Shane Commentary

 

Micromanagement of Standards

Mar 24, 2017

    

In discussions with equipment suppliers at the 2017 Midwest Poultry Federation Convention Exhibition it became apparent that there is considerable confusion over specific standards imposed by various welfare certifying agencies. 

It is appropriate to specify broad parameters such as stocking density, feeding space per bird and other quantitative requirements. Problems arise in over-specifying details of design which represents micro-management.

This possibly arises from the perceived need for certifying agencies to “out welfare” their competition. Approval of installations and setting standards has less to do with welfare than with generating revenue.

  

In one case, after payment of salaries and expenses, the excess is channeled back into activities which are contrary to the interests of the intensive livestock industries which these agencies purport to assist.

This is analogous to the situation in China where condemned prisoners have to pay for the bullet used to execute them.  In the case of one organization profits are used in a more benign manner to support other welfare activities including companion animals and service dogs. 

Irrespective of the motivation, micromanaging specifications is disruptive and adds to the cost of equipment.  A case in point is the diameter and configuration of perches.  Most certifiers require a round or rounded perch placed in a specific location. 

A prominent international manufacturer of aviaries has designed an exceedingly efficient perch which is not only comfortable for hens but also aligns the flock to face in a single direction to prevent fecal contamination of eggs and the area in front of modules.  This perch may or may not be acceptable to auditors based on the standards imposed by certifying agencies or in many cases the specific discretion (dare we say prejudice?) of auditors.

On evaluation, there appears to be little justification for specific requirements since these are not based on established scientific principles with experimentation at the level of a peer-reviewed publication.  In many cases the inclinations and personal opinion of individuals are adopted through a process of consensus by an Advisory Board. In some cases, decisions on specifications are based on EU standards which may or may not be applicable to U.S. housing and management conditions, climate and predators.

It is hoped that a more realistic attitude towards standards and specifications could be developed.  Over the next nine years more than 200 million hens will have to be re-housed from conventional cages at a cost exceeding $40 per bird.  This magnitude of investment presumes a level of knowledge and responsibility on the part of certifiers which transcends creating regulations in an academic vacuum. 

The U.S. egg production industry should establish common ground with equipment manufacturers and to speak authoritatively and forcefully on welfare, equipment and housing standards. Both ends of the transaction are being subjected to unjustified and unnecessary expense as a result of imperfectly defined standards and specifications. Ultimately shareholders and consumers will bear the cost of inappropriate decisions based on sentiment and pseudo-science.

As with all editorials and commentaries posted on EGG-CITE and CHICK-CITE, responsible rebuttals will be considered and posted if informative to subscribers.

   
 

Egg Shells Could Improve Performance of Car Tires

Mar 17, 2017

    

The Wall Street Journal on March 11 carried an article by Daniel Akst noting that agricultural waste could be added to carbon black to reduce cost and improve the performance of car tires.

A research team at Ohio State University evaluated eggshells and tomato skins to replace a proportion of the waste, generally disposed of in landfills.

  

The principal researcher Dr. Katrina Cornish estimates that substituting food waste for carbon black would reduce production costs and provide a competitive advantage for tire manufacturers as the quantity of carbon black, usually 30 percent by mass of a tire could be displaced.

The only point of difference between current poultry industry practice and the article relates to the projection of available eggshell material.  Dr. Cornish used a value close to 600,000 metric tons of eggshells annually.  Since this figure appeared high, a calculation of the potential supply of raw material yielded a value of 181,000 metric tons. 

The difference probably lies in the fact that only eggshells from approximately 100 million hens supplying the breaking segment of the industry and eggshells from broiler breeders would be accessible.  Eggshells from domestic and restaurant kitchens will probably not be worth the expense of collection and transport. 

If it is assumed that each egg yields 5 grams of shell, 100 million hens at 78 percent production would produce 350 metric tons of shell material daily or 128,800 metric tons each year.  Assuming 200 million shells could be recovered each week from broiler hatcheries, the total from this segment of the industry would amount to 52,000 metric tons each year.

Irrespective of the quantities involved, any additional value derived from what is effectively a waste product will be beneficial to the egg and broiler industries respectively, providing the cost of collection, pre-delivery handling and transport is commensurate with the value derived.

   
 

Claims on Commercial Gender Determination Lack Substance

Mar 10, 2017

    

A recent press release claiming the ability to differentiate between the genders of embryos revisits prospective technology. Over the past year there have been a number of claims of imminent introduction of gender determination to avoid destruction of egg-strain cockerels after hatch. 

The Federal Government of Germany which includes members of the Green Party who are strenuously opposed to intensive livestock production, has funded research applying ramen spectroscopy to determine gender.  The experimental technique, as published, involves removal of a portion of the shell to facilitate assay, which may be satisfactory for research and development but certainly would be impractical under commercial conditions.

  

A concern of note is the frequency of claims made by universities, research institutes and entrepreneurs claiming that their specific systems will offer gender determination at ages ranging from 0 to 5 days of incubation. In one case a claimant maintains that the gender of male embryos can be switched to female by the application of light of a specific wavelength.  

The latest joint publicity released from researchers at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany and Vilnius University in Lithuania claim 97 percent accuracy in differentiation on a sample of 380 eggs examined between the third and fourth day of incubation.  The principle of the technique involves detection of unspecified markers in blood within the developing vasculature of eggs bearing male embryos, producing fluorescence at a frequency of 910 nanometers.

Dr. Roberta Galli (appropriately named) of the Technical University of Dresden noted “in ovo sexing based on spectral analysis is non-invasive, does not require extraction of egg material and does not use consumables.” This obviously a reference to the “gender-sorter” technology developed by Embrex in the 1990s which although technically effective did not achieve commercial acceptance by the broiler industry

A number of other techniques, one of which has been promoted by a company with questionable ethics as a potential solution has been shown to be totally ineffective by an independent research institute. A second candidate when evaluated has no plausible biological basis for gender determination.  

The problem arising from the premature announcement of “imminent success” and similar breakthroughs is that premature publicity raises false hopes and delays the need to implement humane treatment of cockerels requiring anesthesia before disposal.

An important underlying consideration relating to gender determination is that the activists opposed to destruction of cockerels are deceptively using the “humane justification” to stimulate development of a system. In reality these activists wish to completely displace commercial production of all livestock including laying hens.  Their ideal is to replace a highly efficient industry producing a nutritious product at a reasonable cost with some form of 19th century idyllic dual-purpose bird to produce eggs and meat albeit with poor efficiently and sustainability on small family farms.

It is anticipated that even if an economically viable and technically acceptable method of gender determination is developed, activists will simply claim that destruction of eggs with male embryos at any stage of incubation represents gender discrimination and is morally unacceptable. This will stimulate a further round of protests following the pattern applied against confined housing, beak trimming, outside access, environmental enrichments, lighting and other pressure points. There will be no placating or satisfying vegan opponents of intensive livestock production. 

The major challenge facing developers of spectroscopic systems will be translating laboratory-scale detection into a commercial system which can achieve at least 99 percent specificity at a reasonable cost and which will operate reliably in a commercial hatchery at rates of up to 50,000 eggs per hour.

Since there is no immediate prospect of a practical and financially feasible solution the EU and U.S. egg-production industries and specifically prospective investors, should be skeptical of premature press releases which have no biological basis or which offer limited potential for commercialization.

   
 

INCIDENCE OF FOOD-BORNE ILLNESSES ASSOCIATED WITH IMPORTED FOODS IS INCREASING

Mar 3, 2017

    

According to a recent publication from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of food consumed in the U.S is imported including 97 percent of fish and shellfish, 50 percent of fresh fruit and 20 percent of fresh vegetables. 

The report in the peer-reviewed Emerging Infectious Diseases documented 195 outbreak investigations associated with imported foods involving 10,700 illnesses, 1,117 hospitalizations and 19 fatalities during the period 1996 through 2014.  Seafood was responsible for 55 percent of outbreaks and fresh produce with 33 percent.

  

The authors concluded that “efforts to improve the safety of the food supply can include strengthening and reporting by gathering better data on the origin of implicated food diets including whether imported and from what country”. 

The CDC performs a vital service in identifying outbreaks of food-borne illness and coordinating the activities of state and regional diagnostic laboratories since many of the outbreaks occur in more than one state.  The real issue is that food is produced under suboptimal conditions in some plants in foreign countries and is not subject to the same level of safety including HACCP surveillance.

The FDA is charged with maintaining the integrity of the food supply. The Agency admits to only inspecting one percent of imported food.  This is an unconscionable situation and can only be corrected by establishing an independent and dedicated Food Safety Agency allowing the resources of the USDA the current FDA and other Federal agencies to be devoted to monitoring the wholesomeness of domestic and imported foods.

   
 

FDA Negligent in Inspecting Foreign Drug Plants

Feb 24, 2017

    

It would appear that the FDA is ignoring “Drugs” in their Agency title.

A report in the January 30th edition of Chemical & Engineering News cites a Government Accountability Office report which documents that the Agency has failed to inspect 1,300 drug-manufacturing facilities in foreign nations exporting to the U.S.  A total of 243 of  535 pharmaceutical facilities in China have yet to be inspected. 

 

Approximately one-third of 600 pharmaceutical plants in India have not been evaluated by FDA personnel.  The report noted that 90 percent of 171 facilities in South Korea have not been reviewed in on-site visits.

Apparently, the FDA uses a risk-based system to prioritize visits but the agency is chronically under-staffed.

Peter Saxon, president of a consulting group with extensive ties to foreign manufacturers indicated that most of the uninspected plants produce over-the-counter (OTC) products.

If the FDA can expend time and energy in inspecting egg-producing farms following the implementation of the Salmonella Prevention Final Rule and finding virtually no SE even in 2011. The Agency should have the resources to audit manufacturing facilities manufacturing both generic and OTC drugs.

EGG-CITE has frequently noted the deficiencies in establishing priorities and execution of responsibilities for protection of consumers. The FDA as presently staffed and structured cannot do justice to both food and drugs. The U.S. would be better served by separate Food Safety and Drug Agencies with concentration on their specific areas of concern.

   
 

The Egg Industry in China

Feb 24, 2017

    

In a presentation at the 2017 IPPE Dr. Mark Lyons, VP of Alltech shared his observations and experiences based on his residence in China over the past three years.

In preferencing his comments on China Dr. Lyons noted the changes in the structure of society during the past fifteen years. 

One of the most significant has been the shift in population from rural areas to cities involving relocation of 300 million citizens.

There are now180 cities in China with a population exceeding that of Chicago. 

  

Mark Lyons

Industrialization has elevated over 400 million from poverty.  Changes have resulted in profound economic consequences.  Since 2008, labor cost has increased by 62 percent, raw materials have soared by 70 percent and the real estate boom has increased the price of property by 60 percent.  Advancing earning power has changed the economy of China from an export to a consumer market.

The four trends promoted by the Government include self-sufficiency, improvements in quality, increasing scale of production and protection of the environment.  Concurrent with a campaign against corruption, the Government is enforcing food safety, modernization of agriculture and relocation of the population.

Changes in food production have resulted in intensification.  In the two decades preceding the turn of the century, there were approximately 20,000 feed mills in operation.  During the last ten years there has been a marked move to integration with 6,000 feed mills many of which are financially connected to pork or poultry producers.  It is estimated that by 2020 the trend will extend through the food chain with integration and clearly defined market segments.

It is estimated that there are 1.2 million egg-producing hens in China in addition to ducks for egg production.  Approximately 40 percent of flocks are under 2,000 hens in size with 33 percent ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 hens and only 25 percent of the national flock comprises farms with more than 10,000 hens. 

Integration has seen the emergence of a few in-line operations with as any as three million hens.  To place egg production in China in perspective, output expressed in metric tons (19,000 eggs) is approximately five times the size of the U.S.  Average production per hen is estimated at 185 eggs per year.

Challenges facing the Chinese egg industry include high feed cost and relatively stagnant consumption.  Intensification of environmental laws and high labor rates dictate adoption of western technology in housing, equipment, management of flocks and housing of flocks.

As in the U.S., specialty eggs are emerging in response to demand from affluent urban consumers.  Approximately five percent of eggs are branded yielding a 2 to 5-fold premium over generic product.  Nutritional enrichments include DHA, selenium and vitamins.

The challenges facing egg producers will be to raise capital to erect modern in-line facilities, to comply with pollution control and environmental laws, conserve water and to suppress diseases such as evident avian influenza.  Given relatively stable egg production consumption from commercial farms, China is actively seeking export markets.  In all probability egg products will represent the bulk of shipments although there will be extensive competition from India, the U.S. and Eastern Europe.

Agricultural banks and investment groups will play an important role in modernizing the egg industry in China by providing finance and promoting trade involving importation of ingredients and export of product.

Dr. Lyons noted that the business environment in China is unique and challenging given the rapid evolution of the poultry industry, it is necessary to embrace flexibility, commit to the nation and to adapt.

   
 

U.S. Children Derive Calories from Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Feb 17, 2017

    

Data derived from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published in NCHS Data Brief #271, released in January 2017 disclosed that almost two-thirds of boys and girls in the U.S. consumed at least one sugar-sweetened beverage each day.

They obtained on average 7.3 percent of total daily caloric intake from these drinks.  Non-Hispanic Asian boys and girls consumed the least calories and the lowest percentage of total calories from sugar-sweetened beverages compared to non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic boys and girls.

Numerous studies have demonstrated a link between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and dental decay, obesity, Type-2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and fatty liver disease.

In a related nutrition and health topic, The Union of Concerned Scientists petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to establish “disqualifying levels” of added sugars that would prohibit the use of “healthy” in labeling.  Generally, “healthy” foods should contain 3 grams or less of total fat per serving and 1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving.

  

FDA has received citizen petitions requesting that the definition of “healthy” should be reevaluated in the light of current knowledge. The term “healthy” as applied in labeling of food  has not been changed since 1994 when funded research and lobbying by the sugar industry distorted public policy on consumption of fats. This directly impacted the egg-production industry.

The FDA has now been requested to set disqualifying level” for added sugars.  The topic will be reviewed by the FDA at a March 9, 2017 public meeting on the term “healthy” in food labeling.

   
 

FDA Negligent in Inspecting Foreign Drug Plants

Feb 17, 2017

    

It would appear that the FDA is ignoring “Drugs” in their Agency title.

A report in the January 30th edition of Chemical & Engineering News cites a Government Accountability Office report which documents that the Agency has failed to inspect 1,300 drug-manufacturing facilities in foreign nations exporting to the U.S.  A total of 243 of  535 pharmaceutical facilities in China have yet to be inspected. 

  

Approximately one-third of 600 pharmaceutical plants in India have not been evaluated by FDA personnel.  The report noted that 90 percent of 171 facilities in South Korea have not been reviewed in on-site visits.

Apparently, the FDA uses a risk-based system to prioritize visits but the agency is chronically under-staffed.

Peter Saxon, president of a consulting group with extensive ties to foreign manufacturers indicated that most of the uninspected plants produce over-the-counter (OTC) products.

If the FDA can expend time and energy in inspecting egg-producing farms following the implementation of the Salmonella Prevention Final Rule and finding virtually no SE even in 2011. The Agency should have the resources to audit manufacturing facilities manufacturing both generic and OTC drugs.

EGG-CITE has frequently noted the deficiencies in establishing priorities and execution of responsibilities for protection of consumers. The FDA as presently staffed and structured cannot do justice to both food and drugs. The U.S. would be better served by separate Food Safety and Drug Agencies with concentration on their specific areas of concern.

   
 

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY EGG FARM CITED FOR CRUELTY

Feb 10, 2017

    

The District Attorney’s Office of San Bernardino County has charged Robert Hohberg with 39 misdemeanor counts of violating the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.  In addition, he will face 16 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. The charges follow an investigation initiated by the Inland Valley Humane Society in January 2016.

  

It is alleged that the 28,000 hens on the farm were housed in conventional cages, in defiance of regulations promulgated in terms of  2008 California Proposition No. 2.

Hohberg has a history of violations.  In 2012 the FDA issued a warning letter after noting deviations from the Salmonella Prevention Final Rule.

According to the news report in the LA Times, the small farm is obviously an outlier and is not representative of commercial egg production either in California or the U.S.  This is unfortunate since the negligence and intransigence of Hohberg reflects adversely on responsible egg producers and degrades the image of the industry.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney, Mike Ramos stated, “It is a very inhumane situation, if you’re going to harm animals here in the Inland Empire we’re going to hold you responsible”.  He added, “While we are obviously concerned about the health of our citizens, at the end of the day we also have a lawful obligation to ensure that animals in our County are being treated humanely”.

It is the intent of the San Bernardino County to make an example of Hohberg to prevent other farmers in the Inland Valley from mistreating flocks and herds.

   
 

CHAINS EXTENDING BEYOND TRADITIONAL EARNING DEMOGRAPHICS

Feb 3, 2017

    

Recent trends in positioning banners and formats by major U.S. chains demonstrate the flexibility of companies to attract specific demographics beyond their traditional scope. 

Dollar General has establish a test store in Nashville TN to attract millennials.  The store will be smaller than the typical Dollar General location and will have an appropriate décor and incorporate a coffee bar and pizza station.  To distinguish the format, Dollar General has assigned the banner DGX.

In introducing the concept Todd Vasos CEO of Dollar General stated, “The DGX format is geared to meet the needs of the millennial shopper who is an emerging and important part of our customer base. DGX will help us broaden our appeal to attract a new segment of urban customers who put a high premium on value and convenience”.

  

Wal-Mart Stores is perhaps the most innovative in attempting to tailor formats to specific areas and clientele.  A new store to be opened in Orlando will incorporate an organic restaurant and specialty items.  Wal-Mart Stores is also promoting Click-n-Collect with convenient drive-thru additions to new and existing stores.

Whole Foods Market has introduced “365” smaller-concept stores in high density city areas in addition to suitably stocked units in urban “food deserts” traditionally underserved by supermarkets. Irrespective of profitability the company has recognized its civic responsibility to provide local residents with fresh fruits and healthful foods.

   
 

CONGRESS PRESSES NIH OVER INTERNATIONAL AGENCY FOR RESEARCH ON CANCER

Feb 3, 2017

    

CHICK-CITE has invariably condemned releases by the International Agency for Research and Cancer (IARC) a semiautonomous agency of the World Health Organization relating to the classification of allegedly cancer-causing compounds. 

The Agency has been criticized by environmental scientists and toxicologists for concluding and deprecating chemicals as “probably carcinogenic”. 

The organization classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen and subsequently withdrew the finding following extensive protests and presentation of scientific data from reputable institutions.

  

Jason Chaffetz

In September of 2016, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) addressed a letter to the Director of the National Institute of Health Dr. Francis Coloins questioning the financial support of IARC from the NIH annual budget. It has now come to light that IARC instructed members of Working-Group not to release documents as requested by the House Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Chaffetz has requested an opinion from the National Archives and Records Administration on the legal status of information sent between a foreign body and a U.S. Government Agency.  The House Committee is now requesting all relevant communications between IARC employees and U.S. agencies.

Critics of the IARC note that the organization has generated unnecessary health concerns over classifications and is too liberal with the designation “probable carcinogen”.  It is a matter of fact that the agency does not have a classification recognizing a compound as non-carcinogenic.  The decision by IARC to classify glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” delayed re-registration of the compound which is the key ingredient of many herbicides including Round-Up™ manufactured by the Monsanto Company and which is approved in the U.S., the EU, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand.

   
 

Bans on Outside Access by Flocks in the EU

Jan 27, 2017

    

A consistent recommendation, or in some cases an absolute directive, by veterinary regulatory authorities in the EU relates to restricting or preventing outside access by flocks.  This is based on the fact that the current outbreaks of H5N8 avian influenza are attributed to introduction and dissemination of the virus by migratory and free-living birds through either direct or indirect contact with flocks.  Authorities in France, the UK, Holland and Germany have banned outside access on a regional or national basis following outbreaks.

  

In the 2015 U.S. epornitic, avian influenza in egg-producing flocks was concentrated in a few very large complexes in Iowa, Minnesota and in individual farms in Wisconsin and South Dakota.  There were few backyard or semi-commercial flocks identified in outbreaks.  The current problem in the EU appears to be associated with free-range flocks which are obviously susceptible to infection.

There have been no late 2016 reports of migratory birds carrying avian influenza along the four U.S. flyways. Notwithstanding this observation, confining flocks should be a major preventive measure from late February onwards.  The risk of infection is denoted by isolation of HPAI virus in wild birds applying structured surveillance. Emergence of HPAI can occur at any time during seasonal migration as evidenced by the recent outbreak in Chile.

Why should we expose our entire poultry industry to the risk of HPAI by maintaining 14 million hens under an organic rule which mandates outside access?

   
 

Whole Foods Promotes At the Fork Documentary

Jan 27, 2017

    

In an exercise in self-promotion and consistent with the corporate desire to appeal to an exclusive and affluent demographic, Whole Foods Market has assumed responsibility for retail marketing of At the Fork

This documentary, aired to limited audiences during the summer of 2016, is also available via iTunes and Amazon.com.   The “documentary” is decidedly opposed to intensive livestock and food production.  The production was by John Papola a claimed “omnivore” and his spouse, Lisa Versaci, a vegetarian.

Experts featured in the documentary include Leah Garces, Director of U.S. Operations for Compassion in World Farming and a Board Member of Global Animal Partnership, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Mark Bittman, a cookbook author and John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods Market.

  

The documentary is effectively an infomercial for Whole Foods Market which adopts a decidedly holier-than-thou attitude with regard to welfare through its adoption of the Global Animal Partnership-5 Step animal welfare program.  Mackey with characteristic arrogance, stated “Whole Foods is supporting the film because it believes it has the power to help drive change across the country.”  He added “in addition to sparking a deep conversation about animal welfare in agriculture, the film showcases how consumers can vote with their dollars to directly influence the way farmers raise their animals.”

Given the suboptimal financial performance of Whole Foods Market including their anaemic growth in same store sales (-2.6% for Q4, 2016), Mackey would benefit his shareholders by adopting a more mainstream program of sourcing, eschewing the “we-can-out-welfare-the-opposition” approach. This would allow the Company to reduce shelf prices since the competition both from above and below are siphoning off WFM customers. For Fiscal 2016 WFM earned $507 million on sales of $15.72 billion, representing a respectable 3.2 percent profit margin. Twelve-month share price has ranged from $27.67 to $35.58.

   
 

Extent of Illegality in the Food Industry of China Revealed

Jan 19, 2017

    

Bi Jingquan, Director of the equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration in China recently reported that more than 500,000 cases of illegal activity were disclosed following 15 million inspections of food facilities.

The activity to uncover deception, the use of illegal ingredients and counterfeit foods, follows a national program to uproot corruption and to conform to established legal standards.

  

EGG-CITE has frequently commented on the de facto standard of food-safety in China which reflects avarice and a callous disregard for public safety. A nation which is indifferent to the quality of products sold domestically will obviously have little concern for exports. 

The FDA is nominally responsible to ensure the wholesomeness of imported products but admits that it inspects less than two percent of imports. It is a matter of record that inspectors only  rarely apply sophisticated analytical screening to detect the presence of illegal residues, toxic adulterants and mislabeled products.

The Agency finds it far easier to address non-problems such as SE in large commercial farms which have been free of the infection for upwards of 10 years than to expend resources on addressing more significant and challenging situations represented by potentially harmful large-scale food imports from Asia.

   
 

Vegenaise Mayonnaise Substitute

Jan 18, 2017

 

Recently the Company introduced gourmet versions of Vegenaise® including chipotle, pesto, garlic and barbeque flavors and Vegenaise® horseradish and tartar sauces.  In addition to vegan cheese and various dips and dressings, the company also produces a vegan egg substitute.

None of the products will ever displace eggs in either mayonnaise, meal preparation or baking.  What is significant is that using a simple kitchen and available ingredients, the company has managed to produce acceptable products which appear on the shelves of both mainstream and specialty supermarkets and stores.  They have earned market acceptance within a small demographic and enjoy widespread distribution. This has been achieved without the ostentatious self-promotion, alleged deceptive marketing practices, Federal investigations, inordinate publicity, unscientific claims and litigation which has characterized upstart Hampton Creek, not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital funding. 

EGG-CITE and many commentators have noted that producing substitute scrambled egg products and non-egg mayonnaise is not difficult. Formulas are available in standard texts and can be perfected in a simple home kitchen.  The products however lack authenticity and in the case of liquids do not incorporate the functional properties of real egg products for baking and catering.

There is a place in the market for vegan egg substitutes.  There are consumers who are willing to pay more and accept differences from real egg products but this is inherent to a free market society.  Although the company promotes a “follow your heart™” motto which is trademarked, there are no overt health claims consistent with FDA rules. The Company website www.followyourheart.com is devoid of unsubstantiated hype and simply displays products in a commercially acceptable and tasteful manner. 

   
 

Why do Chefs Exert Inordinate Influence on the Food Industry?

Jan 13, 2017

    

Over the past 20 years, celebrity chefs through their cookbooks, appearances on television and contributions to the social media appear to have exerted an inordinate influence on culinary trends and the food industry.  It must be remembered that many of the prominent members of the American Culinary Federation are self-taught or espouse a specific ethnic food.  A review of the course offerings for-profit culinary institute which claims status as a ‘university’ shows deficiencies in food science and public health which would be expected of their graduates.

  

The National Restaurant Association recently published a survey comprising 1,300 professional chefs affiliated to the American Culinary Federation.  The objective was to compile the “what’s hot” list to identify themes (fads?) which will find their way onto menus in 2017. The survey identified twenty food trends, many of which were duplications or were closely connected.

  • It would appear that “house-made” is a common theme involving six of the twenty trends.  These include house-made condiments, sausages, ice cream and cheeses.  Surely “house-made” which is not subject to the rigorous microbiological evaluation and HACCP systems in commercial food manufacturing or in commissaries is what created problems at Chipotle Mexican Grill during 2015.
  • Ethnic-inspired flavors and menu items represented four of the twenty trends for 2017.  Ethnic cuisines tends to be popular until the next iteration emerges. This is denoted by the failure of many restaurants within a year of establishment especially in our costal metropolitan areas.
  • The list of trends was rounded out by projections for “healthful” foods emphasizing vegetable-protein for both adults and children.

A recent example of an unfortunate combination of a lack of knowledge or concern for food-borne disease can be found in the financial performance of Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Company was established by an entrepreneur trained as a chef.  Conceptual and practical defects in the supply chain and in both the training and management of store-personnel directly contributed to outbreaks of at least four different food-borne infections in 2015. This resulted in consumer disaffection and the evaporation of billions from the market capitalization of the company

In many respects celebrity chefs are practitioners of their art. It probably does not matter if a sculptor is unaware of the crystalline structure of marble which is formed into a statue or if an artist is unaware of the organic chemistry of pigments used.  It is however important for an executive chef organizing a kitchen or an enterprise to be constantly aware of how food-borne pathogens are introduced into establishments and how disease can be prevented by appropriate handling and cooking.

   
 

Dairy Foods Associations Petition FDA for Enforcement of “Milk” Designation

Jan 13, 2017

    

The dairy industry represented by the Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers’ Federation addressed a recent letter to the Food and Drug Administration to require the Agency to enforce label restrictions over the term “milk”. 

This is a response to the competition encountered by the dairy industry from vegetable-derived milk products.

  

Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers’ Federation said “in the many years since we first raised concerns about the misbranding of these products, we have seen an explosion of imitators attaching the word “milk” to everything from hemp to peas to algae. We don't need new regulations on this issue, we just need FDA to enforce those that we have on the books.”  It is generally conceded that milk can be defined as “the lacteal secretion obtained by the complete milking of healthy cows.”

A parallel situation, albeit not as critical, concerns egg substitutes to produce mayonnaise and alternatives with inferior functional properties promoted to replace eggs in baking and food preparation.

The claims made by Hampton Creek, producer of a non-egg mayonnaise-product were the subject of litigation with the FDA. The Agency allowed the trade name “Just Mayo™” despite the fact that the legal definition of mayonnaise requires incorporation of eggs in the formula.

The American Egg Board has generated extensive publicity to counter the use of alternatives in the baking industry.  The problem of substitution arose during the period of an unprecedented rise in the cost of pasteurized egg products following the 2015 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.  Now that flocks have been restocked and prices have declined to normal levels with adequate availability, the use of eggs by the baking industry has increased based on contribution to product quality.

The U.S egg-production industry must maintain vigilance over the integrity of eggs. Currently we are well served by the UEP, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and the American Egg Board who are concerned with the image of eggs. We should carefully monitor events relating to milk substitutes impacting the dairy industry which previously condoned the growth of milk substitutes.

   
 

PROPOSED UPGRADES OF THE ORGANIC RULE IN QUESTION

Jan 6, 2017

    

It is possible that the USDA-AMS has run out of time to be able to publish a Final Rule which is a prerequisite to implementing new regulations governing organic livestock production.

At issue for the egg-production industry is the proposed minimum outside access requirement. Proposed area requirements of up to 3 foot2 per hen would have effectively disqualified commercial organic production from in-line aviary operations with sun-porches. This would have benefitted small-scale independent or contract family farms. 

EGG-CITE has noted previously that the previous National Organic Standards Board favored so-called “small family farms” to the detriment of commercial family-owned complexes which effectively provide the bulk of organic eggs to the U.S. market. 

  

Tom Vilsack

Faithful to his favored constituency to the very end and erudite as ever, outgoing Secretary of the USDA, Tom Vilsack stated, “I’m hopeful that we can get them (the regulations) done”.  He added, “I can’t guaranteed that they’ll get done before I leave but I’m hopeful that they’ll get done”. 

It is acknowledged that there is lack of definition in current regulations which allows for individual interpretation by organic certifiers with resulting inconsistency across the organic egg industry. 

Outside access by flocks is in any event unnecessary with regard to welfare and productivity.  In the context of catastrophic diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza carried by free- living and migratory birds, outside access represents an unacceptable risk.  It is noted that veterinary authorities in all EU countries have specifically embargoed outside access and free-range housing for at least thirty days with every expectation of an extension, given the extent and rising incidence rate of infection.

Many of the concepts promoted by traditional organic producers have no scientific basis including the need to have contact with earth.  Proposed regulations were no more than a thinly veiled attempt to exclude existing in-line aviary complexes from participating in the organic market.

The evident bias by outgoing Secretary Vilsack and his appointees is evident in his statement on the proposed rules and in the actions by his Department during his eight-year tenure.

   
 

Controversy over the Role of Sugar in Obesity and Health

Jan 6, 2017

Recent epidemiologic reviews of nutrition and health outcomes have shifted the focus from fats to sugar as a factor in causing obesity and cardiovascular disease.  The egg industry suffered for at least two decades from consumer rejection of shell eggs and egg products based on the presumption that cholesterol and unsaturated fats were responsible for adverse health issues. 

It now emerges that much of the research demonstrating a deleterious effect from consumption of fats was funded by associations and companies with a vested interest in promoting sugar.

For many years opponents of sugar were denigrated in the literature by reputable scientists with financial ties to trade associations representing the interests of the packaged food and sugar industries.

Fortunately “the cholesterol myth” has been effectively debunked, mainly due to the efforts of scientists funded by the American Egg Board.  The present controversy which focuses on Type II diabetes has serious implications for regulators who guide recommendations on nutrition and on legislators intent on placing punitive taxes on beverages with a high sugar content. 

A recent review published in The Annals of Internal Medicine questioning recent epidemiologic studies on the role of sugar in metabolic disease has been widely criticized by independent scientists.  The review was sponsored by the International Life Sciences Institute which is supported by multinational companies including Coca Cola, General Mills, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s and Monsanto.  The article questioned World Health Organization and USDA guidelines counseling restriction of sugar intake in beverages and candy.

There is a profound lack of impartiality among scientists both for and against restriction of sugar intake since both sides appear to have vested interests. Some specialists with involvement in establishing guidelines issued by the World Health Organization and the American Health Association point to epidemiologic associations among obesity, the incidence rate of Type II diabetes and intake of sugar. Some specialists also maintain that total caloric intake from both sugar and starch (and expenditure through exercise) should be taken into consideration in developing nutritional guidelines.

At the end of the day it appears that emphasis on fat intake has abated and that prevailing scientific opinion endorses consumption of an egg each day by consumers with no predisposition to rare familial hypercholesterolemia.

   
 

Food Waste Increased by “Sell By” Dates

Dec 30, 2016

    

The is a growing realization that post-harvest waste in the U.S. is a significant problem.  It is calculated that the cost of disposing of date-expired food amounts to almost $2,000 per average household.

The USDA will issue new guidance relating to “sell by” and “best if used by” dates on labels.

  

The USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety, Al Almanza, noted “in an effort to reduce food loss and waste these changes will give consumers clear and consistent information when it comes to date labeling on the food they buy.  This new guidance can help consumers save money and curb the amount of wholesome food going into trash.”

The Food Safety and Inspection Service will recommend “Best if Used By” to differentiate a specific label date from the concept of wholesomeness.

It is noted that various state regulations specify a “sell by” date imprinted on egg packs.  This requirement is now superfluous given the universal application of refrigeration from pack to point-of-sale together with more rapid delivery and rotation of stock.  Eliminating Salmonella Enteritidis from commercial flocks has reduced the risk to consumers to negligible levels. It is questioned whether shorter pre-sale allowances imposed by some states are in fact intended to enhance food safety or whether the objective is to discriminate against eggs transported into the states concerned.