute phase proteins (APP) due to subclinical inflammation and immune system activation.

Pigs under an inflammatory challenge produce APP such as haptoglobin and fibrinogen that are rich in tryptophan, and consequently, pigs under immune stress have decreased availability of tryptophan for body protein anabolism, the researchers said. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and must be supplied in swine diets.

Authors M.M. Capozzalo and J.W. Resink with Trouw Nutrition; J.C. Kim with AB Vista Asia Pte. Ltd.; J.K. Htoo with Evonik Nutrition & Care GmbH; the late C.F.M. de Lange with the University of Guelph; B.P. Mullan with Australia's Department of Primary Industries & Regional Development; C.F. Hansen with the SEGES Danish Pig Research Center in Denmark; P.A. Stumbles, D.J. Hampson and J.R. Pluske with the Murdoch University College of Science Health, Engineering & Education in Australia, and N. Ferguson with Westpork Pty Ltd. in Australia noted that the National Research Council's 2012 swine nutrition publication recommends standardized ileal digestible (SID) tryptophan-to-lysine ratios of 0.166 and 0.163 for pigs in the bodyweight ranges of 5-7 kg and 7-11 kg, respectively.

However, Capozzalo et al. said these recommendations were developed through weight-specific extrapolation based on the establishment of SID lysine requirements that may not consider differences in pig growth potential or health status, and numerous studies suggest that the recommendations may be insufficient.

Capozzalo et al. conducted a study to determine the optimum SID tryptophan:lysine ratio for pigs in the immediate postweaning period. They used a large commercial production unit that received pigs from multiple farrowing units on the basis that responses to higher SID tryptophan:lysine ratios might be more pronounced because of potentially greater inflammatory challenges under these circumstances.

The researchers said experimental diets were formulated without the use of a dietary antibiotic, but they included pharmacological levels of zinc oxide in the immediate postweaning period. Forty-two pens were randomly allocated to one of six treatment groups with varied levels of calculated dietary SID tryptophan:lysine ratios of 0.16, 0.18, 0.20, 0.22, 0.24 and 0.26 -- which were corrected to 0.168, 0.182, 0.205, 0.211, 0.234 and 0.253 due to actual dietary amino acid levels.

A total of 2,430 pigs with an initial bodyweight of about 6.3 kg (weaning occurred between 17 and 20 days of age) were then allocated to 42 pens according to sex and a visual estimate of weight (medium or heavy).

Blood samples were taken on days 5 and 12, with C-reactive protein (C-RP) levels determined on days 5 and 12 and haptoglobin and plasma urea levels determined on day 12.

According to the researchers, the greatest average daily gain (ADG) and optimal feed conversion ratio during the overall two-week period after weaning were achieved by pigs fed a diet with 0.234 SID tryptophan:lysine (P = 0.05).

Levels of C-RP showed a strong trend whereby pigs fed a ratio of 0.253 had the lowest C-RP values and pigs fed a ratio of 0.234 had the highest values (P = 0.061). No differences were found for plasma levels of plasma urea or haptoglobin (P > 0.05) between ratios, suggesting that pigs in the present trial were not under a significant inflammation challenge, Capozzalo et al. reported.

The researchers concluded that a dietary ratio of 0.234 SID tryptophan:lysine was found to optimize both the ADG and feed conversion ratio of weaned pigs.

Wendy’s advances animal welfare initiatives

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In 2019, The Wendy’s Co. combined its ongoing corporate responsibility efforts under one united banner it calls “Good Done Right.” This week, the company released its 2019 corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, highlighting a new commitment to have a comprehensive accounting of animal care best practices, including responsible use of antibiotics and animal housing conditions, by the end of 2024. The report also includes efforts to enhance benefits for employees and reduce the company's environmental footprint.

"At Wendy's, we believe that doing the right thing is the only way to do business," Wendy’s president and chief executive officer Todd Penegor said. "Being a responsible corporate citizen is a priority for our brand, and Good Done Right is our way to communicate how we're advancing various commitments to make a positive impact in the areas of food, people and our environmental footprint."

As part of its commitments, the company partnered with a third-party expert to conduct a formal materiality assessment to inform strategy and prioritize efforts moving forward. Insights from the assessment will help Wendy's set new corporate responsibility goals and commitments as it embarks on its next 50 years. More information regarding the assessment will be available in the coming months, the company noted.

Wendy's reported that it has already made significant progress in 2019 across its three key CSR pillars of food, people and footprint.

Specific to its animal welfare efforts, the company reported that in 2019 it sourced at least 30% of its beef from a group of producers who have each committed to a 20% reduction in the use of medically important antibiotics routinely used for cattle production. By 2021, it said it intends to have at least 50% of its beef supply participating in Progressive Beef or a similar program.

Regarding pork, Wendy's said it serves only pork that is 100% Pork Quality Assurance Plus certified. It is also currently working with suppliers and farmers who have committed to an intensive traceability protocol that supports its goals to track, trace, monitor and report on animal medical treatment histories for more than 75% of its pork supply by the end of 2022. Additionally, the fast-food chain said some producers are helping dive even deeper on available antibiotic usage data, which will be reported on in late 2020.

“We are also on track to source 100% of our pork supply from group housing environments by the end of 2022 and have given preference to suppliers helping us reach this goal,” the report noted.

On the broiler and egg front, Wendy's said it has implemented a process for selecting and auditing chicken suppliers, looking carefully for formulated nutritional feed, access to clean water, adequate room to grow, professional veterinary care and proper handling.

Wendy’s has eliminated all antibiotics important to human medicine from its chicken supply, which is process verified through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure compliance.

Further, the company said it will continue to explore enhanced housing opportunities and new stunning methods with suppliers. By the end of 2020, it expects to have carbon dioxide stunning implemented in 100% of its Canadian chicken facilities.

As it relates to eggs, Wendy’s said it is on track to achieve a 100% cage-free egg supply by 2020 at the 300 locations for which it made commitments in 2016. The company plans to launch breakfast options nationwide in 2020 and is now working with suppliers and its Animal Welfare Council to evaluate next steps and to further research housing enrichments.

Work of the Animal Welfare Council will continue by enhancing relationships and auditing practices, according to Wendy's. The council was expanded in 2018 to bring in additional experts alongside Wendy’s leaders and subject matter experts. In 2019, the council was tasked with revamping the company’s standards, and the culmination of that effort will be the implementation of its new Animal Care Standards Program (ACSP) in 2020.

Under the ACSP, comprehensive new traceability standards will embrace management practices, treatment histories, antibiotic usage and housing environments and other key factors.

“The ACSP can help us find and reward progressive suppliers who go the extra mile to meet our standards and push us to raise the bar even higher,” Wendy’s said.

To read the full 2019 CSR report and learn about the company’s full spectrum of initiatives, click here.

Zoetis launches 'Individual Sow Care' program

songqiuju/iStock/Getty Images pigs eating feed

Looking to help the U.S. pork industry raise the bar for performance and reverse the surge in sow mortality rates, Zoetis has introduced Individual Sow Care — a comprehensive, on-farm training program that teaches caregivers and production managers the value of conducting health, welfare and performance assessments on every sow, from every breed group, every day.

“Sow mortality rates in the United States have increased dramatically in recent years and now average about 15%,” Dr. Eva Jablonski, a technical services veterinarian for Zoetis, said at the 2020 Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines, Iowa, where the program was unveiled.

“While pelvic prolapses and lameness are among the most visible conditions associated with sow mortality, 39% of sow deaths are categorized as unknown. We believe that taking a more holistic and individualized approach to sow care — one that proactively assesses sow health, performance, body condition, environment — will go a long way toward reducing losses and improving sow productivity,” Jablonski added.

One-day program

Individual Sow Care is a one-day program that combines classroom instruction and hands-on training in the barn. Weeks before the session, Zoetis representatives conduct an on-farm review of the sow farm’s history and performance, as well as facilities, health challenges and other factors that may contribute to production losses or mortality. The training program is then customized to meet the needs and challenges of that specific farm, Zoetis said.

“Our goal is to help each farm identify opportunities for improving the well-being and performance of each sow,” Jablonski added.

Focus on observations

Individual Sow Care, which may be used with sows housed in stalls or groups, focuses on the importance of conducting daily observations of each sow — evaluating animal behavior, environment, feed/water intake and stools and urine, in addition to temperature, posture, body and teat condition, lesions, perineal area damage, lameness, milk supply and the condition of piglets.

Zoetis awards a plaque to each group of trainees that completes the program and has also developed an in-barn poster to remind trainees of specific Individual Sow Care checkpoints.

Individual Sow Care was built on the success of Individual Pig Care, which was introduced in 2005. According to Jablonski, that program has helped train hundreds of caregivers and production managers on the importance of walking the pens and checking every pig, every day, to help ensure optimum health, welfare and performance.

“The response to Individual Pig Care, combined with the surge in sow mortality rates, led Zoetis to create Individual Sow Care,” she added.

For more information on Individual Sow Care, veterinarians and producers should contact their Zoetis representative.