Shane Commentary

 

Outlandish Prediction on Price based on HPAI

Aug 28, 2015
    

According to NBC News, Bret Hundley of BB&T Capital Markets commented on the rise in price of eggs occasioned by the recent HPAI outbreak.  This is very perceptive and obviously confirms his acumen and expertise which allows him to hold down a responsible position with a leading financial institution.  Where Hundley and I differ is his outlandish forecast of $6 per dozen in the event of subsequent outbreaks of HPAI. The $6 per dozen figure is presumably for generic eggs although he makes no distinction among categories of shell eggs. His prediction is contingent on “if bird flu gets closer to home for Cal-Maine Foods.”

   
 

Transition by McDonald’s to Offset Sales Decline

Aug 28, 2015
    

EGG-CITE and the financial press have reported extensively on the sequential-quarterly decline in U.S. same-store sales announced by McDonald’s Corporation.  Efforts to revitalize the company by incoming CEO Steve Easterbrook have received considerable publicity but it is evident that his efforts will take time before they are reflected in the significant operational and financial parameters. (see Q2 Results posted on July 27th 2015)

Press reports some time ago noted that McDonald’s was introducing a “create your taste” customization effort for their sandwiches.  When first proposed under the previous CEO, Don Thompson the initiative was roundly criticized as it was unworkable for a chain heavily committed to drive-thru window sales.

Aware of the trend towards “healthier” and “natural” menus as promoted by Chipotle, Panera Bread and smaller chains, McDonald’s is trying to emulate their successful competitors.  The “create your taste” concept was reworked, and will be tested in New York allowing customers to order using touch-screen pads and kiosks to select from among toppings and sauces some of which are new to the McDonald’s menu.  Whether this concept is applicable to as many as 3,000 restaurants is questionable.

As a gentle suggestion, McDonald’s may wish to apply consumer segmentation to their approach.  If a proportion of McDonald’s restaurants have menu items and décor to attract millennials, will I as a traveler know what to expect when I select a McDonald’s store?  After all the selling point for McDonald’s over the past four decades has been consistency in quality (or otherwise) cleanliness (or otherwise) service (or otherwise) which one expects of a name-brand franchiser.  By altering the ambiance and menu, in selected stores McDonald’s may end up with worst of all possible worlds. They may lose existing clientele with a suitably adapted intestinal flora and enzyme secretions to competing chains offering uniform products. Concurrently they may fail to attract fickle millennials who in any event are patronizing more upscale QSRs.

McDonald’s might well be advised to follow the attempts by Target, Walmart and even Whole Foods Market and develop a different store concept with a modified name to create a brand appealing to a defined demographic.  It is absolutely impossible for McDonald’s to become Chipotle in the same way that Texas Steakhouse could not aspire to become a one-star Michelin restaurant. I remember the failure of the McCafé concept in the early 2000s when McDonald’s tried to become Starbucks. They just could not transfer the ambience of an upscale coffee shop to a hamburger QSR. Now the McCafé is reduced to a machine or two somewhere down on the right side of the counter where the staff trip over each other working the drive-through delivery window.

   
 

Controversy over Labeling of GMO Foods Continues

Aug 21, 2015
    

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is gaining support.  In a recent address to farmers, Rep. Pompeo confirmed that there is no need to label GMO foods since there is no substantial nutritional or other biologically detectable difference between GMO and conventional ingredients.  Labeling should be reserved for unsafe products including tobacco where there is clear scientific evidence of a deleterious health effect.

The proposed Federal legislation would impose a national standard for labeling and would obviate a patchwork of state and local regulations. This requirement would ultimately add to the cost of production and distribution and will ultimately be borne by consumers.  Pompeo noted “it is important that there be a single set of rules for the food chain in the United States and it is equally important that the set of rules be grounded in science and not in someone’s emotions or political agenda”.

Pamela Bailey, President and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) considers GMO labeling as a significant priority.  In an interview for Food Business News she outlined action taken by the GMA to oppose a state law passed in Vermont, requiring labeling of all products made with GMO ingredients effective July 1st 2016.  The U.S. District Court has denied the request for preliminary injunction to halt implementation although the issue is now subject to appeal.

Food manufacturers are concerned that the Vermont law will seriously impact supply chains given the volume of shipment of products in the Northeast quadrant requiring expensive segregation of identical products.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, designated a H.R.1599 requires labeling of a food product containing GMO ingredients only if the Secretary of Health and Human Services determines that there is a material difference from comparable generic products.

The GMA is satisfied with action in the House of Representatives but is eagerly awaiting resolution of the issue in the Senate. Ms. Bailey stated, “we are working with a very large coalition and that is one of the reasons this legislation has been so successful.  These efforts represent a farm-to-fork coalition including farm groups, food processors, retailers and restaurants”.

   
 

Concern over Imported Eggs

Aug 19, 2015
    

Discussions with producers during the past two weeks have evinced questions relating to the source and quality of imported eggs.  Mexico and the Netherlands are the principal suppliers although other EU nations have consigned shipments of breaking stock to the U.S. 

The first concern relates to introduction of disease.  Since nest-run eggs are imported from Mexico, it is possible that either END or HPAI could be introduced on contaminated product.  This problem could be obviated by insisting on washed eggs shipped on new packing material and transported in decontaminated trailers. The destination of some shipments is also a matter of concern as one breaker is importing eggs from Mexico into North Central Georgia which has a high concentration of broiler production.

   
 

French Activists Agitate for End to Disposal of Cockerels

Aug 14, 2015
    

According to a report in Poultry World, the Association Ethique et Animaux, L214 has petitioned the Government of France to eliminate hatchery disposal of surplus cockerels.  Brigitte Gothiere a spokesperson for the Association, as quoted in Poultry World, stated “everyday thousands of newborn chicks are shredded alive because they are considered as mere waste.  This cruelty has lasted too long.  The Civil Code now recognizes animals as sentient beings and it is time to act accordingly”.

The action follows release of a video showing cockerels subjected to grinding in macerators and suffocation in plastic bags.

Similar action has been instituted in Germany. Officials have announced their intention of banning the killing of cockerels by 2017.  This nation is currently investigating gender determination in embryos.  This technology was in fact developed in the U.S. at Embrex by a team led by Dr. Catharine Ricks during the late 1990s, previous to the purchase of the company by Zoetis.  The original objective was to install equipment in broiler hatcheries to differentiate between male and female chicks to be placed for separate-sex growout.  It would now appear that this technology could be revisited. The installation was accurate but at the time was not commercially applicable in the U.S. broiler industry which predominantly places straight-run chicks.  If required, newly-hatched broiler chicks can be separated according to gender by applying feather sexing.

In the interim, a major U.S. egg-producer has developed a prototype chamber to allow for humane carbon dioxide euthanasia of cockerels prior to maceration.  It is predicted that if this technology is universally applied, much of the public antagonism towards disposal of cockerels would be reduced. Obviously animal rights organizations would not be able to claim that the U.S. industry was grinding conscious chicks.

   
 

Center for Food Integrity Survey

Aug 12, 2015
    

EGG-CITE has previously commented on the disingenuous and blatantly false statements by Dr. Memhet Oz to promote products on his television show.

According to a press release by the Center for Food Integrity, an advocacy organization representing food producers and commodity groups, Oz is not regarded as being a reliable or trustworthy commentator.  In a survey entitled “Cracking the Code on Food Issues: Insights from Moms, Millennials and Foodies” Oz was ranked second to last among eleven sources of information.  Among millennials and foodies, Oz was ranked last.

Family physicians were regarded as the most trustworthy source followed by university scientists with Oz once again at the bottom of the pack.  Charlie Arnot CEO of the Center for Food Integrity stated “It goes to show that celebrity does not equal creditability, you don’t need a national TV show to be a trusted source when it comes to how food is produced today.”  He added “The voices of farmers, mom, and university scientists matter.  The research is clear: consumers are looking to creditable sources for balanced information so that they can make informed decisions.”

A number of commentators including those in the medical profession have criticized their colleague Dr. Oz for his outlandish claims obviously influenced by his commercial interests.  He has descended from the status of a highly respected thoracic surgeon to the ranks of pseudo- scientist, sophist and a manipulator of the visual and social media. His cohorts include the self-styled “food babe” Vani Hari, Dr. Michael Greger of the HSUS and anti-GMO-activist Vandana Shiva.

   
 

Consumers Concerned over Dietary Choices - Opportunity for Eggs?

Aug 12, 2015
    

An informational article circulated by the American Egg Board confirmed that surveys conducted by Sloan Trends determined that 53 percent of U.S. adults are “watching what they eat and what they are watching, are nutrients”.  According to the research organization, calorie count is less important than the nutritional value of the calories consumed. This reality plays directly to eggs with their inherent high protein, balance in amino acids, essential fatty acids together with minerals and vitamins relative to available calories. 

A second trend involves an increased interest in the breakfast meal whether at home or purchased from QSRs. A number of chains have recognized the value of serving breakfasts and eggs have become the mainstay of menu options despite transitory high cost.  As part of their attempt to limit the decline in same-store sales, McDonald’s is testing all-day breakfasts in a small proportion of their U.S. stores. This is a belated attempt to catch up with Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway which are offering egg-white sandwiches for health-conscious consumers over extended hours during the day.

For home-breakfast meals, the American Egg Board has worked with media to publicize other than conventional scrambled, fried and boiled dishes. The promotional material from the AEB features toppings and by combining with vegetables, salsas and cheeses, consumers can now enjoy the benefits of either home-cooked or store-purchased meal kits and microwaveable egg dishes. 

Among the many brands featuring eggs for breakfast, Morning Star and Jimmy Dean, are prominent in the breakfast cooler aisles.  The trend even incorporates ethnic foods with hearty American and Latino-styled products in both vegetarian and meat combinations.

   
 

Interpretation of Scientific Studies at Variance with Reality - Revisited

Aug 12, 2015
    

EGG-CITE is indebted to Dr. John Dunn of the USDA-ARS Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory (ADOL) for information on the scientific distortions in reports leading to the Commentary posted on Friday August 7th. As documented by Dr. Dunn, an acknowledged expert in the molecular biology of Marek’s disease virus, the postings appeared in  the following  sequence:-

  • Publication of the Read et al. article which was factual and scientifically sound
  • Presentation of the PBS item on July 27th authored by Nsikan Akpan describing the Pirbright study but mentioning in passing avian influenza and human childhood infections, which on balance could be regarded as irrelevant. This elicited reader’s comments on their interpretation of concepts of immunology with contributions and opinions from the “anti-vaccination” fraternity
  • Posting of an article in the vegan-leaning website “Munchies” on July 29th which amplified aspects of the PBS broadcast.
  • A posting on August 3rd on Global Meat News under the title “U.S. Battles Poultry Sickness Rivalling Bird Flu” which absolutely misquoted the PBS  broadcast and web posting by claiming that Marek’s disease was more deadly than avian influenza.
  • The ADOL responded factually to requests from the media placing the issue in perspective.

A review of the relevant postings suggests that the PBS article included opinions from a highly technical on-line publication which were borderline in their validity. The Global Meat posting included conclusions which were totally unwarranted and were obviously sensational.

Nothing in the EGG-CITE posting was factually incorrect although the responsibility for the egregious distortion must be assigned to the writer of the article and headline posted on Global Meat.

Based on current field experience and studies conducted at the ADOL, Marek’s disease is an erosive infection currently suppressed by effective vaccines and administration. The issues raised by the scientists at the Pirbright Laboratory are valid but at this time are more of academic concern then a commercial challenge.

The August 7th posting is reproduced verbatim.

A number of poultry magazines have publicized the results of a study conducted at the Pirbright Institute in the UK on Marek’s disease virus. The study co-authored by Dr.Venugopal Nair, Head of the Avian Viral Diseases Program suggests that current vaccines used against Marek’s disease will lead to the development of more virulent strains of virus.  The article refers to “leaking vaccines” pathogen transmission and persistence in populations.

Expressing a contrary opinion, Dr. Phillip Minor head of the National Institute of Biological Standards and Control, Division of Virology notes that “as far as I am aware there is no evidence that this has actually happened in the field”.  He added “these risks were already carefully considered in implementing new human vaccine programs”.

The dire predictions of the authors of the paper are at variance with a recent study. An EGG-CITE posting on July 27th reported on Project #F051 funded by USPOULTRY in which Dr. John R. Dunn and Dr. Hans H. Cheng of the USDA-ARS Avian Diseases and Oncology Laboratory surveyed Marek’s disease viruses isolated from field cases submitted by members of the AAAP.  This was a follow-up from the previous survey in 2000.  It was concluded that the “virulence of field strains has plateaued in recent years”.

The simple reporting of scientific results in or out of context without relating interpretation of data to the realities of production and also concurrent research represents a disservice to readers.  This deficiency could be obviated by balance in reporting and reference to production statistics.  The low condemnation rates due Marek’s disease in processing plants and the excellent livability of replacement pullets in the U.S. suggests that despite the theoretical consideration raised by the Pirbright workers, in practice our vaccination programs against Marek’s are effective.

*Read, A.F. et al Imperfect vaccination can enhance a transmission of highly virulent pathogens. PLoS Biol 13(7): e1002198. Doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002198.

   
 

2015 H5 HPAI Viruses No Risk to Humans

Aug 7, 2015
    

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a study which appeared in the Journal of Virology confirming that the H5N8 and H5N2 HPAI viruses isolated on the West Coast and Midwest respectively were highly unlikely to affect humans.  This study involved evaluation of these viruses in animal models and lung tissue-culture.

Tests were carried out in mice to determine the severity of disease and in ferrets to assess potential spread. The tissue culture assays were conducted to ascertain whether the viruses could infect and reproduce in human lung and airway tissues.

Compared to the Asian H5 virus which has been associated with human infection, the U.S. H5 strains were relatively innocuous to mice.  It was not possible to demonstrate transmission among comingled infected ferrets with non-infected contacts.  Illness in infected ferrets was mild and was generally restricted to specific organs.

The H5N2 and H5N8 viruses replicated at an extremely low level in human airway cells compared to Asian H5N1 strains.  The level of replication for the 2015 H5 strains was comparable to seasonal H1N1 influenza.

The CDC now has a scientific basis to assert that the 2015 H5 viruses pose a low risk to the general public. This is a reassuring finding and serves as a rebuttal to opponents of intensive production who erroneously and without justification claim that episodes of catastrophic disease such as the 2015 Spring epornitic of H5N2 HPAI have dire human-health concerns and could lead to a pandemic.

It is however prudent to recognize that mutations can occur despite the fact that the 2015 novel reassortants in avian species were proven to be innocuous to humans. Eradication of the epornitic was achieved by mid-June with no evidence of transmission to the thousands of workers in contact with infected flocks.

Pulit-Penaloza, J. A. et al Pathogenesis and transmission of novel HPAI H5N2 and H5N8 avian influenza viruses in ferrets and mice J. Virol posted online July 29, 2015, DOI:10.1128/JVI.01438-15.abstract.

   
 

Interpretation of Scientific Studies at Variance with Reality

Aug 7, 2015
    

A number of poultry magazines have publicized the results of a study conducted at the Pirbright Institute in the UK on Marek’s disease virus. The study co-authored by Dr.Venugopal Nair, Head of the Avian Viral Diseases Program suggests that current vaccines used against Marek’s disease will lead to the development of more virulent strains of virus.  The article refers to “leaking vaccines” pathogen transmission and persistence in populations.

Expressing a contrary opinion, Dr. Phillip Minor head of the National Institute of Biological Standards and Control, Division of Virology notes that “as far as I am aware there is no evidence that this has actually happened in the field”.  He added “these risks were already carefully considered in implementing new human vaccine programs”.

The dire predictions of the authors of the paper are at variance with a recent study. An EGG-CITE posting on July 27th reported on Project #F051 funded by USPOULTRY in which Dr. John R. Dunn and Dr. Hans H. Cheng of the USDA-ARS Avian Diseases and Oncology Laboratory surveyed Marek’s disease viruses isolated from field cases submitted by members of the AAAP.  This was a follow-up from the previous survey in 2000.  It was concluded that the “virulence of field strains has plateaued in recent years”.

The simple reporting of scientific results in or out of context without relating interpretation of data to the realities of production and also concurrent research represents a disservice to readers.  This deficiency could be obviated by balance in reporting and reference to production statistics.  The low condemnation rates due Marek’s disease in processing plants and the excellent livability of replacement pullets in the U.S. suggests that despite the theoretical consideration raised by the Pirbright workers, in practice our vaccination programs against Marek’s are effective.

*Read, A.F. et al Imperfect vaccination can enhance a transmission of highly virulent pathogens. PLoS Biol 13(7): e1002198. Doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002198.

   
 

Marek’s Disease More Deadly than HPAI?

Aug 7, 2015
    

According to an article which appeared in Global Meat News, the PBS NewsHour reported the astonishing and totally incorrect statement that Marek’s disease is “more deadly than avian flu”.

The apparent source of this information, which was grossly misinterpreted and distorted, was the innocent and factual U.S. Department of Agriculture- ARS publicity on ongoing studies at the Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory (ADOL) in East Lansing MI. The facility scheduled for closure in 2011 was granted a new lease on life by an injection of Federal funds (See EGG-CITE posting December 4th 2011)

   
 

National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to Host “National Conversation”

Jul 31, 2015
    

On June 25, 2012 EGG-CITE questioned the siting of the proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan Kansas.  This decision was based on expediency and politics and regrettably ignored the potential release of exotic pathogens in to what is virtually America’s livestock heartland.  A second concern was that the establishment was placed under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and not the USDA-ARS. Since its inception, the DHS has distinguished itself by incompetence and a preoccupation with response to challenges rather than becoming proactive.

An initial risk assessment for the NBAF denoted a 70 percent probability of the escape of foot and mouth virus over a 50-year projected lifespan.  Following congressional scrutiny, the risk assessment was revised and manipulated to denote a release probability of 0.1 percent over 50 years.  The National Academy of Sciences characterized the risk estimates as “questionable and incorporating inappropriate assumptions”. The initial projections of cost soared after it was disclosed that the structure as proposed would not withstand a tornado, an ever-present seasonal threat in the Midwest. In the event the NBAF has developed a momentum of its own and will be a reality notwithstanding the long history of mishandling of pathogens and numerous releases in the EU and the U.S. 

On July 24, 2015 the Department of Homeland Security issued an invitation to interested parties including livestock producers, allied industries, the veterinary community and state and federal partners to engage in a “national conversation”.  Under signature of Dr. Tammy Beckham, Director for the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases and Dr. Juergen Richt, Director of the Center for Excellence in Foreign Animal and Zootic Disease Defense, the NBAF announced the launch of a website to facilitate communication www.dhs.gov/science-ed-technology/join-conversation.  The DHS envisages that stakeholders will be ready to advise them on how “NBAF can be leveraged to help advance foreign animal disease research” and how the NBAF can advance “One Health” solutions.

While consultation is a significant component of establishing priorities and to decide on allocation of resources, the invitation to participate is repeate with buzz words and homilies.  Could it be that now that they have Federal funding for the establishment that the DHS does not exactly know what to do with it?

   
 

The Gluten Lie and Unsubstantiated Food Concerns

Jul 24, 2015
    

Dr. Alan Levinovitz recently published The Gluten Lie and Other Myths About What You Eat debunking the current fad to avoid gluten. It is estimated that a third of consumer are now following either a strict or partial gluten-free diet which is in most cases totally unnecessary.  Only a small proportion, estimated at five percent of the U.S. population demonstrates an adverse clinical reaction following consumption of gluten.

The fad of avoidance is fueled by websites and personalities who are “sensationalists not scientists”.  Levinovitz claims that “citations notwithstanding, books are filled with slick, manipulative, unscientific hyperbole, design to scare consumers and make the authors money”. 

In The Gluten Lie Levinovitz maintains that even physicians are willing to sensationalize their theories generating fear among consumers.  It is claimed that promoting gluten-free diets promotes the sale of expensive foods and is an example of predatory marketing.

Levinovitz claims that veganism and lesser extremes including fat-free, salt-free, sugar-free and gluten-free diets including other fads such as cleansing and consumption of exotic fruits and miraculous berries, offer false promise. These are “built on myth and superstition and are covered over with a layer of scientific rhetoric” according to the author.

For decades, growth of the egg industry was constrained by theories which at least had some scientific basis until it was shown that that dietary cholesterol was not directly associated with an increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease.  In 2012 it was accepted that eggs contained 30 percent less cholesterol than previously determined, following refinement of the standard USDA extraction and analytical procedure. Studies conducted since 2000 have shown that consuming an egg each day does not raise serum lipids in consumers not predisposed by familial hypercholesterolemia.

There is no rational alternative to a balanced diet containing animal protein, eggs, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, minerals and vitamins. Body weight is a function of the difference between caloric intake and expenditure through exercise.  Responsible physicians advocate moderation and a “healthy” lifestyle. There is no “miracle food” or “super diet” nor is there a substitute for physical activity to avoid obesity.

   
 

Costco Wholesale Corporation and the HSUS

Jul 17, 2015

    

An opinion posted by Investopedia LLC reproduced without comment on the Urner Barry website on July 17th implies that Costco Wholesale Corporation would inevitably buckle under concerted pressure orchestrated by the HSUS and affiliates over the sale of eggs from confined hens. The discredited Hillandale Farms video, the sequential “form” letters from Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt and the rant replete with exaggerations by Bill Maher in the New York Times, point to a campaign with strong overtones of corporate blackmail and intimidation.

The author of the Investopedia article is flat wrong. Costco will not crack. They know that this HSUS initiative is the thin end of the wedge. The HSUS does not care about hen, hog or cattle welfare. Their apparent “concern” for livestock replete with anthropomorphic appeals to sentiment is merely a route to their avowed intent of imposing a vegan lifestyle on all of us, irrespective of our needs or inclinations.

Costco should be aware of the failed strategy of the Anglo-Saxons in paying Danegelt to marauding bands of Vikings to spare their coastal towns. The only problem with this approach was that the Danes kept on coming back for more. So it will be with the HSUS. If they win on the caged hen issue it will then be pork , beef, dairy, leather shoes, belts and anything else that offends their sensibilities.

If HSUS is successful in causing Costco to heel, there will be a universe of supermarkets and food manufacturers to bring down like dominos. We as consumers will eventually be deprived of items or pay more as a result of activist tyranny. After all consumers in California are now paying $250 million more per year for their eggs (the “Pacelle Tax”) as a result of Proposition #2 initiated and promoted by the HSUS

Costco replied to the allegations raised by the “welfare industry” with a firm and reasoned statement. Now is the time to tell Wayne Pacelle and his cohort of do-gooders that they have every right to follow their own lifestyles but not to impose their views on the majority of consumers and in the case of public companies, their shareholders and stakeholders. Costco provides a choice. Let their customers decide.

   
 

The Advantages of GM Technology

Jul 8, 2015
    

Recently Dr. Robert T. Fraley Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto reviewed the benefits of GM (genetic modification) in his World Food Prize Laureate presentation.

Dr. Fraley prefaced his remarks by noting that the World population in 2050 will attain 9.5 billion with concurrent decreased availability of water and a decline in arable land as a result of global warming.  Between 1965 and 2014 there was a worldwide 43 percent increase in caloric intake among consumers derived from animal products.  This was associated with an increase in purchasing power and dietary preferences expressed by emerging middle class consumers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The benefits of GM technology are clearly indicated in comparisons between yield gains in Illinois and in France where GM crops are banned. In 1997 the annual gain in yield from conventional plant breeding applied to corn in Illinois was 1.4 bushels per acre per year for the previous 27 years. After introduction of GM traits in 1997, the annual gain in yield almost doubled over  the subsequent 17 years to 2.6 bushels per acre.  In comparison, for the 17 years prior to introduction of GM traits, France benefitted from an annual increase in yield of2.4 bushels per acre, due to improved application of fertilizer and other agricultural practices.  Over the subsequent 17 years without GM technology, annual yield gain was almost static at 0.2 bushels per acre per year.

In the U.S. between 1980 and 2011, corn production increased by 101 percent and the yield expressed in bushels per acre rose by 64 percent.  These changes were associated with a 30 percent decrease in land use, 67 percent reduction in soil erosion, 53 percent less irrigation water applied and 36 percent lower greenhouse gas emission.  The improvement was attributed mainly to genetic modification but also to innovations in cultivation practices to take advantage of the genetic potential of new cultivars.

   
 

CDC Investigating Salmonella Outbreaks Associated With Small Hatcheries

Jul 3, 2015
    

An intensive nationwide investigation of salmonellosis is underway in the U.S. According to a June 29th release by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there have been 181 cases in 40 states reported, representing four distinct outbreaks with clinical signs apparent from January 6th through June 13th 2015. (see Epi Curve below)

The Salmonella serotypes identified by PulseNet include:-

  • S. Enteriditis. 40 cases from 16 states with 33 hospitalizations.
  • S. Hadar. 69 cases from 30 states with 19 hospitalizations.
  • S. Indiana. 56 cases from 16 states with 9 hospitalizations
  • S. Muenchen. 16 cases from 8 states with 2 hospitalizations
   
 

Michael Foods Sues Hawkeye Pride

Jun 30, 2015
    

Michael Foods Egg Products Company a subsidiary of Post Holdings Inc. has entered a lawsuit in a Federal court in Des Moines against Hawkeye Pride Egg Farm for breach of contract.

Hawkeye Pride is a division of Center Fresh Group which owns and operates egg farms dedicated to breaking.  Their operations in Sioux County lost approximately 5.5 million hens  apparently contracted to supply Michael Foods. 

The Plaintiff lost over 25 percent of their production as a result of HPAI affecting adjacent farms in Dixon County, Nebraska in addition to mortality in supply farms.

Now that the HPAI epornitic appears to have abated, the lawsuits and countersuits will begin.  These will possibly include claims by customers of Michael Foods which declared force majeure after losses occurred on company-owned farms. Generally this legal expedient allows parties to a contract to deviate from terms based on circumstances including a major climactic disaster, extensive labor action or an insurrection.  It is questionable whether an infectious disease represents grounds to break a contract. The courts may hold that an adequate standard of conceptual, structural and operational biosecurity could prevent infection.  This is supported by the fact that not all egg production farms in Iowa or Nebraska were affected by HPAI.

It may also be held that the Defendant in the present action was in fact infected from farms operated by the Plaintiff in the course of supplying either breaking eggs or liquid thus representing grounds for a counterclaim.

Applying logic it is difficult to see how Michael Foods can declare force majeure to renege on supply agreements to customers as a result of HPAI but concurrently sue contractors who are affected with the same infection.

   
 

IEC to Establish Avian Influenza Network

Jun 20, 2015
    

The International Egg Commission (IEC) has announced the establishment of the Avian Influenza (AI) Commercial Network. The objectives of this initiative are:-

  • To provide information on outbreaks and the ongoing status of AI
  • To be responsible for aspects of egg-trade relating to AI
  • To drive standards across the global egg market

One of the lofty but obviously unattainable goals for the IEC Network is world-wide eradication of AI.

EGG-CITE seriously questions the need for this program given the OIE which functions as a central coordinating body on reporting and technical issues. Are we not observing the IEC justifying their existence by duplicating the work of existing organizations and sources of information? State and National authorities and other existing organizations in the U.S. and the EU have functioned effectively in the face of outbreaks by informing all stakeholders  of events. Scientific information is readily available in responsible peer-reviewed publications posted on reputable websites.

   
 

UK Faced with Virus Affecting Canola

Jun 17, 2015
    

Canola is an important vegetable protein ingredient in the UK and the Continent. Recently it was found that canola is affected by the turnip yellow virus with 60 percent in the winter crop impacted. The virus is spread by aphids and can reduce yield by 40 percent.

The infection can be controlled by destroying vectors using thiacloprid sprays since pyrethroids and pirimicarb compounds are ineffective due to resistance by aphids.

The infection has severe implications for the livestock industry which will be forced to pay more for available canola meal and for imported soybean meal.

Breeding a resistant canola strain will take a number of years.  The process could be expedited by transfer of genes from resistant plants to canola cultivars.  Genetic engineering to impart resistance to a pathogen contributes to greater sustainability and obviates the use of herbicides and insecticides, contrary to the unscientific contentions of those that oppose GE on principle.

   
 

Efficacy of rHVT-H5 AI Vaccine Documented

Jun 17, 2015
    

In my June 5th, Editorial the USDA-APHIS decision relating to policy on vaccination was reviewed.  As a justification for the decision to defer vaccination, the APHIS release cited questionable efficacy of an available product citing 60 percent protection.

A review of available literature questions this low figure.  In 23 trials cited in a paper presented at the 9th International Symposium on Avian Influenza, Gardin et al reported an average of 90 percent protection with a range of 60 percent to 100 percent depending on challenge strain, age and maternal antibody status of chicks used in the different experiments and trials.  In the specific 60 percent report, Kilany et al reported 60 percent and 73 percent survival respectively in treatments comprising two egg-producing strains subjected to the same vaccination and challenge.

In Kapczynski et al, all chicks receiving an rHVT-H5 AI vaccine survived challenge with total mortality in the non-vaccinated group.  In a second trial reported in the same paper, 93 percent survival was recorded using the vaccine in broiler chicks challenged with an Indonesian-origin highly pathogenic strain at four weeks of age.

In a third experiment, applying H5N2 challenge, 95 percent (19 out of 20) chicken survived challenge and a second vaccine comprising a rHVT vaccine prepared at the University of Wisconsin achieved 100 percent protection compared to mortality in all non-vaccinated controls.