Shane Commentary

 

RF Pasteurization of Shell Eggs.

Apr 2, 2014
    

A release from the USDA in Agricultural Research March 2014 Edition, highlights research leading to a prototype shell-egg pasteurizer applying RF (radio frequency) heating. Studies and development were conducted at the ARS Eastern Region Research Center in Wyndmoor PA. in association with the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in Plainsboro, NJ.

   
 

Is Whole Foods Market Morphing into a Regulatory Agency?

Apr 2, 2014
    

There is invariably added cost and effort when a commercial entity sets itself up as an arbiter of health, welfare and safety by introducing regulations, procedures and standards which exceed those established by regulatory bodies. This was the situation in the UK during the 1980s where due to an ineffective Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, the major supermarket chains were obliged to develop their own onerous, conflicting and competing requirements with respect to food products including poultry.

   
 

HSUS Files Motion of Dismissal Over Midwest States’ Opposition to California Regulations

Apr 1, 2014
    

Predictably the HSUS has intervened in the lawsuit entered into the Federal Court System in California. EGG-CITE has reported extensively on the issues and contentions by the Attorneys General of six Midwest states to render ultra vires the CADF Regulations framed in terms of AB 1437.

   
 

What’s Going to Happen in California?

Mar 21, 2014
    

California was the main topic of conversation in the aisles and hallways at the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention in Saint Paul last week.

Currently the state requires, in round figures, 800 million dozen eggs in shell and equivalent form annually to supply a population of 38 million documented residents and citizens. This relates to a per capita consumption of 246 eggs compared to the 2014 USDA value of 254 for the U.S.

Given that the Hispanic community consumes a disproportionately higher number of eggs than other demographics in the State, an estimate of total use as incorporated in a recent release by the UEP is considered to be slightly low. Irrespective of the accurate consumption value it is assumed that requirement will amount to a rounded 800 million dozen in 2014, based on 250 eggs per capita.

   
 

Depopulation of Large Complexes

Mar 21, 2014
    

A recent article* in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association dealt with the feasibility of depopulating large feed lots following the emergence of a catastrophic infection such as foot and mouth disease.

The intensive egg production industry has a similar dilemma in that there is still no approved rapid method of depopulating a large complex of confined hens.  During the 2002-2003 Newcastle disease outbreak in California, two complexes each with about 1.3 million hens were removed over a period of days requiring considerable manual labor.  Hens in houses holding up to 100,000 hens in cages can be routinely removed from cages and killed over two days depending on the size of the crew using carbon dioxide asphyxiation (“kill carts”).

Depleting ten houses under emergency conditions would require a proportionately larger workforce and an extended period during which dissemination of a pathogen could take place. Wearing adequate personal protective gear, especially if a potentially zoonotic disease such as AI were involved, would reduce the efficiency of the teams involved in depletion.

   
 

Poverty and Childhood Obesity

Mar 21, 2014
    

A new study from the Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, has demonstrated the relationship between poverty in communities and the prevalence of childhood obesity. The study evaluated the impact on earnings derived from casinos in Native American tribal areas.  Children in these communities have an approximately 50 percent prevalence of obesity, far higher than in the general population. 

The study examined 117 public school districts with a predominance of Native American children. Of these districts 57 either opened or expanded casinos, in 24 districts existing casinos were in operation and 36 without casinos served as a control.

   
 

Is Whole Foods Feeling the Pinch From Competition?

Mar 18, 2014
    

In a prepared statement, Walter Robb, Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market commented on competition.  EGG-CITE has recently documented the expansion into organic and premium products by the mainstream supermarket chains including Safeway, Kroger and Walmart. 

To some extent these companies are commoditizing both Organic and variations on the “pure, healthy and wholesome” theme.

Robb refutes the notion that “conventional retailers who are adding more space for natural products are taking share away from Whole Foods”.  He added “I think they are taking share from each other”.  This does not sound very convincing especially after publication of a recent financial report from Whole Foods. This suggested that there may be an erosion of their customer base which functions on the perception of superior attributes of products offered relative to price.

   
 

Kentucky Considers In-Store Re-Work of Eggs

Mar 13, 2014
    

According to USDA-AMS regulations, stores may re-work cartons by removing cracks and replacement with saleable product, providing that the eggs are from the same batch. This implies identifying the processing plant, pack date and farm of origin, Kentucky is currently considering HB181 which will allow in-store re-work.

Given the low level of breakage under acceptable handling practices, store re-work is probably uneconomical given prevailing labor rates and the need to train and supervise personnel in the dairy department.  In the case of leakers, the entire pack is in any event unsalable and eggs are usually salvaged by hard cooking and sale in the deli.

   
 

Interim Findings from the CSES Housing Evaluation

Mar 11, 2014
    

The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply has released preliminary data on the first cycle comparing conventional cages, an aviary and enriched colony modules.  The trial comprised 193,000 hens in conventional cages approximately 50,000 white feathered hens in an aviary and 47,000 hens in enriched modules.

At the outset it is recognized that the commercial development of aviaries and enriched modules has moved faster than this comparative study, rendering the entire exercise moot.

   
 

Disposition of the Cantaloupe Contamination Case

Feb 20, 2014
    

EGG-CITE posted an October 1st report on the action brought by the Federal Department of Justice against brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen. They operated a family farm in Colorado which was responsible for distributing cantaloupes which were contaminated with Listeria. (See Posting of October 13th 2011 and October 1st 2013).
The FDA maintained that substandard facilities, equipment and operations contributed to the outbreak which extended over 28 states in 2011 and claimed 33 lives. During late January 2014, a Federal judge in Denver sentenced the brothers to six months of home detention and five year’s probation in return for a guilty plea. 

   
 

Russia Bans Importation of U.S. Yogurt for Athletes

Feb 20, 2014
    

In a typical example of “Nyetism” Russian authorities have banned delivery of a consignment of Greek-style yogurt to American athletes competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics.  Apparently 5,000 containers of the popular yogurt are in cold storage in the U.S. since Russia has refused entry permits based on considerations of certification and documentation.

It was hoped that the shipment would receive special diplomatic exemption from the onerous and frequently illogical decisions of the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitry surveillance.

Politicians have now entered the fray with Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand of New York State and the Governor Andrew Cuomo becoming an involved.

   
 

Principles of the Egg Bill Could Endure

Feb 18, 2014
    

Despite the failure to include the proposed “Egg Bill” in the hastily enacted 2014 Farm Bill, the intent of the House and Senate bills has influenced the Industry to go forward with eventual adoption of enriched colony housing for confined hens.

   
 

Farm Bill Consensus

Feb 4, 2014
    

The respective leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have achieved a bipartisan resolution of outstanding issues relating to the Farm Bill (Agriculture Act of 2014), which has been delayed by two years.  The SNAP Program represented the most contentious item. In September the House version cut the program by $4 billion which contrasted with the Senate version incorporating a $400 million reduction. 

   
 

Muskegon County SE Outbreak

Jan 31, 2014
    

EGG-CITE is indebted to Dr. Eric Gingerich for circulating the report prepared by the Muskegon County public health authorities concerning an outbreak of SE entitled “Salmonella enterica Enteritidis Outbreak.”

According to the document, 62 confirmed cases of SE were contracted by patrons of two restaurants under common management, during the period October 31st through November 2nd 2013.

The investigation involved 121 interviews with diners and staff, site visits to the implicated establishments and laboratory assays including cultures and PFGE typing.

   
 

Farmers Contemplating Corn versus Soy Plantings

Jan 30, 2014
    

According to the January 10th USDA World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) (#525), farmers in the U.S. harvested corn from 87.8 million acres and soybeans from 75.9 million acres in 2013.Given high prices for corn reaching an eye-watering $8.00 per bushel during mid-summer 2012, planting corn from fence-post to fence-post in 2013 was simply a no-brainer. 

With December 2014 corn now down to $4.47 per bushel and November 2014 soybeans at $11.13 per bushel, the traditional 2.5 value favoring soybeans over corn has been attained.

   
 

HFAC Standards for Pastured and Free Range Flocks

Jan 23, 2014
    

The 2014 Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) Standards includes Section 4 dealing with outside access for hens according to the summary attached. The HFAC Standards define “Pasture Raised” and “Free Range” with detailed requirements for certification which have close correspondence with the equivalent UK RSPCA Guidance Document, despite the claim that their review Committee spent two years reviewing available literature.

The HFAC also requires adherence to their standards for certification to be eligible to use their logo. It is therefore presumed that if a producer certified by HFAC claims either “Free Range” or “Pasture Raised” they would have to comply with the space and management requirements with respect to the defined  housing systems.

   
 

The Value of Corn

Jan 23, 2014
    

With a retreat from eye-watering corn prices above $8.00 per bushel, U.S. farmers are once more considering ways to add value to their products.  The cushion afforded by diversion of over 35% of the corn crop to ethanol is in jeopardy based on adjustment of the Renewable Fuel Standard and pending legislation.

An Agricultural Economist at Purdue University has calculated that farmers can obtain the equivalent of $6.85 per bushel in value if corn is fed to hogs rather than sold to an elevator at prevailing prices in the mid-$4 range per bushel.

   
 

Superior Taste of Small Eggs – Reality or Hype?

Jan 23, 2014
    

A recent article authored by L. V. Anderson was posted on Slate.  The item related to the introduction of of USDA Small eggs by the FreshDirect delivery service.

A claim was made that these eggs “taste better” than other sizes.  The justification was purely anecdotal and was the subjective impression by the author.  Most of the article relating to the realities of producing small eggs was borderline factual and in all probability provided by the farmer supplying the New York-based delivery service.

   
 

Target Responds to “Hacking” Crisis

Jan 17, 2014
    

Previously EGG-CITE has commented on the response to a public relations crisis, (See January 23rd Posting) outlining the appropriate steps to respond to a situation, to mitigate losses and restore consumer confidence. We are all too aware of the hacking incident which resulted in considerable loss of goodwill for Target Corporation and resulted in inconvenience and potential losses for customers.

The principal problem with the Target response was timing. The Company delayed announcing that an intrusion had taken place until weeks had passed. The magnitude of the problem dribbled out over successive days creating the impression (probably justified) that responsible managers were themselves in the dark.  It is universally accepted that a company should disclose the complete extent of a crisis as soon as the facts are available.

This presumes familiarity with the subject matter and contingency planning.  Obviously it is inappropriate to either guess at the extent of a problem or to shoot from the hip. It is also inadvisable to minimize the impact at an early stage and then have to back-track or upgrade figures ad serium as occurred in this event.

   
 

Ethanol Industry on the Defensive

Jan 17, 2014
    

Following the introduction of a Senate bill to eliminate the corn-based Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), even the Renewable Fuels Association has recognized the intensity of opposition to the principle of diverting food to fuel.

The most recent action follows what would be regarded as a pivotal change by the Environmental Protection Agency which reduced the RFS for 2014 by 16% to 15.2 billion gallons.  This compares to the previous projection of 18.2 billion gallons for 2014 based on an over-estimate of gasoline consumption which peaked in 2008.

See Future Estimates by Dan Bessie at http://egg-cite.com/presentations/basse