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Inside Washington

ERS move leaves USDA morale lower

Jacqui Fatka Perdue at NGFA Country Elevator Conference 2019.jpg
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks at National Grain and Feed Association Country Elevator Conference in December, 2019.

Employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are less happy with their workplace, according to a recent "Office of Personnel Management" survey showing a decline in employee engagement at USDA. The drastic drop was driven by the relocation of two offices at the department -- the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute for Food & Agriculture (NIFA) – to Kansas City earlier this fall.

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D., Ohio), chair of the House agriculture subcommittee on nutrition, oversight and department operations, said, “The drastic drop in morale and significant staff turnover at ERS and NIFA are indicative of how the department’s ill-conceived decision to uproot employees out of their jobs and move them to Kansas City will impact research critical to farmers and policy-makers.”

Yet, in December, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he received a personal note from one of the newly hired PhDs working at ERS thanking him for the opportunity to have a career with USDA without living in Washington, D.C., as it would allow him to pay off his school debt and still raise his three young children.

At a job fair to fill positions, Perdue said more than 6,000 applications were received for 300 jobs there. “We’re excited about it,” Perdue said, adding that he hopes to have a full complement of new ERS hires by midsummer of 2020.

According to a USDA spokesperson, as of the pay period ending Nov. 23, 2019, ERS had 31 employees on site in Kansas City, with 68 employees permanently remaining at headquarters in Washington, D.C. As of the pay period ending Nov. 23, 2019, NIFA has 66 employees in Kansas City, with 18 employees permanently remaining at headquarters in Washington, D.C. ERS has 16 employees and NIFA has 14 employees in Kansas City-based positions whose relocation dates were extended to Dec. 9, 2019, and March 30, 2020, respectively.

“In addition to these employees, both agencies are utilizing re-employed annuitants, short-term contractor support and employees on detail from other agencies as a part of the department’s strategy to help ensure mission continuity through the transition. Additionally, we have well over 150 active recruitments in process between both agencies. In total, ERS has 134 positions occupied, and NIFA has 93 positions occupied,” the spokesperson added.

Perdue said despite some reports, work has continued at ERS with either staff continuing on in Washington to finish projects or with accommodations made in order to keep the mission first and foremost.

Yet, the recent morale survey found that other branches of USDA also saw a significant negative shift in employee attitudes, including the Office of Civil Rights, the Foreign Agricultural Service and the Food Safety & Inspection Service. It should be noted that other wings of the department scored modest increases in employee enthusiasm.

“It is not surprising USDA experienced the largest decline in employee morale last year and continues to rank almost dead last in engagement among all large federal agencies. These findings demonstrate the toll the department’s misguided decisions are taking on dedicated civil servants,” Fudge said.

Fudge noted that “continued declines in morale across USDA threaten to cause permanent damage to employee development and retention, ultimately taking the department further from its mission to ‘provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science and efficient management.’"

Hog Slat, Georgia Poultry launch new Infinity fan line

Hog Slat Inc. Hog Slat Infinity fan.jpg

Hog Slat Inc., a globally recognized livestock equipment manufacturer and supplier, will launch its new Infinity fan line Jan. 22-23 at the Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines, Iowa.

Hog Slat's wholly-owned subsidiary, Georgia Poultry Equipment Co., which is engaged in manufacturing and distribution of poultry equipment worldwide, will launch the Infinity fan line to the poultry industry Jan. 28-30 at the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, Ga.

Built on the rugged AirStorm X-Brace platform; Georgia Poultry’s Infinity fan line incorporates advanced motor technology. Brushless DC motors utilize integrated electronics to convert AC power to DC, calculate the house controller signal, and control fan speed by regulating the power to the motor.

The design offers maximum flexibility while maintaining a simple to use and set up system. The Infinity drive can integrate with most all controllers with variable outputs as it provides a selectable input of either 0-10V or 10-0V. Additionally, the Infinity drive has been designed to operate independent of a controller with a variable output. Infinity fans offer several significant advantages, the announcements said.

1. Precise variable speed output. Upon receiving a signal from the house controller, the motor microprocessor determines the correct speed for the desired ventilation rate. It continues to monitor the shaft RPMs and adjust the power inputs to maintain the right speed.

2. Reduced maintenance. The direct-drive motor eliminates shaft bearings, pulley, and belts: no more costly and time-consuming repairs and adjustments.

3. Lower energy costs. At full load, the Infinity motor is more efficient than conventional AC motors. The Infinity motor maintains its high efficiency even with lower fan speeds.

4. Extended motor life. Infinity motors operate at cooler temperatures than comparable voltage-controlled AC motors, even at slower speeds. High operating temperatures are one of the leading causes of motor failure.

5. Fewer fans. Because of the Infinity fan’s ability to operate effectively at lower airflow rates, minimum ventilation rates are met without using smaller, less efficient fans.

“During the design process special consideration was taken to ensure maximum adaptability and the result was a product with one part number and multiple application uses,” said Hog Slat ventilation engineer Tyler Marion. “Every single Infinity fan can be set up to operate on a control signal at any max speed the user requires. The same unit also has the ability to operate on any of the three fixed speed settings. All of this was done to provide the simplest solution to the end user; one part number, infinite possibilities.”

New 2019 corn quality report shows crop's resilience

DarcyMaulsby/iStock/Thinkstock corn pile by grain elevator

After one of the most challenging growing seasons in U.S. history, which included weather-related planting delays, delayed crop maturation and early rains and snows during harvest, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) has published its ninth annual "Corn Harvest Quality Report" -- a representative view of the quality of corn assembled for export, collected as it enters the international merchandising channels.

The report is based on 623 samples collected from inbound farm-originating trucks at harvest.

“As industry stakeholders and international buyers make decisions about purchase contracts and processing needs for corn for feed, food or industrial use, corn quality information becomes critical,” USGC senior director of global strategies Kurt Shultz said. “Reports like the council’s crop quality reports provide transparency about crop conditions and consistently reinforce that the United States is the world’s most reliable supplier of good-quality corn.”

This season’s growing conditions forced some producers to harvest at relatively high moisture levels that have led to lower-than-average test weights, slightly higher stress crack incidences and more broken corn and foreign material compared with last year’s corn crop.

A forthcoming companion report – the 2019-20 "Corn Export Cargo Quality Report" – will focus on export cargo samples collected from corn shipments undergoing federal inspection and grading processes at export terminals. It will provide information on grading, handling and how U.S. corn is moved and controlled through export channels.

The reports offer reliable information on U.S. corn quality from the farm to the customer based on transparent and consistent methodology. They each give an early view of grading factors established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, moisture content and other characteristics not reported elsewhere.

USGC’s global staff and grower-leaders will share the results of the first report in a series of crop quality seminars held around the world, beginning in Taiwan in January. These outreach activities help establish clear expectations with buyers and end users regarding the quality of corn this marketing year. During these events, crop quality information is accompanied by presentations on U.S. corn grading and handling.

“Successful market development and outreach efforts like the corn quality rollout presentations demonstrate the return on investment for the efforts of the council and our partner organizations,” Shultz said. “It allows our experts to answer questions directly about the efficacy of this year’s crop and to continue to offer an open line of communication between producers and end users who want what we have to offer.”

Additional rollout events in several other countries are scheduled in January.

“The council’s quality reports can be compared across time, enabling buyers to make well-informed decisions as they purchase U.S. corn,” Shultz said.

The full report can be found here.

Milk, dairy product prices improve

maq123/iStock/Thinkstock dairy cows eating

Wholesale and farm-level milk and dairy product prices continue to be their highest since at least the beginning of 2015, according to the December “Dairy Market Report” from Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

Stockpiles have been lower, while use has been higher, the report added.

“The most recently reported stocks of the key milk price-influencing dairy products declined from the previous month, while domestic commercial use of milk increased at a faster rate than milk and milk solids production during the most recent period,” the groups noted.

Meanwhile, exports of certain key dairy products have also begun to show increases over year-earlier levels, even though exports have been relatively static compared to last year’s strong performance. Despite the slowing exports, export prices have remained stronger, the report relayed.

Overall, the report said constrained growth in U.S. milk and milk solids production, combined with a recovery in global dairy product markets, is central to the improved milk prices.

DMI and NMPF reported that the U.S. average all-milk price was $19.90/cwt. in October, $2.50/cwt. higher than it was a year earlier. Over those 12 months, the price of cheddar cheese surveyed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service rose by 40 cents/lb., the nonfat dry milk (NDM) survey price was up 22 cents/lb., while the survey prices of butter and dry whey were 13 cents/lb. and 11 cents/lb. lower, respectively. The October all-milk price was the highest since the beginning of 2015, the report added.

What’s ahead?

The improved milk price situation in late 2019 has provided some long-overdue relief for the nation’s dairy farmers, but how long prices will stay high remains uncertain, according to the report.

The mid-December dairy futures show cheddar cheese prices receding from November’s high of $2.17/lb. to below $1.80/lb. by March 2020 and remaining below that level for the rest of the year. Futures also indicated that butter would drop to $2.00/lb. in December before recovering but remaining below $2.20/lb. all year. Only NDM and, to a lesser extent, dry whey showed sustained increases form late 2019 levels, the report noted.

The futures-based milk price outlook was also weakening during the first half of December, dropping by about 25 cents/cwt. during that period.

“The strength of the rebound in milk production has undoubtedly weighed on the markets,” DMI and NMPF noted in the report.

USDA raised its 2020 average milk price outlook significantly during this period, from $18.85/cwt. in November to $19.40/cwt. in the second week of December. However, the report suggested that much of this could be seen as catchup, since the department’s November milk price forecast was far below where the futures were indicating at the time, while the updated December projection was very close to the futures outlook. Still, both were well below where milk prices will be during the last quarter of 2019, the groups added.

In the December "Livestock, Dairy & Poultry Oultook" report, USDA substantially raised the NDM price forecast for 2020 to $1.230/lb., up 13.5 cents based on recent price increases, relatively low stock levels and higher expected exports. Since whey products are sometimes used as substitutes for NDM and skim milk powder, however, USDA said domestic demand for whey products may increase with the higher expected NDM price. Accordingly, the dry whey price forecast was raised to 34.5 cents/lb., up 2.5 cents.

With higher demand expected for cheese, USDA slightly raised its 2020 cheese price forecast to $1.865/lb. Recent weakness in butter prices is expected to extend into 2020, causing USDA to lower its butter price forecast for 2020 by 4.0 cents to $2.020/lb.

Overall, higher expected prices for all major dairy product prices except for butter led USDA to raise its Class III price forecast to $17.65/cwt. and the Class IV price to $16.95/cwt. The all-milk forecast for 2020 was raised to $19.40/cwt.

Market recap

February live cattle futures contracts were lower during the New Year holiday week. Contracts closed lower Monday at $126.425/cwt. and Thursday at $126.475/cwt.

March feeder cattle futures were lower this week as well. Contracts closed lower Monday at $144.50/cwt. and Thursday at $143.725/cwt.

For the beef cutout prices, Choice closed lower Thursday at $208.25/cwt., while Select closed higher at $202.63/cwt.

February lean hog futures contracts were mostly higher, closing Monday at $71.80/cwt. and Thursday at $71.55/cwt.

The pork cutout was mostly higher, with the wholesale pork cutout closing at $73.85/cwt. Loins were higher at $70.91/cwt., while hams were lower at $65.44/cwt. Bellies were higher at $80.51/cwt. but lower than the prior week’s price of $89.67/cwt.

Hogs delivered to the western Corn Belt closed at $49.91/cwt. on Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the Eastern Region whole broiler/fryer weighted average price on Dec. 27 at 86.47 cents/lb.

According to USDA, egg prices were steady, with a barely steady to mostly lower undertone. Offerings were moderate to, at times, available. Supplies were moderate to heavy. Demand was light to moderate.

Large eggs delivered to the Northeast were lower at 88-92 cents/doz. Prices in the Southeast and Midwest were lower at 94-97 cents/doz. and 81-84 cents/doz. Large eggs delivered to California were $1.62/doz.

For turkeys, USDA said the market was steady to weak, and demand was light. The price range for hens and toms was unchanged at 91 cents to $1.00/lb.

China trade deal signing planned for Jan. 15

MarianVejcik/iStock/Thinkstock US and China flag mashup

President Donald Trump said in a tweet he will be signing the “very large and comprehensive phase one trade deal with China" at a ceremony Jan. 15 that will take place at the White House with high-level representatives from China present. The signing will occur nearly a month after the deal was reached to hold off ratcheting up tariffs with China that originally were scheduled to start Dec. 15.

Since the trade war began, China went from the second-largest market for U.S. agricultural products to the fifth largest. “Reopening the door to trade with China and others is key to helping farmers and ranchers get back on their feet,” American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president Zippy Duvall said following the deal announced Dec. 13.

AFBF economist Veronica Nigh is hopeful that the phase one deal leads to a more expansive agreement between U.S. and China. Trump’s tweet added that he will be going to Beijing, China, at a later date, where talks will begin on phase two.

Nigh said China has reportedly agreed to increase its purchases of U.S. agricultural products over a two-year period, averaging $40-50 billion annually. In comparison, China purchased $24 billion in 2017, before the trade war started. U.S. officials stated that the deal will include additional purchases of U.S. farm products of at least $32 billion over two years.

“Given that’s such a large expansion over where we were previously, the list of products and the variety of trade between China and the U.S. would have to expand pretty significantly. When you look at the total of what China is buying from the rest of the world, there’s probably room there,” Nigh said.

Shanghai, China-based consultancy JCI estimates that China can buy a total of roughly $41.3 billion worth of U.S. farm products annually, including around $18.7 billion -- or 45 million metric tons -- of soybeans. JCI expects another $2.1 billion to come from 1 mmt of frozen pork and offal imports, while sorghum, corn and distillers grains imports will reach about $1.8 billion each.

Although reports indicate that fully one-third of the 86-page agreement discusses agriculture, few details are available to the public. “After the official signing of the deal, the content of the agreement will be made public,” China's Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) said the deal's “texts are still being translated, and we've got to know that they say what was agreed to before we talk."

The deal will go into effect 30 days after the signing.

Darling Ingredients acquires EnviroFlight

WebSubstance/iStock/Thinkstock black soldier fly

Darling Ingredients Inc. announced Jan. 2 that it has acquired the 50% joint venture interest of EnviroFlight LLC owned by Intrexon Corp., thereby increasing its ownership interest in EnviroFlight to 100%. EnviroFlight LLC is a leading developer of proprietary technologies that enable the rearing of non-pathogenic black soldier fly (BSF) larvae in a scalable manner.

Enviroflight opened the first commercial BSF facility in Maysville, Ky., in late 2018. Phase 1 of the production facility currently has the capacity to produce 900 tons of dried BSF larvae on an annual basis.

"Expanding our ownership of EnviroFlight empowers us to accelerate our ability to create higher-value, sustainable specialty proteins for the agriculture and companion animal feed industries," Darling Ingredients chairman and chief executive officer Randall Stuewe said. "Our purpose is to repurpose, and growing insects for specialty feed ingredients yields 10 times the usable protein per acre compared to producing algae and is at least 50 times the protein per acre compared to soy.”

Dr. Liz Koutsos, president of EnviroFlight, said, "EnviroFlight has focused on driving necessary change in the global food supply chain to meet the demands of a growing population, and we look forward to working more closely with Darling Ingredients to realize the considerable promise of insect bioconversion to offer solutions that meet this goal.”

EnviroFlight's insect-based approach offers substantial promise to recover abundant food surpluses with significantly improved protein yield potential compared to traditional protein sources, given their proficiency at converting organic materials into valuable proteins, oils and frass, the announcement said.

Darling Ingredients noted that demand for fish meal and fish oil is expected to outpace the supply for these products for application in the multibillion-dollar aquaculture industry. BSF larvae meal has proved to be an excellent alternative to fish meal, the company added.

EnviroFlight continues to work with regulatory agencies to gain approval to feed these ingredients to food animals and pets in the U.S. EnviroFlight's comprehensive research program has demonstrated the safety, applicability and value of BSF-derived ingredients in the diets of poultry (broilers and laying hens), swine and companion animals. The combination of highly digestible nutrients derived from an environmentally friendly process makes BSF larvae the natural choice to help feed animals, the company noted.

Since late 2014, EnviroFlight has collaborated with Darling Ingredients to refine its scalable production processes for BSF larvae. Darling acquired a 50% ownership interest in EnviroFlight in 2016. With more than 135 years of experience, Darling Ingredients is the foremost reclaimer and processor of inexpensive, bio-sustainable feedstocks, repurposing typically inedible ingredients into usable specialty feed and food solutions. Its operational expertise in this area, combined with EnviroFlight's innovative approach employing BSF larvae, will be leveraged to standardize processes for creating and optimizing BSF-based feed. 

Maillard polymers may reduce baled forage quality

Photo credit Troy Walz. U Nebraska big round bale.jpg
Testing forage quality of hay, whether it’s grown on-farm or purchased, is a critical first step to optimizing hay use.

Hay put up too wet can lead to a number of issues, most notably mold and heat, because moisture keeps otherwise dormant microbes and fungi active, decreasing forage quality and creating heat that can actually create a risk of combustion, University of Nebraska extension educator Ben Beckman recently wrote in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln "BeefWatch" newsletter.

However, even heat that doesn’t get to the level of combustion can start to cause issues with hay quality, Beckman said. Since hay is not protected from oxygen like most anaerobic fermented feedstuffs (silage, haylage, etc.), high temperatures, moisture and oxygen allow aerobic bacteria to grow, using plant protein and sugars for growth and producing carbon dioxide, water and heat, he explained. Too much of this can cause temperatures to rise high enough to kick off a process called the Maillard reaction.

Beckman said while it’s typical for hay bales to generate heat after harvest due to the curing process, too much moisture has the dual issue of: (1) helping trap heat already created instead of letting it dissipate quickly, and (2) acting as a catalyst for the Maillard reaction once it kicks off at around 170°F.

The Maillard reaction takes normal proteins and sugars and, through a series of chemical reactions, changes them into something called the Maillard polymer, Beckman said. The resulting hay is sweet/tobacco smelling and golden/caramel in color, which, according to Beckman, makes the hay a treat for cows.

On the other hand, he noted that the resulting Maillard polymer isn’t great nutritionally. The chemical reactions tie up proteins and lower the forage’s true crude protein content, he explained, adding that a standard crude protein feed analysis won’t be able to pick up this difference, causing nutritionists and producers to overestimate the available protein in the forage and underfeed cattle.

Beckman suggested that if it is suspected that some caramelization has occurred in hay bales, laboratory analyses such as tests for heat-damaged proteins (HDP) or acid detergent insoluble crude protein (ADICP) will show how much unavailable protein content there is due to the Maillard reaction, and rations then can be adjusted accordingly. At some labs, this test will also be shown with the adjusted crude protein content after damage has been factored in, Beckman added.

He also suggested that while evaluating hay bales that could be heat damaged, it’s also a good time to look for excessive mold growth on hay bales. The same wet conditions that allow the Maillard reaction to occur can also be great for mold. While not always toxic, mold can reduce hay quality and palatability, so allowing animals the freedom to pick through heavily molded bales is a great option.

After last winter’s cold and a wet summer, using every last bit of hay available to its fullest potential is going to be important, Beckman said.

Testing forage quality, whether it’s grown on farm or purchased, is a critical first step to optimizing hay use, but make sure to take a closer look when taking those samples, Beckman concluded. Watch for signs that a Maillard reaction could have occurred, and if significant, running the additional HDP test will be essential, he said.

Americans not eating as healthily as desired

FredFroese/iStock/Getty Images woman grocery shopping while on mobile phone

Consumers aren’t eating as well as they’d like, and this is an opportunity, according to a new report by Nielsen. In fact, while sharp sales growth has occurred in fresh foods (up $4.6 billion), organics (up $925 million) and foods that support plant-based diets (up $982 million), the reality is that there is still opportunity for growth in consumer packaged goods (CPG), the report suggested.

Research by the firm found that the gap between the intention to eat better and action to do so isn’t from lack of trying.

“Nearly all (99% of) Americans have purchased a low-fat food or beverage item this year, but households only do so about twice a month. Similarly, U.S. homes are only buying organic, sugar-free and high-protein foods about once a month in each case,” the report said.

Statistically speaking, Nielsen said a dark cloud looms over eating patterns in America. In 2018, one in five Americans was considered obese, and one in nine homes lacked access to enough food at some point in the year. Perpetuating these problems, nearly one in four (23%) people admit to never or rarely exercising.

Despite the ongoing struggle, two-thirds of Americans said their eating habits have changed over the last five years. This shift in behavior could be monetized, Nielsen said, but added that it is only valuable if manufacturers and retailers can fulfill consumer intentions with available products.

“Consumer intentions like these can help manufacturers and retailers spot gaps in ways products are not meeting evolving consumer needs, so they can close them,” Nielsen noted. “Our research confirms that consumers, particularly younger ones, have a new set of expectations for food products.”

Still, there’s no single definition for what constitutes healthy food today, and Millennials, in particular, have indicated that health is not the sole factor driving changes in eating habits, the report relayed.

“Millennials are most likely to define healthy eating in practical ways, whereas surveyed Boomers, Greatest Generation consumers and even Gen Xers indicate their eating habits are more heavily guided by health maintenance or specific health conditions,” Nielsen reported.

For example, the report said Millennials think about healthy eating more holistically than other generations, placing rising importance on food for the mind.

“More so than any other cohort, Millennials feel healthy eating isn’t just about nutrition and diet; they believe it extends to mental wellness, stress management and saving both money and time. Millennials are two to three times more likely than the oldest generations to change their eating habits in order to manage mental health, finances and time,” the report said.

Translating these ideals into products on the shelf is a tall order to fill, though, according to Nielsen. “To put it simply, consumers, especially Millennials, want to buy foods that work ‘harder’ for them and their lifestyles.”

As such, Nielsen said the values and desires that drive consumers' lives make for a seemingly impossible equation companies must solve: How can people save time and money while maintaining good overall health, mental strength and stress management?

To help solve the equation, Nielsen broke down the behaviors surrounding food affordability, time savings and products that promote healthy lives and minds.

Americans are drinking -- not just eating -- their snacks, and beverages can help bridge the gap to time savings with healthier eating. In fact, beverages are among the top-trending consumable categories today, and while things like value-added water and energy beverages may not be the most filling when it comes to a snack occasion, for many consumers, drinks aren’t typically intended to serve as a meal replacement. More so than many other reasons, three in 10 Americans say they are more likely to drink beverages “as a way to revive or sustain energy levels.”

Mental health and stress management are another part of the "impossible equation," according to the report, “and it’s not just beverages that are innovating to bridge the gap to healthier eating in America. The future of food is grounded in uniting the health of the body and the mind.”

Improvement in consumer awareness and care for mental wellness means that companies need to prioritize mental health just as much as they do physical health in encouraging dietary changes, the firm recommended.

However, even foods that save time or improve mental health must be reasonably priced, Nielsen said.

“This is an ultimate barrier to closing the gap between what Americans want to consume and what they actually end up buying. Consumers won’t try what they don’t believe they can afford,” the report said.

Packaged frozen and shelf-stable produce, for example, is well positioned to capitalize here, Nielsen noted, adding, “Companies playing in this space need to exploit the wallet-friendly nature of these options and inspire meal occasions using back-of-the-freezer or pantry produce.”

Manufacturers and retailers also have an opportunity to promote the price efficiency of certain fresh meats as healthy protein options. Nielsen relayed that trendy and convenient protein sources like jerky (25 cents/g), nutrition bars (20 cents/g) and nuts (13 cents/g) may suit on-the-go consumers, but they are sold at 6-12 times the price per gram of chicken, pork and turkey (2 cents/g, respectively).

“For the 55% of Americans who prioritize high protein content when deciding what to buy, this message of protein price accessibility could draw renewed attention to traditional meat-based goods," the report said. "Distracted by power messaging about nutrition bars or meat snacks, many consumers could be swayed by re-education on the protein content actually in a serving of fresh meat, for example.”

According to the report, companies must tackle concerns directly and consistently in order to lower barriers to entry with healthy food consumption. Americans have expressed that price matters most when it comes to future food and beverage consumption.

“For both initial trial and long-term adoption, careful price management can make all the difference between landing in a basket and staying on the shelf,” Nielsen reported.

Research has found that one-third of Americans (33%) will prioritize price when it comes to what they consume over the next five years. Additionally, 75% of Americans believe getting the best price on a product is the most important.

“This isn’t ‘new’ news, but it’s interesting to see where consumers are and are not willing to splurge as well as gain insight into the product details that ground these preferences,” the report added.

Nielsen said the message is clear for food companies: Price is the dominant driver of food purchases unless there are other factors to consider.

“With the exception of alcoholic beverages, a sizable share of Americans are likely to base their food purchase decisions predominantly on price. The gap between intention and action for healthier eating boils down how brands can force the consumer habit to consider health-oriented attributes, too,” Nielsen said.

The firm also found that monitoring sugar intake will be top of mind for 23% of Americans over the next five years, noting, “When we look at the top diet preferences across the nation, lowering sugar and adhering to diabetic diets are among the top 10. Americans want sugar-controlled diets, and companies (even in confectionery) need to help, not hurt, these habits.”

As such, brands that can get ahead of consumers’ dietary improvement goals can foster behavior that moderates intake to healthy portions that both consumers and companies can benefit from, Nielsen said.

“For confectionary, soft drinks, desserts and other related categories, now is the time to encourage health-minded consumption of indulgent products. Consider expanding or optimizing your offerings with portion-controlled pack sizes for sweets. We know consumers like to indulge in sugary products, so improving the way Americans do so will help the both consumer and the company,” the report said.

Overall, Nielsen said the foods that will boost and not break consumer goals will win by bridging the gap to healthier eating in America.

Oregano oil may help reduce antimicrobial resistance

Anpario Anpario Calf image 3.jpg

New research from the University of Reading in the U.K. suggests that the levels of Escherichia coli bacteria resistant to a fourth-generation cephalosporin antibiotic may be significantly reduced by adding an oregano essential oil to calf diets, according to an announcement from Anpario, which sponsored the research.

University of Reading researchers Partha Ray and Caroline Rymer undertook a trial to determine the effect of supplementing a source of 100% natural oregano essential oil (Anpario’s Orego-Stim Liquid) in waste milk fed to dairy calves on the population of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in their feces, Anpario said.

Holstein male calves were offered either waste milk treated with oregano essential oil for 10 days or a control diet of the same waste milk source without the addition of the essential oil, according to the announcement. After the initial 10 days, all calves were fed the same ration of untreated waste milk and concentrates until weaning.

According to the study results, supplementing oregano essential oil may offer a potential solution to help reduce the presence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in dairy calves.

In the feces of calves fed waste milk with no essential oil, 44.1% of E. coli present were resistant to the antibiotic cephalosporin (cefquinome). However, in calves fed waste milk supplemented with the oregano until day 10, this was significantly reduced to only 12.6% of total E. coli being resistant to cefquinome, Anpario said.

“Oregano essential oil supplementation not only reduced the abundance of cefquinome-resistant E. coli but also delayed the emergence of resistance to cefquinome,” said Ray, a lecturer in dairy animal science at Reading University. “We are conducting further studies to understand the mechanism underlying the effect of [oregano essential oil] feeding on antimicrobial resistance in the gut of young cattle. Improving our understanding of the mechanism is the only way we can refine the practice of feeding the essential oil-based supplement to make it more sustainable.”

Rymer, associate professor of animal science at Reading University, added, “Feeding supplements which have antimicrobial activity may themselves encourage the development of antimicrobial resistance. It was, therefore, very pleasing that there was no evidence that feeding [oregano essential oil] increased the resistance of E. coli to any of the antibiotic classes tested. It was even more promising that resistance to the critically important cefquinome was reduced.”

PorkBridge educational series for 2020 begins Feb. 6

Chayakorn Iotongkum/iStock/Getty Images pigs in breeding farm_FDS_chayakorn lotongkum_iStock_Getty Images-1068384462.jpg

Since 2005, PorkBridge has provided relevant and timely information to grow/finish swine producers and other industry professionals across the U.S. and around the world through a unique, low-tech delivery method, according to Iowa State University, one of the institutions coordinating the program.

The 2020 program year series begins on Feb. 6 and continues on an every-other-month schedule for six total sessions, Iowa State said.

The program is a source of relevant and accurate information for those who own, manage or work in swine grow/finish facilities, according to Iowa State University animal science professor and extension swine specialist Ken Stalder, who is the Iowa contact for PorkBridge.

PorkBridge provides an interactive teleconference with electronic materials and live presentations. About a week before each session, subscribers will receive a web link to download the session’s presentation and any additional information provided by the presenter. Participants call in for the audio portion of each session and follow along with their own copy of the presentation on their computer or other device.

“Producers and others in the industry can get the information they need without the hassle of traveling or giving up an entire day to attend a meeting,” Stalder said. “PorkBridge participants can take part at home, in an office or in the swine unit -- wherever it works best for them -- and everyone can listen later to the audio we record of each live session.”

Sessions are scheduled for the first Thursday of each designated month but occasionally are moved a week to avoid interference with national industry events or holidays. Each session begins at 11:30 a.m. (Central) and lasts approximately 45 minutes.

The price remains at $100 for the entire series, and as in the past, each subsequent registration from the same entity is half that amount. Each registration provides access to one phone line per session and all program materials for each registration, including audio recordings of the live session, Stalder said.

The registration form and payment must be received by Jan. 15 to assure receipt of program materials in time for the first session on Feb. 6. The program brochure has details and the registration form.

Session dates, speakers and their industry affiliations and topics are as follows:

  • Feb. 6 — Pam Zaabel, Iowa State University, “African Swine Fever & Secure Pork Supply.”
  • April 2 — Steve Moeller, The Ohio State University, “Maintenance of Euthanasia Equipment.”
  • May 28 — Matt Ritter, Provimi US, “In-barn Impacts on Meat Quality.”
  • Aug. 6 — Yuzhi Li, University of Minnesota, “Tail, Ear & Flank Biting: Reasons Why & How to Address.”
  • Oct. 1 — Jose Ramirez, Viroz Animal Health, “Proper Application of Disinfectants.”
  • Dec. 3 — Andy Brudtkuhl, National Pork Board, “Precision Technologies for Commercial Swine Production.”

PorkBridge is a joint effort of swine faculty and staff from the University of Minnesota, Iowa State, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, South Dakota State University, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, University of Missouri and North Carolina State University.