Feedstuffs is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Sitemap


Articles from 2016 In September


Syngenta unveils new Seedcare Institute

Syngenta unveiled its new Seedcare Institute in Stanton, Minn., during a grand opening celebration last week. More than 150 industry leaders, government officials, Syngenta customers and employees toured the 38,000 sq. ft., free-standing facility on Syngenta’s Stanton campus.

Syngenta’s Seedcare Institute features the most sophisticated laboratories in the agricultural industry and is one of the premier seed treatment research facilities in the world. Five times larger than the former Seedcare Institute formally established at Stanton in in 2000, the new structure houses:

  • Research and development (R&D) labs;
  • Labs for application, plantability, dust-off and quality assurance;
  • Climate-controlled application and planter testing labs;
  • A large-scale commercial application and performance area to simulate real-life experiences for customers;
  • Modern customer classroom facilities;
  • A seed warehouse, and
  • Office and meeting space.

“The Syngenta Seedcare Institute in Stanton is a state-of-the-art research and training facility, offering enriched seed treatment education, better collaboration opportunities with customers, advanced training and personal application support,” said Vern Hawkins, president, Syngenta Crop Protection LLC, and region director, North America.

“This seed care facility is a prime example of the commitment Syngenta continues to make in advancing technology that not only benefits soybean producers but agriculture as a whole,” said American Soybean Assn. chairman and Texas farmer Wade Cowan, who attended the grand opening.

Syngenta invests more than $1.36 billion per year in R&D globally, or $3.7 million every day.

“Syngenta’s $20 million investment in seed treatment R&D at Stanton reinforces our commitment to helping farmers grow more while using fewer resources and protecting the environment — today and tomorrow,” Hawkins said.

Seed treatment is a valuable and effective tool for farmers. With seed treatment, a chemical or biological substance — typically a fungicide, insecticide or nematicide — is applied in small and precise amounts to the outside of the seed prior to planting. Seed treatment helps protect the seed and seedling against early-season insect pests and diseases that reside in the soil. It also helps the plant get off to a healthy start and develop a strong root system — the foundation of a strong, productive plant.

Syngenta’s Seedcare Institute in Stanton tailors seed treatment recipes for individual customers and then scales up the recipes from the lab to commercial size. Syngenta can simulate various climate conditions at the time of treatment and adjust recipes for different crops and seed treating equipment.

The new Seedcare Institute will allow Syngenta to meet the increasing demand from farmers and seed companies to protect high-value seeds and seed traits. Seed treatment in North America accounts for more than 30% of the global market. Syngenta said its Stanton campus provides an ideal spot for the Seedcare Institute in North America, as it houses Syngenta’s main corn breeding research station, is close to the majority of U.S. corn and soybean acres as well as many Syngenta customers and is convenient to the Minneapolis, Minn., airport.

China extends antidumping measures on U.S. chicken imports

China’s commerce ministry announced last week that it will extend antidumping measures on imports of U.S. broiler chicken products for a further five years, effective from Sept. 27. A suspension of the measures would potentially hurt Chinese firms, according to a statement posted on the ministry’s website on Monday.

According to the National Chicken Council (NCC), China first imposed the duties on chicken imports from the U.S. in September 2010, claiming that chicken was subsided in the U.S. and then dumped on the Chinese market at prices below fair market value.

China’s commerce ministry said Aug. 22 China would extend anti-subsidy measures on imports of U.S. broiler chicken products for a further five years, effective from Aug. 30.

In May 2016, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman mounted a challenge to China at the World Trade Organization because of the Chinese government’s failure to bring its antidumping and countervailing duties against imports of U.S. chicken into compliance with WTO rules.

In 2013, a WTO dispute settlement panel found that China’s antidumping and countervailing duties violated its WTO obligations. Despite that decision, China continues to refuse to remove these duties, NCC said.

Chicken is the fastest-growing protein in overall consumption terms in China and accounts for nearly a fifth of total meat consumption.

FSA back in business with CR passed

Congress approved a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government until Dec. 9 and has provided the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) with 20% of its estimated budget to get through the next few months.

FSA currently has a backlog of direct and guaranteed operating loans worth nearly $133 million, which the agency will start paying out on next week, according to FSA administrator Val Dolcini. “We will be able to address all of the loans currently backlogged,” Dolcini said of the more than 900 that were backlogged earlier in the week.

Earlier this month, congressional agriculture appropriators approved a USDA proposal to reallocate $185 million in funding to address a backlog of direct and guaranteed farm loan applications. These funds took care of roughly half of FSA's existing backlog (covering nearly 2,000 approved loan applicants).

Dolcini said he anticipates next year’s demand to be “robust” considering the softening agricultural economy and lower commodity prices. He said 2016 saw a record amount of loans and record number serviced, with $6.3 billion in direct and guaranteed loans paid out for the 39,500 loans.

This compares to levels of $5.7 million for 37,610 loans in 2015 and $5.2 million for 37,145 loans in 2014, FSA reported.

Dolcini said the continued growth in FSA loan use speaks to the need people have for federal credit assistance. He said although FSA has typically been referred to as the “lender of last resort,” it also is becoming known as the “lender of first opportunity” as more and more loan applicants are from individuals or operators who have never walked through FSA doors previously.

With the CR now completed, this sets up the need for action on another CR or an omnibus appropriations bill during the lame-duck session of Congress following the election. Farm groups have lobbied Congress for sufficient additional funding to allow FSA to fund both the loan backlog from fiscal 2016 as well as the increased demand for FSA assistance during the current economic downturn.

“On the bigger issue of whether sufficient funding will be added to the final appropriations bill for 2017 — the so-called omnibus bill expected to pass by or before Dec. 9 — we are optimistic that additional funding will be provided and will continue to press for that outcome,” explained Ferd Hoefner, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Dolcini said even though funds are temporarily out, and may also be so again before December, the agency can still approve loans and put them into the queue to wait for new funding once it is available. He said he appreciated the support of the many groups that have sent letters to Congress calling for an adequate funding to meet the growing credit needs in the countryside.

U.S. corn, soybean stocks up from 2015

As of Sept. 1, there were 1.74 billion bu. of old-crop corn and 197 million bu. of old-crop soybeans in storage, according to the “Grain Stocks” report released Sept. 30 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The corn and soybean numbers were both below the average trade estimate of 1.754 billion bu. and 200 million bu., respectively.

Producers reported that there were 627 million bu. of corn stored on farms, up 6% from this time in 2015. Off-farm facilities held 1.11 billion bu. of corn, down 2% from a year ago. The U.S. corn disappearance totaled 2.97 billion bu. during June to August, up from 2.72 billion bu. during the same period last year.

NASS reported that as of Sept. 1, there were 41.6 million bu. of soybeans stored on farms, down 16% from 2015, and 155 million bu. stored off the farm, up 10% from last September. The U.S. soybean disappearance during June to August totaled 675 million bu., up 55% from the same period last year.

In addition to releasing the “Grain Stocks report, NASS also released the “Small Grains 2016 Summary,” which included the final tallies for U.S. wheat, oats and other small grains. According to the report, wheat growers set new record-high yield of 52.6 bu. per acre in 2016.

Wheat growers harvested 43.9 million acres of wheat for grain this year, down 7% from 2015. The levels of production and changes from 2015 by type are:

  • Winter wheat - 1.67 billion bu., up 22%;
  • Durum wheat - 104 million bu., up 24%, and
  • Other spring wheat - 534 million bu., down 11%.

Barley production is estimated to be 199 million bu., down 9% from 2015, with an average yield per acre of 77.9 bu., up 8.8 bu. from the previous year. This is the highest barley yield on record since the estimates began in 1866.

N&H Top Line: Immunological castration effect on carcass

Immunological castration (IC) — using gonadotropin-releasing factor analog-diphtheria toxoid conjugate (Improvest) — of pigs provides an effective alternative to physical castration. The mechanisms and effects of IC on pig growth has been discussed previously, but now, a new meta-analysis has been conducted to provide a greater understanding and comprehensive evaluation of IC barrow on carcass cutability.

The meta-analysis was conducted by B.N. Harsh and D.D. Boler of the University of Illinois, B. Cowles and A.L Schroeder of Zoetis, R.C. Johnson of Choice Genetics USA and D.S. Pollmann of DSP Consulting LLC. Harsh discussed the results with Feedstuffs at the recent Leman Swine Conference in St. Paul, Minn.

While Improvest has been on the market for five years, Harsh said a primary constraint to its use has been packer acceptance, so the meta-analysis was conducted to quantify the product's value to meat packers.

According to Harsh, carcass cutting yield was 1.24 percentage units greater in IC barrows compared with physically castrated (PC) barrows. As hot carcass weight of IC barrows increased, carcass cutting yield decreased, but when averaged across all hot carcass weight groups, IC barrows still exhibited greater carcass and bone-in lean yield than PC barrows.

IC barrows also demonstrated higher yields in each of the subprimals except the belly yield, which Harsh attributed to belly thickness. Trimmed ham (+0.62 percentage units), bone-in Boston butt (+0.45 percentage units) and bone-in picnic shoulder (+0.39 percentage units) of IC barrows made up a greater percentage of carcass side weight than PC barrows, Harsh said.

By using a five-year average of primal prices to calculate total value differences of equal weight carcasses and cutting yield estimates from the meta-analysis, Harsh determined that lean cuts from IC barrows were worth an additional $3.08 compared with PC barrows. After accounting for the reduced yield of natural fall belly, the value of an IC barrow carcass was $2.44 greater than an equal weight PC barrow carcass, Harsh said.

Additional information concerning this meta-analysis, as well as immunological castration, can be obtained from the Zoetis Pork Team.

Calcium requirements for weanling pigs

Two recent studies from the University of Illinois have helped determine how much calcium growing pigs require and illuminate the mechanisms by which they absorb it.

Calcium must be fed in adequate amounts and in the right balance with phosphorus to optimize pig performance. "We can use different measures to determine requirements for calcium," said Hans H. Stein, professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois. "Different amounts may be needed to maximize growth performance, mineral deposition in bone or calcium and phosphorus retention."

Stein, in conjunction with other researchers from the University of Illinois and AB Vista Feed Ingredients, conducted two experiments to determine responses to graded levels of calcium in diets fed to pigs from 11 kg to 25 kg. In both experiments, pigs were fed diets containing different levels of standardized total tract digestible (STTD) calcium ranging from 0.32% to 0.72%. All diets contained 0.36% STTD phosphorus.

Pigs fed diets containing 0.48% or more STTD calcium had the greatest concentrations of bone ash, bone calcium and bone phosphorus.

However, on measures of growth performance, average daily gain started to decline at 0.54% STTD calcium, and the gain:feed ratio started to decline at 0.50% STTD.

The optimal levels of dietary STTD calcium for retention of calcium and phosphorus were at or above 0.60% and 0.49%, respectively.

Taken all together, the different measures point to an STTD calcium requirement of 0.49% or less for growing pigs of 11-25 kg.

"Based on these results, the requirement for STTD calcium for 11-25 kg pigs is likely around 1.35 times the requirement for STTD phosphorus," Stein said, adding that further experiments need to be conducted to verify this value.

The researchers also studied the expression of certain genes involved in transcellular transport of calcium at the different levels of dietary calcium. Transcellular transport requires more calcium channel proteins, calcium binding proteins and energy than passive paracellular transport, so the latter is preferred if enough calcium is available to be absorbed that way.

As the calcium levels in the diets increased, the messenger RNA expression of genes for the calcium channel proteins TRPV5 and TRPV6, calcium binding proteins CALB1 and S100G and vitamin D receptor protein VDR decreased in the kidneys. Expression of genes for TRPV6 and VDR, as well as plasma membrane protein ATP2B1, also decreased in the jejunum as dietary calcium increased.

"The main site for regulation of calcium balance appears to be in the kidneys," Stein said. "When dietary calcium is adequate and luminal levels of calcium are high enough to allow for paracellular transport, transcellular uptake in the kidneys and jejunum is reduced."

USDA enhances depth of live cattle reporting

In recent years, participation in the cash slaughter cattle market has declined significantly, from 37% nationally in 2010 to 25% today. This occurred as the supply chain moved to using more formulas and forward contracts to market cattle more efficiently. This has, consequently, reduced opportunities for price discovery in the negotiated market.

In efforts to stem this decline, the cattle industry developed a new method for marketing slaughter cattle. Early this year, an online trading platform, the Fed Cattle Exchange, was launched for trading slaughter cattle on a weekly basis, with sales scheduled for every Wednesday. The Fed Cattle Exchange provides a web-based interface where feedlots can offer pens of market-ready cattle for sale, and packers can bid on those offerings in a timed format, similar to an online auction.

The cattle industry requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service consider including these transactions in the livestock mandatory reporting (LMR) cattle reports as negotiated purchases. After review, it has been determined that livestock traded in this manner would meet the definition of a "negotiated purchase" as the Fed Cattle Exchange is merely a trading platform. Negotiation does occur, as buyers can bid on the livestock offered, and sellers can accept or refuse the final bid. Additionally, delivery must be scheduled within 14 days of the sale.

Therefore, beginning on Oct. 5, 2016, LPGMN will begin including in national and regional direct negotiated slaughter cattle reports the cattle purchased through the Fed Cattle Exchange by packers required to report according to the LMR Act and regulation. Based on the weekly sales activity since launching in May of this year, approximately 1,800 head of cattle per week have been offered through the exchange at price levels in line with the current weekly reported markets. LPGMN estimates that the addition of these transactions in LMR will increase the reported weekly volume of negotiated purchases from 1.5% to 2.0%.

Bunge, Oleo-Fats become distribution partners in Asia-Pacific

Bunge Agribusiness Singapore Pte Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bunge Ltd., and Oleo-Fats Inc. (OFI), a wholly owned subsidiary of D&L Industries, have entered into distribution agreements for the foodservice, retail and food processor industries in the Asia-Pacific region.

OFI will become Bunge’s exclusive commercial partner to import, market, sell and distribute packaged softseed oils into the Philippines. Bunge will become OFI’s exclusive commercial partner to export, market, sell and distribute coconut oil under its Farm Origin brand into countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We’re delighted to have OFI as our distribution partner,” said Aaron Buettner, global head of oils for Bunge Ltd. “By leveraging OFI’s capabilities in Philippines and their relationships with customers, including quick-service restaurant chains, snack food manufacturers, biscuit and confectionery manufacturers, industrial bakeries and hotels, restaurants and caterers, Bunge will be able to fully participate in an important and growing destination market. We also look forward to being able to provide coconut oil supplied by OFI as part of our Farm Origin portfolio.”

Vincent Lao, managing director of OFI, said, “Partnering with Bunge, the world’s largest oilseed processor, gives us an even broader range of products to serve customers in Philippines and strengthens our position as a supplier of choice to our country’s fast-growing foodservice industry. We’re also seeking to grow by adding coconut oil to Bunge’s Farm Origin brand. By leveraging Bunge’s logistics and capable commercial and marketing teams, we’ll be able to participate in broader regional growth as well.”

Glucose precursor may aid Holstein transition period

Dairy cows are at risk of ketosis in early lactation, especially during the transition period surrounding parturition.

Researchers at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine recently conducted a study to determine if supplementing transition Holstein and Jersey cows with a glucose precursor product (GPP; Glucose Booster) increases milk, fat and protein production as well as if it increases blood glucose, decreases blood ketone bodies and reduces the incidence of transition diseases such as mastitis, metritis, displaced abomasum, clinical and subclinical ketosis.

K.E. Mitchell and H.A. Rossow presented the results at the 2016 Joint Annual Meeting of the American Society of Animal Science and American Dairy Science Assn.

For the trial, multiparous Holstein (51 treatment cows and 54 control cows) and Jersey (54 treatment cows and 52 control cows) at a commercial dairy were enrolled into either the control group or the GPP treatment group.

For the treatment group, the GPP powder was fed at a rate of 0.67 lb. per cow per day and was top-dressed on the total mixed ration (TMR) immediately after the TMR was delivered. Cows were blocked from eating by closing the stanchions until the GPP was mixed into the TMR by the push-up tractor. Therefore, there was an approximate 20-minute delay in eating. After the GPP was applied and mixed, stanchions were unlocked, and cows were allowed to eat. Control cows were fed normally.

Blood samples were taken weekly during the morning feeding. Plasma was tested for beta hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) and glucose levels. Milk, fat and protein yields were analyzed weekly by DHIA. Monthly DHIA milk tests were performed by Tulare County (Cal.) DHIA once GPP supplementation ceased.

According to Mitchell and Rossow, Holstein GPP cows had lower instances of clinical and subclinical ketosis (a 15% reduction in incidence) and experienced fewer health events than control Holsteins in the first 60 days in milk.

Subclinical and clinical ketosis can be related to many health events during the transition period, the researchers said, noting that the Holsteins tended to have more events than Jerseys, and Jerseys did not appear to benefit from GPP supplementation.

Health events that are likely related to blood glucose status either as primary or secondary effects are ketosis, displaced abomasum, retained placenta and lameness. For most of the events, GPP Holsteins had lower numbers of events that control Holsteins.

Mitchell and Rossow said ketosis is characterized by low blood glucose (below 60 mg/dL) and high BHBA levels (1.0-1.4 mmol for subclinical and above 1.4 mmol per liter for clinical) during the transition period. An increased supply of glucose suppresses the incomplete oxidation of fatty acids to BHBA. Therefore, a negative energy balance, high fat mobilization and low glucose supply (propionate or glucogenic amino acids) promote the formation of BHBA.

The results from this experiment indicate that supplementation of GPP does decrease the incidence of ketosis in Holstein cows, Mitchell and Rossow concluded.

In the prepartum and postpartum periods, there were no differences in dry matter intake, but glucose levels were higher in prepartum control Jerseys than GPP Jerseys. Overall, there were no differences in prepartum or postpartum glucose or BHBA for Holsteins, the researchers said.

Holstein GPP cows had higher milk, fat and protein yields than control Holsteins during GPP supplementation and in the milking pens. During the postpartum period, GPP Holstein cows produced 9.21 lb. more milk, 0.49 lb. more fat and 0.26 lb. more protein than control Holsteins, the researchers said.

The increase in Holstein GPP milk production continued after cows completed the trial and moved to the high milking pens, Mitchell and Rossow noted. However, the difference becomes smaller until cows reach 90 days in milk or, for Holsteins, their third milk test.

There were no differences in Jersey milk, fat and protein yield between treatments, although yields were higher in GPP Jerseys up until 90 days in milk, they reported.

These results show that there is a lasting effect after supplementation is completed, but it will decrease over time.

Summary

According to Mitchell and Rossow, Jersey cow health events and milk production did not respond to GPP supplementation. However, Holsteins supplemented with GPP had fewer health events and increased milk production. This may be caused by an increase in glucose supply during the prepartum period that continued to cause beneficial effects after calving.

More energy in preparation for calving may have had a positive effect on mammary tissue development, or an increased supply of energy to rumen microbes may have increased microbial growth and increased propionate and, therefore, glucose supply to the cow, the researchers said.

Proposed estate tax changes causing concern

In two separate letters to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, members of Congress and thousands of organizations expressed opposition to the new estate tax regulations proposed in August and asked for their withdrawal.

The proposed regulations under section 2704 of the Internal Revenue Code would permanently change estate planning for families that own a controlling interest in a privately held entity.

The letter from 41 Senate Republicans explained that the proposed regulations eliminate or greatly reduce the discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability for family farms and businesses and will, thus, discourage families from continuing to operate and build their businesses.

“We ask that the proposed regulations not be finalized in their current form as they directly contradict long-standing legal precedent, create new uncertainty for taxpayers and put family-owned businesses at a disadvantage relative to other types of businesses,” according to the senators' letter, led by Sens. John Thune (R., S.D.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee.

“The proposed guidance is one of the most sweeping changes to estate tax policies in the last 25 years and would be detrimental to active enterprises and family-owned businesses that employ millions of workers throughout the nation,” another letter sent on behalf of 3,800 organizations and family-owned enterprises pointed out. “In particular, these rules would impose significant new tax costs on family-owned businesses, diverting capital from business investment, costing jobs and threatening the ability of families to pass businesses on to the next generation of owners.”

Danielle Beck, director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn., said the regulations would eliminate or greatly reduce available valuation discounts for family-related entities, which, in turn, would increase the tax associated with common transfers, including inheritance.

“These proposed regulations would eliminate or greatly reduce marketability for family-related entities, effectively discouraging families from continuing to operate or grow their businesses and pass them on to future generations,” Beck said. “Producers are often forced into selling land or cattle in order to pay the tax and, in some cases, are put out of business. The Administration is causing unnecessary economic harm to family businesses.”

How to determine if meat is cooked properly

A question frequently asked when cooking meats is whether the meat is done yet.

"Although there are a variety of methods that have been passed down through the generations to determine the 'doneness' of different products, when it comes to meat, the answer is twofold," said Amanda Blair, South Dakota State University associate professor and extension meat science specialist.

First, Blair said consumers need to ensure that the product is cooked to the point that it is safe to eat, and second, they need to consider the impact doneness has on meat's taste and texture.

To know if a meat product is safe to eat, Blair defers to guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety & Inspection Service, which state that the only way to accurately measure if a product is cooked to a safe temperature is to use a food thermometer.

Safe temperatures for different meat products are listed in Table 1.

1. Safe minimum internal temperature chart for meat*

Product

Minimum internal temperature, °F

Beef, pork, veal and lamb (steaks, chops, roasts)

145 (plus 3 min. rest)

Ground meat

160

All poultry

165

* Source — USDA-FSIS

When it comes to taste and texture, Blair said once a product is cooked to a safe level, then it all depends on preference.

"Steaks and chops can be cooked to a lower degree of doneness than ground products, which must be cooked to at least 160°F," Blair said.

A thermometer is the best way to determine when meat has reached the desired degree of doneness.

Table 2 indicates the approximate temperature for each level of doneness.

2. Guide to doneness*

Degree of doneness

Internal temperature, °F

Medium rare

145

Medium

160

Medium well

175

Well done

180

*Sources: American Meat Science Assn., USDA-ARS, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn.

Of the two questions, Blair said there is no doubt that the first question — "Is it safe to eat?" — is the most important.

"We all want to prepare food that is safe to eat. Once we determine meat is cooked to a safe temperature, we must continue to monitor doneness to ensure eating quality," she explained.

Blair added that a properly calibrated meat thermometer is the only reliable way to measure internal temperature and ensure both food safety and quality.

Unfortunately, Blair said, there are a number of false methods for determining doneness of meat. "While these methods might sound valid, they do not replace the use of a thermometer for determining doneness of meat," Blair said.

A few of these unreliable methods are listed below, along with an explanation as to why they are neither safe nor effective:

Finger-test method. This method suggests that meat cooked to different degrees of doneness feels like different parts of your hand.

Concern: The obvious concern with this method is that everyone's hands and fingers feel different, as do different cuts of meat, depending on the species, animal maturity, fat content, etc. In addition to getting your fingers burned as you're feeling the meat, this is not a reliable way to determine the safety or degree of doneness of the meat.

Juices run clear. This method suggests that meat is safe to eat once the juices run clear.

Concern: Color change is not an effective indicator of doneness. Internal meat color and the color of meat juices are subject to factors such as pH and fat content. Research by USDA revealed that one in four hamburgers turns brown without reaching the safe internal temperature of 160°F.

Blair explained that four groups of South Dakota State undergraduate students in an Introduction to Meat Science class were challenged to cook hamburger patties until the juices ran clear and to record the internal temperature when this occurred.

The groups reported the following internal temperatures: 138°F, 145°F, 166°F and 187°F. Two of these are not safe to eat (138°F and 145°F), one is slightly over the threshold for safety (166°F) and one is likely overdone to the point that it would be extremely dry and would not provide a satisfying eating experience (187°F).

"This method also poses concern as it is often shared as the way to determine when poultry is done," Blair said. "However, most purge from poultry is light colored prior to cooking and becomes clear long before the meat is safe to eat (165°F)."

Determine how much the meat has shrunk. This method suggests that if the meat starts to look smaller, then it's close to done, and if it's substantially smaller than when you started, it may be overcooked.

Concern: The degree to which a meat product will shrink is variable and depends on factors such as the lean-to-fat ratio and the cooking method. This, like other visual methods, will not consistently indicate safety or level of doneness.

"The use of a meat thermometer is critical to maintain both meat safety and quality," Blair said.

The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of a roast or meatloaf and horizontally into the side of a steak, chop or hamburger patty. It should be inserted away from bone or fat, and if the meat product is irregularly shaped (such as some roasts), check the temperature in several places.