Editorial

 

In-line Organic Egg Complexes Unjustly Criticized

Jul 21, 2017

    

A clearly biased article by Peter Whoriskey in the July 13th edition of the Washington Post promoted the views of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and the Cornucopia Institute with respect to large in-line USDA-Certified Organic egg production complexes operated by the Herbruck family and Cal-Maine Foods among many others.

At issue is the question of outside access. For a number of years, traditional organic egg producers, many of whom provide intermittent and only nominal outside access for their flocks, have experienced competition from more efficient and sustainable in-line complexes which comply with the current rules of the National Organic Program (NOP).

  

It is noted that most operators of in-line complexes also participate with independent farmer-contractors to source production thereby spreading opportunities for families who would otherwise not be able to sell their production due to a lack of packing facilities and marketing capability.

Recognizing that in-line complexes do not have the space to allow extensive outside access for flocks, The National Organic Board cynically devised a new standard which, if implemented, would effectively disqualify large in-line units. This example of “shifting the goal posts” after producers erected facilities to comply with the organic standards and to supply expanding consumer demand, was a blatant attempt to eliminate competition.

In the absence of large producer-packers, the retail price of organic eggs conforming to a mandatory one to two square feet of outside access per hen would soar to above $6 per dozen. This would effectively curtail the volume of available USDA- Certified Organic eggs to the benefit of a narrow segment of the industry.

The Washington Post article included a number of inaccurate statements and was compiled to engender support for the “organic purists”. These producers who considered that the “outside access” issue was a done deal in late 2016 are obviously concerned over the prospects of a rejection of the recommendations of the National Organic Board.

This is based on the advent of a new Administration demonstrating a no-nonsense” approach to the Certified Organic program under the jurisdiction of the USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service.

The first canard advanced by the Washington Post is that hens in the aviary houses operated by Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch are stocked at a density of three hens per square foot. This is analogous to stating that the residents of a three-story building simultaneously all occupy the space available on the ground level.

Aviaries allow hens in a flock to ascend through tiers and distribute themselves on perches and platforms to obtain feed and water, to interact socially and lay eggs in partitioned nesting areas. Litter between parallel modules and in sun porches allows for dust bathing and other inherent behaviors.

The development of aviaries with sun porches reflects scientific principles developed over decades in the E.U. involving the contribution and input of ethnologists, behavioral experts and veterinarians. The effective biodensity of hens in an aviary system should be calculated on the basis of cubic volume of the house rather than square feet of floor area. A recent evaluation of an aviary complex showed a density of 0.33 foot2 per hen expressed as floor area but effectively 9 foot3 per hen taking into account the volume of the house accessible to the flock.

Most of the aviary systems intended to produce organic eggs incorporate sun porches on either side of the house allowing access to an area where they can scratch and are exposed to sunlight. Sun porches protect flocks from predators and separate hens from soil which invariably becomes infected with parasites and pathogens, some of which are of public health significance. It is impossible to eliminate Salmonella from soil, a reality apparently sidestepped by the FDA in their regulations covering outside access.

Although the ire of the OCA is directed against the few large in-line complexes it is calculated that many small-scale family units have installed sun porches. The NOP determined in 2003 with respect to a New England producer that sun porches satisfied the requirement for “outside access”. Disqualification of the system in favor of mandatory outside access would effectively eliminate 45 percent of current organic production from a population of 14.5 million hens as predicted by the NOP.

Outside access by flocks is associated with markedly elevated mortality from disease, predators and parasites. A structured scientific evaluation of free-range management by North Carolina State University showed losses of over 30 percent during a laying cycle compared to 5 percent in a control flock housed in a barn.

The emergence of recombinant strains of avian influenza carried by migratory waterfowl has led to outbreaks of the disease commencing in the late winter and the early spring months of 2014 and in successive years in the U.S., in 21 nations of the E.U. in 2015 and 2016 and in Korea and Japan. The immediate response of veterinary authorities to outbreaks of avian influenza worldwide is to mandate confinement of backyard and commercial flocks to barns in order to limit the dissemination of virus from wild carriers to commercial flocks.

Avian Influenza is no longer a sporadic and rare disease, exotic to the U.S. but has become “seasonally endemic” Cases of avian influenza impose immense losses on farmers with infected flocks, on the USDA-APHIS for control and indemnification and on consumers who are obliged to pay more for eggs. Broiler and turkey producers even though they may be unaffected are subject to restrictions and embargos imposed by importing nations.

The current campaign against the large in-line organic egg production complexes must be regarded as an act of desperation to eliminate competition. If successful, the combination of demonization and restrictive rules will markedly reduce the availability of organic eggs, raise the retail price well above $6 per dozen and ultimately generate less-expensive alternatives such as a “GMO-free” category. The short-term beneficiaries of mandating extensive outside access will be the remaining small-scale organic producers selling directly to boutique supermarkets, through farmers’ markets and their farm stalls, all at the expense of consumers.

The Washington Post and Whoriskey, who tilts his lance against efficient Organic egg and milk production and generates undue angst in his articles, should exercise a higher standard of journalism rising above the tabloid genre. It is suggested he ascertain and evaluate facts and present a more balanced view when dealing with a significant subset of producers of USDA Certified Organic eggs. The operators of in-line complexes are humanely providing a wholesome sustainable product at an acceptable price to consumers who are opting to purchase USDA Organic Certified eggs from our Nation’s supermarkets and wholesale club stores.

   
 

Proposed Legislation to Restrict Activist Shareholder’s Proposals

Jul 14, 2017

    

Proposed amendments to the Financial Choice Act of 2017 passed by the House, would update the 2010 Dodd-Frank Omnibus Financial Legislation Act.

A provision would severely restrain activist shareholders from submitting and re-submitting proposals which have social, political or welfare-related concerns at annual meetings.

  

Currently any shareholder or group in a public-traded company who has held at least $2,000 in stock for at least a year may place a proposal on the company’s proxy ballot. The same proposal can be reintroduced every year irrespective of opposition which frequently exceeds the mid-90 percent of shareholder votes.

Consistent abusers of the shareholder proposal system include the Humane Society of the United States on welfare issues and the Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, TX who are opposed to all forms of antibiotic administration to livestock.

The proposed amendments to the Financial Choice Act would require a threshold shareholding of one percent of company stock to introduce a proposal and the shareholders would be required to have held stock for at least three years. The Business Roundtable commented that the one percent shareholding would be onerous and has suggested a 0.15 level for large companies.

Research cited by James R. Copland of the Manhattan Institute, in the July 7th edition of The Wall Street Journal noted that social and political activism on the part of minority shareholders increases cost to a company since most responses to shareholder proposals require an expenditure of at least $100,000 to oppose.

Supporters of the right to place proxy proposals before annual meetings claim that despite rejection of proposals, boards are frequently coerced into acquiescing to demands. The Center for Political Accountability representing minority shareholders claims that slightly over 300 companies have effected changes without shareholder acceptance of proxy proposals.

Of particular concern is the revelation that labor-related proposals introduced by pension funds lower overall company profitability and thereby diminish the value of stock held by both investment groups and individuals. James Copland notes that over the past twelve years non- ideological proposals advanced by institutional investors represented less than one percent of those submitted. This confirms that most of the political and social proxy proposals emanate from advocacy organizations or what he refers to as “gadfly” investors with minute stockholding.

Appropriate amendment to the Financial Choice Act would benefit QSRs such as McDonalds Corporation and Yum! Brands which have been the subject of consistent and repeated pressure from advocacy groups that benefit from publicity and the perception that they are pursuing policies favoring their constituencies. In effect these organizations are generating contributions and support at the expense of shareholders.

   
 

EU Authorities Identify Poland as SE Source

Jul 7, 2017

    

Persistent outbreaks of Salmonella Enteritidis phage type 8 affected consumers in 14 E.U. nations from May 2016 through June 2017 although there are indications that the incidence rate has been elevated since 2012.

Health authorities have confirmed 280 cases in addition to 257 probable diagnoses.  As with all foodborne Salmonella infections, the presumed number of cases may be 20 to 50 times the number of confirmed cases. 

  

There is evidence that the infection is associated with three packing plants in Poland with one specific farm as the most probable source.  Whole genome sequencing suggest that there are two distinct but related genetic strains of SE according to tandem repeat analysis profiles.

The implicated farm, Fermy Trobiu Wozniak (Wozniak Family Poultry Farm) has voluntary withdrawn eggs from the market.  The company concerned has until now maintained that it was not the source of infection based on assay of eggs which did not reveal Salmonella.  This is not unexpected given the low prevalence rate of Salmonella in eggs from an infected flock. The Chief Veterinary officer of Poland noted that SE was in fact isolated from three flocks producing eggs on the farm.

Poland is a large producer of eggs which are distributed widely in Europe and to the extra-Continental export market.  In accordance with E.U. regulations individual eggs are jet-printed with a code to facilitate traceback.  In this specific case, eggs imprinted with 3PL321/304 have been identified as infected.  The numeral 3 indicates caged housing, PL indicates Poland and the number sequence identifies the farm and a coded date of production.

The outbreak was documented in an USDA-FAS GAIN Report dated November 7, 2016. At this time the E.U. Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed notified authorities in Poland of the probable source, resulting in a recall. A total of 260 confirmed cases of SE had been reported covering the period May through October of 2016.

In late October 2016 the European Commission organized a teleconference relating to the multinational outbreak.  A total of 14 nations received eggs stamped 3PL3022.  As a result the General Veterinary Inspectorate of Poland published an administrative order prohibiting sale of eggs from the implicated farm and mandated a recall. In Poland, supermarket chains including Bietronka withdrew eggs from the source farm and packing plants which were delivered to five out of 15 distribution centers.   

The sporadic pattern of the outbreak led European investigators to conclude prematurely that the outbreak was over although new clusters subsequently appeared. These outbreaks were attributed to vertical transmission possibly by young flocks.

The situation in Europe is reminiscent of the 2010 outbreak of SE associated with the DeCoster farms in Wright County, IA.  Cases of SE were reported with a low incidence rate until the summer of 2010 when infection increased sharply among consumers possibly as a result of thermal abuse and extended storage of eggs which results in proliferation of SE from a low level to a highly infective dose per contaminated egg. 

Consumers in the E.U. are more vulnerable to SE than in the U.S. since in our market eggs from in-line complexes are washed, graded, packed and then refrigerated, frequently within 12 hours of lay and extending through to point of sale. In addition E.U. consumers are more likely to consume raw or undercooked eggs than in the U.S.

The outbreak of SE in the EU clearly demonstrates the impact of a single production unit with multinational and extensive distribution.  A further observation is that microbiological assay of eggs is relatively inefficient to detect infection even with double enrichment. A program based on environmental monitoring using a lateral flow immunoassay procedure is essential to detect the presence of SE in a flock applying environmental monitoring. 

Intestinal colonization does not necessary result in vertical transmission through the egg unless systemic infection occurs as a result of stress such as molting or immunosuppression.  Any flock showing intestinal colonization is obviously a potential risk for vertical transmission and eggs produced should be diverted to breaking and pasteurization irrespective of the required three successive negative assays of egg pools as required by the FDA Final Rule. The legal consequences and brand degradation in the event of a trace-back applying whole genome sequencing are self-evident.

It is hoped that E.U. authorities have learned from this episode and that standard procedures for prevention and monitoring of SE equivalent to our mandates are applied.

   
 

Organic and Specialty Markets Easily Saturated

Jun 30, 2017

    

According to Hoard’s Dairyman a surplus of 50 million gallons of organic milk is predicted for 2017. Organic dairy represents five percent of fluid milk sales according to the USDA Organic Dairy Market News report.

Certified Organic eggs represent 7.3 percent of U.S. shell egg production. Organic milk has declined in price from approximately $7 per gallon to under $6 per gallon at the present time. Organic eggs at retail have difficulty in breaking the $4 per dozen barrier.

  

Concurrently with the economic pressure on organic milk is evidence that this segment of dairy production is damaging to the environment taking into account the “full-life cycle” The sustainability of Organic eggs are also questioned. The Advertising Standards Authority of the U.K. has banned advertisements by Arla Foods, the fourth-largest milk producer in the world, claiming that organic dairy production was beneficial to land-use. This claim is refuted by established science. Arla Foods posted annual sales of $10 Billion in 2016 and has production facilities in the U.K., Sweden and Holland.

Data assembled by the USDA-ERS shows that growth in organic egg production has plateaued. Placings of cage-free hens predominantly in barns using aviaries is outpacing growth in USDA Certified Organic. A $1 per dozen differential between cage-free and certified organic eggs is regarded as a critical level favoring purchase of cage-free brown-shelled product.

Sale of certified organic eggs by major big-box wholesale club chains including Costco at prices considerably lower than boutique supermarkets and even mainstream retailers is currently supporting organic production. This shows that a proportion of consumers will purchase Organic, provided that the price differential from “cage-free” is reasonable.

In the absence of directed market research using appropriate methodology including conjoint analysis, it is difficult to quantify the willingness to pay when price exceeds $1 per dozen more for “organic”. This is especially the case given the absence of a definable attribute for Organic eggs and an inability to verify the status other than a label based on a third-party review of a paperwork trail.

Fluctuation in the price of organic in relation to cage-free brown suggests that the organic market for both eggs and milk may be constrained by the size of the affluent demographic comprising the “worried well” or the misinformed willing to pay for their prejudices against GMO and their opposition to intensive (but efficient) production.

There is an opportunity for producers of cage-free product to promote their production segment at the expense of organic. But again, there is the question as to the ultimate size of the cage-free market given the differential in cost between eggs that are derived from caged hens and their barn counterparts. The persistence of conventional caged eggs at or under $1 per dozen will limit growth of cage-free over the next five years.

Low prices, evidence of saturation of the cage-free market is giving both producers and retailers second thoughts over commitments to non-cage production by 2015. There has been an evident pause in orders for new cage-free projects and conversions reflecting a disinclination to commit capital to a price sensitive market.

   
 

Humane Farm Animal Care Introduces Seasonal Pasture Raised Option

Jun 23, 2017

    

Humane Farm Animal Care issued new standards on May 21st relating to pasture and free-range management. 

The HFAC standard for pasture raised reads, A management system where adult birds are kept on pasture 12 months of the year, in an outside area that is mainly covered with vegetation.  They are kept indoors at night for protection from predators but it is prohibited to keep them continuously indoors 24 hours per day without access to pasture for more than 14 consecutive days.  A minimum outside space requirement is 2.5 acres per 1000 birds to meet the Animal Care Standards for Pasture Raised.

  

The definition of Seasonal Pasture Raised states, Seasonally pastured hens must be outdoors for all months of the year and the pasture is exposed and available to the hens and the outside temperature will not constitute welfare concern.  Hens may only be kept continuously indoors 24 hours per day without access to pasture if the outside temperature is below freezing and or accumulated precipitation is prohibiting the ability of hens to move freely on the pasture. 

The regulations make no reference to the need to confine flocks during migration of waterfowl that disseminate avian influenza virus. This is a convenient omission, defying the realities of production over the past three years and ignoring the situation in the E.U. over the status of flocks confined to barns in accordance with directives by veterinary regulators.

An informed colleague with extensive experience in management of flocks both under confined and non-restricted conditions notes that commercial chickens are derived from a jungle fowl progenitor.  In their native environment in equatorial forests, the jungle fowl is protected by the arboreal canopy from raptor predators.  On pasture, chickens are vulnerable and to make anthropomorphic statements that hens on pasture or range are “happier” than their barn-housed sisters is an exercising in self-deception.  Birds on range are exposed to bacterial and viral pathogens, parasites and predation loss.

The cost involved in producing eggs from pastured hens is disproportionately higher than in barns. The future of the “pasture raised” will depend on the size of the market willing to pay a premium for sentiment and accordingly price will limit adoption of the system.

   
 

Chickens as Therapy Animals

Jun 16, 2017

    

A recent press release noted that a nutritionist affiliated to a prominent U.S. feed manufacturer has initiated a program using chickens for comfort and therapy.

While this commentator positively favors pet-facilitated therapy, the selection of chickens is highly questionable. A recent posting on EGG-CITE documents the large number of clusters of salmonellosis associated with backyard chickens and the purchase of chicks and ducklings.

  

As with pet turtles in the 1970s, chickens are “inappropriate pets.” Given the availability of suitable dog breeds and even cats, children with autism and developmental abnormalities could derive comfort and benefit from animals other than chickens.

Apart from the ever present danger of shedding pathogens including Salmonella, chickens cannot be house trained, and important to development, have a relatively short lifespan. Introduction of chickens into a household with children who are immunosuppressed or in fragile health is be medically contraindicated.

   
 

Economic Study Critical to the Future of the Egg Industry

Jun 9, 2017


    

On April 7th, EGG-CITE posted an editorial entitled Economic Study Needed for the Egg Industry.  This opinion reviewed the fluctuation in prices from 2014 through the HPAI epornitic, then considered subsequent recovery through current over-production. 

The editorial noted the need for a comprehensive evaluation of the effect of hen population in our two major segments comprising shell eggs and liquids and the apparent effect on prices.

  

The events of 2014 through the present represent a wealth of data for a competent team of agricultural economists taking into account the relative supply derived from domestic production and imports during 2015 and early 2016. The study should include the effect of hen population as flocks were replaced and the impact on prices in relation to a relatively static domestic demand and inconsequential export volume.

Financial institutions and producers need to predict the return on investment from decisions relating to the anticipated $40 to $50 per hen required to convert from existing caged systems to alternatives through 2025, whether selecting barns or aviary housing.

Projecting future prices and hence profitability in relation to supply and demand considerations is too important a project to be left to one or two individuals or a single industry-supported center.  Given the restrictions placed on the USDA Economic Research Service with respect to funding and personnel the Agency cannot be expected to undertake the project. 

A comprehensive economic evaluation of the U.S. egg industry with specific reference to supply and demand and the events over the past three years will require the concerted involvement of one or more departments of agricultural economics at Midwest Land-Grant universities. 

This would require substantial funding to support at least one PhD-level graduate student, faculty time and other resources.  The deliverables should be of a level suitable for publication in a mainstream journal of agriculture economics which presumes peer review of manuscripts.  The results should be applicable to developing expansion and conversion programs and to formulate strategy.

Although the effect of supply on price would be a primary focus of a study there are number of complementary investigations which would assist the industry.  These include:

  • The effect of a major industry benchmarking system on recent past and current pricing
  • Meaningful consumer studies on willingness to pay for alternatives to conventional caged eggs applying conjoint analysis
  • The impacted of added value and nutritional enrichment of eggs

Trained faculty and competent students are available.  The need for directed economic studies is self-evident and the industry should through one of its associations request proposals and assign funds to require the knowledge necessary to make meaningful strategic decisions.

   
 

EVALUATING BIOSECURITY

Jun 2, 2017

    

“How effective is my biosecurity” is a frequently asked question especially since many egg-producers have invested heavily in Structural Biosecurity including commercial vehicle washing installations, modules to decontaminate personnel and all-weather roads.

In effect one can quantify the risk of infection and the consequences of introducing a disease but evaluation of the ability of a specific program of Structural and Operational biosecurity to protect a farm or complex is still a subjective assessment.

  

We base capital and operating expenditure for programs on the probability that a specific pathogen might be introduced into a flock.* We have an accurate perception of the consequences of an infection based on flock size, virulence of the pathogen, immune status of a flock and local climatic and management factors inducing stress.

Obviously an exotic or “seasonally endemic” disease such as highly pathogenic avian influenza will result in mandatory depletion of the flock with or without indemnity and the consequential loss in revenue due to inability to market products until flocks are repopulated. With exposure to mild diseases the impact may range from inconsequential to a low-grade depression in performance determining the extent to which biosecurity is justified.

Recommendations promoting investment in biosecurity are based on best-judgment decisions by poultry health professionals applying their knowledge of the persistence of pathogens in the environment, mode of transmission and sensitivity to decontamination. Expenditure without exposure is a waste at worst or serves as insurance at best. An ineffective program is less than beneficial involving both fixed and variable costs in addition to direct and indirect losses.

We need test systems to determine whether a combination of measures tailored to a specific complex or farm can provide protection against a designated disease. The literature is replete with data on survival of pathogens under controlled laboratory conditions involving exposure to disinfectants, temperature or pH with and without the presence of organic matter. We have no direct quantifiable data on the duration of survival of H5 and H7 avian influenza virus under field conditions.

In a goose or duck dropping? In a waterfowl dropping on mud? Or on blacktop? During summer or winter conditions? On boots, clothing or mud on the underside of feed trailers?  We have no comprehensive and reliable data on aerogenous transmission over distance, under defined temperature and humidity, sunlight or air velocity and so on. Yet we make recommendations, issue advisories and advise clients without certainty as to the limits of protective capability.

It would be extremely helpful if we could deploy an innocuous surrogate for an influenza virus. Perhaps a genetically modified avirulent strain subjected to gene depletion to remove components required for replication in the host but still detectable using antigen capture or PCR technology. This would facilitate “pseudo-challenge” studies to detect the most cost-effective studies on alternative biosecurity strategies.

A colleague has used infectious anemia virus vaccine as an “indicator” in non-vaccinated pullet flocks to evaluate biosecurity based on the pattern of subsequent seroconversion. It is self-evident that regions in which broiler flocks undergo a high incidence rate of laryngotracheitis, the farms affected would not  be adequately protected against avian influenza. Serratia marscesens is used as a surrogate to ascertain patterns of persistence and transmission of bacterial pathogens in the environment of medical facilities.

Given the need to commit capital and effort to establish and maintain biosecurity programs it would appear to be advantageous to develop technology to quantify the effectiveness of measures to prevent disease. We can perform challenge studies and serologic assays to ascertain the level of immunity of vaccinated flocks. A parallel approach to measure protection provided by Structural and Operational biosecurity is required.

This would involve trials under controlled and then commercial conditions to establish parameters of protection. This would guide managers to make more informed decisions on expenditure to achieve acceptable levels of biosecurity which could provide a positive return on investment over a predetermined period applying a discounted cash-flow analysis.     

*Gifford, D. H. et al “Evaluation of Biosecurity in Broiler Breeders” Avian Diseases. 31:339-344. (1986).

   
 

The DeCosters Are Going to Jail

May 26, 2017

Jack and Peter DeCoster

    

The protracted legal battles to evade the consequences of their actions have come to an end for Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal resulting from a decision of the 8th Circuit Court which upheld sentences imposed by U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett.

Each of the DeCosters was sentenced to three months in prison in April 2015 following guilty pleas relating to the extensive 2010 outbreak of egg-borne Salmonella Enteritidis (SE).

  

There was a sharp increase in incident cases in May of 2010 traced back to flocks owned or operated by DeCoster. This was despite the fact that the implicated flocks were infected for a period of at least five years prior to the extensive outbreak traced back to his Wright County, IA complexes. This reality was well-known to DeCoster who engaged the services of pest-control and veterinary consultants prior to the outbreak.

As stated previously in EGG-CITE (enter “DeCoster” in SEARCH block) the presence of viable SE in eggs in numbers sufficient to produce the epidemic curve recorded by the CDC would have required more than the expected number of SE organisms (102 to 103 CFU) in what would normally be a small proportion of eggs from an infected flock. Prolonged storage and thermal abuse are the two significant factors increasing the infective dose in individual eggs infected by the vertical route.

The mid-2010 outbreak of SE which involved at least 56,000 cases was not simply egg-borne SE. Contributing factors must have played a role in the sharp rise in incident cases during the spring and early summer of 2010. It is known that irregularities occurred in the plant involving control of quality and dating of eggs and there were allegations concerning the adequacy of refrigeration. The SE outbreak occurred prior to implementation of the FDA Final Rule on Prevention of Salmonella and accordingly strict control of refrigeration temperature post-pack and through transport was not enforced.

The Wright County incident was not simply an accident or an isolated occurrence. Reference to previous cases involving DeCoster demonstrates a deliberate and consistent rejection of ethical standards. These include a pattern of disguising ownership of farms, willful maltreatment of workers, deviations from acceptable flock welfare and illegal employment practices. These deviations from industry practice are well documented.

The number of lawsuits and punitive action by state and Federal agencies in the past and the magnitude of fines and out-of-court settlements would suggest that DeCoster is a scofflaw. Despite his ostentatious piety he appears to have no regard for the wellbeing of livestock, the environment, his workers or consumers. The 2010 SE incident resulted in a profound decline in consumption occasioned by negative publicity and probably cost the entire U.S. shell-egg industry over $100 million in lost revenue over a three-month period.

Business groups including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and other organizations filed amicus curae briefs with the Court. The consideration was that CEOs and senior officers of companies should not be held personally liable for actions of their subordinates. Despite this being an unsupportable premise, especially in the case of the DeCosters, the co-appellants had no idea who they were supporting.

It is hoped that following the payment of fines exceeding $6 million and following their release from a Federal institution, the DeCosters will withdraw from the industry. Permanently and absolutely. No more shell companies, hidden interests or nominees to obscure ownership of farms, flocks and facilities. They have brought discredit on the image of respectable and ethical producers and they justly deserve their punishment.

The DeCosters are indeed fortunate that investigations which should have been carried out, did not disclose similar activities to those conducted by the owners of the Peanut Corporation of America.  The perpetrators of that Salmonella outbreak will spend decades in prison.

   
 

Malevolent Influence of Teachers on Student Perceptions Concerning Meat

May 19, 2017

    

The Humane Society of the United States has programs to “educate” teachers to influence students in all grades to abandon consumption of meat products in favor of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

Fortunately, the American Egg Board has developed a science-based practical program to promote consumption of eggs. There does not appear to be a parallel initiative by poultry, beef or pork producers. This omission is regrettable and will be costly over the long term.

  

The need to develop a solid majority of reasonable, logical and impartial teaching professionals is without question. This imperative is illustrated by the actions of Thomas Allison, Jr. who has been placed on unpaid leave from the Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks near Ocala, FL. The Superintendent of Schools, Heidi Maier initiated an inquiry into the activities of Allison with respect to his condemnation of students participating in Future Farmers of America (FFA) programs.

Maier noted that Allison “had engaged in a repeated egregious pattern of mistreating, ridiculing, insulting, intimidating, embarrassing, bullying and abusing FFA students, crushing their dreams and causing them to feel that they should just discontinue FFA activities to enjoy a peaceful school environment.” According to the Ocala Star-Banner, Allison, who is an animal rights advocate, has been more than aggressive in harassing a teaching colleague who advises the FFA group. The actions by Allison created an environment in which members of the FFA were concerned over their grades in courses taught by him.

Even after the inquiry was initiated in late March, Allison who is obviously a zealot, continued to antagonize students through activities characterized as “failing in his obligation not to harass or discriminate against any pupil.” Despite the suspension, Allison is not chagrined and he stated that he intends to obtain a certificate to teach agriculture and use this position to further promote his animal rights agenda.

It is evident that Allison represents an outlier in terms of his views and the extent to which he has attempted to misuse his position as a teacher. Fortunately the scope and extent of his proselytizing for animal rights was recognized and he will hopefully be dismissed from his post. Not because of his views, but because of the intensity and aggression in which he attempted to superimpose veganism within his school community.

While there may be other Allison’s in schools, it is seldom that their activities result in disciplinary action. More subtle influences on impressionable minds are incorporated into lesson plans and activists use peer pressure to change lifestyles. The actions of the so-called Physician’s Group for Responsible Medicine to ban processed meat products in San Diego schools has less to do with nitrates than it does with influencing food choices by children.

The animal protein industry should not regard the Allisons of this world as rare kooks. The positive aspects of livestock production and the philosophical justification for raising animals for food should be promoted as a counter to vegan propaganda. Children in elementary and middle school today will be consumers and arbiters of taste and lifestyle within twenty years. The HSUS has long recognized the vulnerability and susceptibility of young minds to their propaganda. This demands a commensurate response from the animal protein industry.

   
 

Egg Industry to Contend with Direct Action Everywhere

May 12, 2017

    

Direction Action Everywhere is a loosely organized group of extreme animal rights activists advocating an extreme vegan agenda with philosophical objections to “speciesism”. The group was founded in 2013 by Wayne Hsiung to protest the use of animals in the production of food.

The organization differs from HSUS and its clones, including Mercy for Animals, which abet or practice illegal intrusions and then post videos of alleged deviations from acceptable welfare practice directed against producers. 

Direct Action Everywhere aggressively opposes intensive livestock production by protesting within stores and restaurants in addition to directly attacking the customers of farms in an attempt to discredit brands and degrade the relationship between producers and their customers.  Previous activities have been directed at Costco, Safeway, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Whole Foods Market and Chipotle.

  

Direct Action Everywhere has adopted a “liberation pledge” which encourages consumers to convert to a vegan lifestyle and to refuse to eat in restaurants where animal products are served.  Farm intrusions with resulting negative publicity have been directed at presumably welfare-friendly companies in California and also a recent incident in Colorado.  The organization has also adopted a practice of placing stickers on egg cartons in supermarkets as noted in the April 21st edition of EGG-CITE.

Videos purporting to show maltreatment are obtained at night through break-ins. Precautions to secure facilities are therefore self-evident. Placing agents on farms and in processing facilities by welfare organizations should be avoided by appropriate screening of potential employees. The allegations made by Direct Action Everywhere with respect to the most recent episode are fraudulent as confirmed by responsible disinterested reviewers representing the State Department of Agriculture and third-party auditors.

Since the organization publicizes its spurious “findings” through implicating supermarket chains and restaurants, it is evident that preemptive action will be beneficial.  Producers should establish close relationships with buyers and encourage visits to farms.  It is far better to devote time and attention to assuring customers that flocks are managed with acceptable levels of welfare, hygiene and stockmanship than to have to placate customers after the effect.

There is no reason why a buyer or representative of a customer cannot visit facilities holding birds.  To date many companies have denied access on the doubtful justification of “biosecurity”.  Any complex should be equipped to receive visitors following acceptable standard biosecurity precautions including showering and wearing company-provided clothing. Visits encourage goodwill and supplement high scores on third-party welfare audits. The Producer victimized by Direct Action Everywhere extends a standing invitation to customers to undertake both scheduled and unannounced visits to their farm to view flocks and assess their housing and management.

In view of the fact that information and videos are obtained illegally by break-in, the resources of public safety officials should be applied.  It is also possible for a company to sue organizations and individuals for libel.  It is certainly possible to demonstrate malice from posted websites of these organizations which denote a heretical tone.  Substantial damages awarded to civil-rights groups in the 1990s effectively silenced a number of racist organizations by depriving them of their assets, serving as a warning to other extremists.   

Direct Action Everywhere can push the envelope on First Amendment rights but crossing over into breaking and entering to promote their cause enters the realm of criminality besides exposing them to civil suits.

   
 

Whole Foods Markets – Things Will Never be the Same Again

May 5, 2017

    

It is an accepted principle that CEOs can develop and implement policies which reflect their personnel beliefs and create a corporate culture in harmony with their egos, providing they show a consistently improving return to shareholders. 

Many entrepreneurs who are successful in establishing companies including Whole Foods Market dominated by John Mackey and Chipotle Mexican Grill by Steve Ells are lauded by the financial community, but only as long as they show long-term growth in same-store sales, earnings and dividends.

  

John Mackey

In a private company such as Panera Bread, founded by Ron Shaich, CEOs are free to establish policies with regard to animal welfare, product quality and pricing. S. Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-A® decided not to open his chain on Sundays. In contradistinction if companies play with shareholders’ money they are effectively responsible to financial institutions, lenders and are subject to scrutiny by analysts and criticism from the financial press.

There is no question of the long-term success of Whole Foods Market with its concepts of “fresh and organic” produce.  Unusual sourcing, frequently involving local farmers and producers, absence of national brands and employing tattooed and pierced employees are all part of the ethos. Whole Foods Market has appealed to an affluent demographic willing to accept the smug and unscientifically based opinions of the founder who is ready to denigrate conventional products marketed by traditional stores.

Somewhere on the ‘Way to the Forum’, Whole Foods Market stumbled.  Some have even said that it is a company with a great future behind it!  Competitors have not stood idly by.  Mainstream supermarkets have installed expanded fresh and organic displays, and stocked items appealing to the Whole Foods Market clientele, but at far lower prices. Costco is now the leading U.S. seller of organic products. At the other end of the scale, Whole Foods Market has spawned a range of clones which have managed to attract customers from the now fickle customer base. 

Failure to establish clear strategies to respond to competition have further mired Whole Foods Market in confusing ventures.  The 365 concept is questionable, again given competition.  Attempts at reducing price have not boosted sales but simply diluted earnings. The Company has suffered from an undercurrent of issues such as overcharging in New York, lawsuits by dissident managers over group bonuses in the DC area and complaints of worker exploitation. In his floundering attempts to maintain the trajectory of the past two decades, Mackey has been ill-served by a compliant and supine Board.

As is the case with all public-traded companies which do not achieve their potential, investor groups acquire a significant stake in the Company equity. Activist investors demand and receive Board seats, change management, divest assets, restructure and in some cases take underperforming companies private.

Jana Partners has acquired a nine percent position in Whole Foods Market and has put forward a slate of experienced food industry and business executives to replace current Board members who appear to rubber-stamp any decision made by Mackey.

Jana Partners believes that “Whole Foods shares are undervalued and represent an attractive investment opportunity.”  If the management of the company cannot reverse the downward trend in sales and EPS, it is possible that a coalescing of shareholder sentiment may force a sale.  Jana Partners has named five co-investors who are cooperating with their hedge funds and are willing to initiate a proxy battle to achieve higher returns.

Analysts have criticized the 365 store concept, although others have suggested a program of closing existing stores with possible conversion to the 365 format.  Analysts at Pivotal Research have commented negatively on the decline in same-store sales extending over two years without any prospect of reversal of the trend. Among suggestions advanced by Jana Partners is dumping United National Foods Inc. a distribution partner and replacement by either in-house distribution or diversifying logistic activities.

Jana Partners has a strong record of turning around underperforming food companies.  After accumulating a six percent equity position in Safeway it engineered a 2014 merger with Albertsons by negotiating an agreement with Cerberus Capital.  A seven percent holding in ConAgra Foods led to major changes in a company with “persistent underperformance” including a breakup into two separate entities with benefits to respective shareholders.

John Mackey has been an outspoken opponent of intensive livestock production, founding and motivating the Global Animal Alliance.  In favoring his sourcing which, he was entitled to do, he strongly criticized standard U.S. livestock practices.  He has consistently maintained a campaign against GMO despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence to show that GE foods are in any way inferior with respect to either safety or nutritional quality compared to conventional ingredients.  When it suited Whole Foods Market to pivot from organic to “non-GM” which was cheaper than USDA Certified Organic products, the publicity for organic was downplayed as a matter of expediency.

It is inevitable that profound changes will occur in Whole Foods Market and John Mackey will have to cease managing and operating the company in accordance with his personal wishes and inclinations.  What worked for the first two decades following the foundation of the Company with a concentration on a narrow demographic, frequently located in university towns is now irrelevant.  It will take a team of professionals to turn the company around and create a more appropriate business structure to compete in a market characterized by food deflation and extreme competition. 

It is highly probable that John Mackey will no longer be at the head of Whole Foods Market in two years, or if he is, he will answer to a more aggressive Board representing the interests of shareholders. It is even possible that Whole Foods Market may end up as a high-end banner of a major chain. The rumors are swirling.

Mackey has for too long disparaged intensive livestock and egg production and made unsubstantiated claims at the expense of conventional products.  He could do this all the time he was showing a good return.  The market has since matured and the needs of shareholders will be placed ahead of the personal aspirations and philosophy of the founder.

   
 

Will the Cage-Free Declarations Made by QSRs and Stores Become Reality?

May 5, 2017

    

The Director of Animal Welfare for the UEP commented on “commitments” in the December 22nd edition of the United Egg Producers’ weekly newsletter. The article maintains that many cage-free commitments announced in 2015 and 2016 were “made under pressure”. 

It is acknowledged that there was a lemming-like rush to concede to the demands of welfare activists and not be seen as lagging in the race to eliminate conventional cages. Many of the companies leading the charge were either subsidiaries or affiliates of EU or multinational restaurant chains or food manufacturers, with an intense concern over brand image  and experience in the transition from cages to cage-free egg production. 

 

The tone of the UEP article appears to question whether customers will follow through with their commitments to cage-free housing citing “retailers were under so much pressure but they made announcements before they were able to consider all the possible consequences – supply and demand issues, customer dissatisfaction and implications.”

This sentiment echoes much of what is being discussed in the industry and will obviously be a topic of concern at the IPPE in 2017.  It is clear that progressive egg-production companies and their customers are committed to converting from conventional cage housing to alternative systems over the ten-year period established in late 2015.  Not only are members of the Food Marketing Institute, the National Restaurant Association and the National Council for Chain Restaurants requiring conversion to cage-free production they are in fact expecting proof of conversion with proportional progress over the proximal ten-year period.

We should remember the tremendous disruption which occurred in the EU when January 1, 2012 rolled around and many producers on the Continent, especially in southern nations bordering the Mediterranean failed to make the necessary investment. During the notice period there was a presumption that an extension would be granted.  In contrast producers in the UK and Germany made the required conversions and were fully compliant on January 1st 2012.

Effectively the train has left the station.  The U.S. industry is inexorably moving towards alternatives to conventional cages.  There is sufficient knowledge and technology to implement aviary systems and slatted-floor or litter-floor barns. These systems will result in a higher cost of production and a correspondingly greater markup than conventional eggs. At the present time alternative systems housing 18 percent of the National flock producing shell eggs, supplies organic, “cage-free” and other specialty presentations.

Any producer who believes that the trend towards cage-free production is a passing fad will be disillusioned.  The imperative of re-housing from conventional cages will result in some operations, especially those operating under contract to cease production. Small and intermediate-sized farms will be purchased and it is expected that mergers will occur to achieve economies of scale and market strength. Unquestionably the U.S. egg-production industry will have fewer participants and different owners in 2025 than it did in 2015, mirroring the consolidation in the broiler and turkey industries from 1990 onwards.

Consumers will have to accept approximately 40 to 50 percent increases in the price of generic eggs at the shelf. Increases will be accepted as food inflation becomes a reality within a few years.  Consumers in California have been paying at least 50 cents per dozen more for eggs as a result of the California Proposition #2 Pacelle Tax, without an appreciable decline in the number of eggs sold, although there are now fewer hens in California than there were in 2014.

The extract from the UEP article States “this year I have learned that a commitment may not be a promise or guarantee; indeed, it may only be a temporary solution,” This is false hope. Progressive companies are moving towards the goal of complete conversion, and are prioritizing their projects.  There is a natural reluctance to commit capital expenditure from $35 to $45 per hen for new or refurbished facilities based on prevailing low wholesale prices but this is a temporary situation. Even a ten-month period of losses should not materially disrupt the conversion of our industry from conventional cages to alternative systems over a ten-year period.

   
 

Egg Industry to Contend with Direct Action Everywhere

Apr 28, 2017

    

Direction Action Everywhere is a loosely organized group of extreme animal rights activists advocating an extreme vegan agenda with philosophical objections to “speciesism”. The group was founded in 2013 by Wayne Hsiung to protest the use of animals in the production of food.

The organization differs from HSUS and its clones, including Mercy for Animals, which abet or practice illegal intrusions and then post videos of alleged deviations from acceptable welfare practice directed against producers. 

   

Direct Action Everywhere aggressively opposes intensive livestock production by protesting within stores and restaurants in addition to directly attacking the customers of farms in an attempt to discredit brands and degrade the relationship between producers and their customers.  Previous activities have been directed at Costco, Safeway, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Whole Foods Market and Chipotle.

Direct Action Everywhere has adopted a “liberation pledge” which encourages consumers to convert to a vegan lifestyle and to refuse to eat in restaurants where animal products are served.  Farm intrusions with resulting negative publicity have been directed at presumably welfare-friendly companies in California and also a recent incident in Colorado.  The organization has also adopted a practice of placing stickers on egg cartons in supermarkets as noted in the April 21st edition of EGG-CITE.

Videos purporting to show maltreatment are obtained at night through break-ins. Precautions to secure facilities are therefore self-evident. Placing agents on farms and in processing facilities by welfare organizations should be avoided by appropriate screening of potential employees. The allegations made by Direct Action Everywhere with respect to the most recent episode are fraudulent as confirmed by responsible disinterested reviewers representing the State Department of Agriculture and third-party auditors.

Since the organization publicizes its spurious “findings” through implicating supermarket chains and restaurants, it is evident that preemptive action will be beneficial.  Producers should establish close relationships with buyers and encourage visits to farms.  It is far better to devote time and attention to assuring customers that flocks are managed with acceptable levels of welfare, hygiene and stockmanship than to have to placate customers after the effect. There is no reason why a buyer or representative of a customer cannot visit facilities holding birds.  To date many companies have denied access on the doubtful justification of “biosecurity”.  Any complex should be equipped to receive visitors following acceptable standard biosecurity precautions including showering and wearing company-provided clothing. Visits encourage goodwill and supplement high scores on third-party welfare audits. The Producer victimized by Direct Action Everywhere extends a standing invitation to customers to undertake both scheduled and unannounced visits to their farm to view flocks and assess their housing and management.

In view of the fact that information and videos are obtained illegally by break-in, the resources of public safety officials should be applied.  It is also possible for a company to sue organizations and individuals for libel.  It is certainly possible to demonstrate malice from posted websites of these organizations which denote a heretical tone.  Substantial damages awarded to civil-rights groups in the 1990s effectively silenced a number of racist organizations by depriving them of their assets, serving as a warning to other extremists.   

Direct Action Everywhere can push the envelope on First Amendment rights but crossing over into breaking and entering to promote their cause enters the realm of criminality besides exposing them to civil suits.

   
 

Activist Organisation Places Stickers on Egg Cartons In-Store

Apr 21, 2017

A group of agro-terrorists involved in farm burglary and mischief-making, self-styled, Direct Action Everywhere have placed deprecating stickers on egg cartons in stores.

The tactic is similar to the action by a deranged individual in the New England states who places GMO stickers on food products.

EGG-CITE has previously warned of the vulnerability of the U.S. egg-production industry to criticism over maceration of non-anaesthetised cockerel chicks.

Since we are years away from achieving practical and accurate gender determination of embryos under four days of incubation we must institute a program of carbon dioxide stun-to-kill for cockerels without delay. Both continuous flow and batch systems could be installed.

  

   
 

Labor Shortage Will Restrict Economic Growth, Impact Agriculture

Apr 14, 2017

    

An editorial in the Thursday, March 30th edition of the Wall Street Journal highlights the growing problem of non-availability of potential employees at both ends of the pay spectrum.

There is an effective shortage of qualified technical workers requiring the release of special visas, although it is evident that some companies in high-tech are gaming the system to replace functional long-term U.S. citizens with cheaper imported workers.

  

Of greater concern to agriculture is the shortage of skilled manual workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are 150,000 unfilled construction jobs raising the cost of housing and industrial projects.  Implementation of a crash program of infrastructure improvement may well be constrained by available skilled labor.

 Restrictions on H-2A visas for agricultural workers is impairing the ability of farmers to gather crops despite successively increasing wage rates to as much as $16 to $20 per hour for vineyards and orchards in California. Increased surveillance and action by ICE. has reduced the number of undocumented workers who effectively complement the ranks of domestic and eligible foreign laborers.

Contract egg-production farms usually operate with family labor supplemented with local workers. With the trend to larger farms, however, it has become necessary to employ full-time stockmen which requires both a competitive wage and acceptable accommodations.

Some of the arrangements for foreign workers represent a distinct biosecurity risk as evidenced by the 2002 outbreaks of H7N2 LPAI among turkey farms in the Shenandoah Valley. Where egg-production complexes are located near industrial centers obtaining reliable and conscientious workers is difficult.

In discussion with egg producers in the Midwest, one manager opined that the only requirement for employment in his operation was that the candidate could pass a drug test.

If we are to progress and achieve the goals expressed by new Administration it will be necessary to critically review immigration and employment policy and to ensure that pre-election rhetoric conforms to economic reality. This predicates appropriate visa programs and we will look to the wisdom, image and counsel of incoming Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Sonny Perdue to positively influence Administration policy to the benefit of the intensive farming community.

   
 

Economic Study Needed for Egg Industry

Apr 7, 2017

    

During the past ten months, the U.S. egg production industry has recorded only one month in which the USDA nest-run price exceeded the cost of production.  The prolonged period of negative margins is attributed to an imbalance between supply and demand.

Given the initiation of Proposition#2 in California followed by HPAI with subsequent re-stocking and resulting fluctuation in wholesale prices from 2014 onwards, it would be appropriate for an economic study to be performed to determine the responsiveness of wholesale prices to supply.  During late 2014 prices were influenced by the projected introduction of California Proposition #2. 

  

In spring 2015 production, especially in the liquid segment was impacted by the advent of H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza. The result of depopulation persisted through the remainder of 2015 and early 2016. Replacement of flocks was followed by a sharp decline in prices as supply from an expanding national population of hens increased.

An economist would find considerable challenge in characterizing the egg market and specifically relating domestic shell egg and liquid production, exports and imports especially in times of shortage and oversupply.

From the profound fluctuation in supply and hence price, an economic study with derivation of appropriate models could provide valuable information on the relationship between numbers of hens, diversion of eggs to either the shell or liquid segments of the industry and the effects of exports and imports.  Predictive models could guide producers in investment decisions especially in view of the intended transition from conventional cages to alternative systems which will require investments in excess of $40 per hen for new buildings and equipment or proportionately less for conversions.

Events during the past three years represent an opportunity to analyze extremes in production and prices to develop economic models to guide future decisions.  It is suggested that USPOULTRY should consider requesting proposals to undertake a comprehensive economic study since the future expansion and profitability of the egg industry depends on decisions based on accurate forward projections and the effect of production volume in the various sectors on prices.

   
 

“Freaked Out” Article from CNBC Deceptive

Mar 31, 2017

On March 23rd, Vanessa Wong posted an article on CNBC dealing with the intended transition to cage-free production by the U.S. shell egg-production industry.

The heading “Egg Makers are Freaked Out by the Cage-Free Future” is provocative intended to capture eyeballs but was entirely misleading.

  

There is no better refutation of the heading than the comments by Dolph Baker, Chairman, president and CEO of Cal-Maine Foods appended to the results of the third quarter of fiscal 2017 released on March 27th.  Baker noted, “We have continued to make significant investments across our operations to meet anticipated demand for cage-free eggs, as food service providers, national restaurant chains and major retailers, including our largest customers, have stated objectives to exclusively offer cage-free eggs by future specified dates.

While we expect the multi-year conversion to cage-free production will present new challenges and higher costs for our industry, we believe it also provides additional market opportunities.  We are working with our customers to facilitate a smooth transition to meet this demand.” These measured and purposeful comments by Baker and the reality of actual projects belie the impression created by the heading of the CNBC posting.

The second largest U.S. egg producer, Rose Acre Farms has embarked on an extensive program of conversions including joint ventures. Across the Midwest family-owned enterprises including Weaver Brothers, Cooper Farms, Konos, and many others have been investing in cage-free facilities despite negative profitability prevailing during 2016. On the Pacific Coast, Central Valley Farms is installing houses and equipment to hold up to 4 million hens.

Wong also comments, “Life is miserable for hens in battery cages and “opposition to the system became a core concern of the animal rights movement.”  One can dispute the characterization of a “miserable life” for hens since this is a subjective anthropomorphic evaluation.  If hens were in fact “miserable” they would not peak as a flock at over 93 percent and maintain production through the first cycle, to be either depleted or molted at a weekly production in excess of 80 percent. 

Irrespective of the validity of criticism of confined egg production, the industry is committed to transition from conventional cages to alternative systems with currently twelve percent of the nominal U.S. hen population of 310 million hens in alternatives to cages. At least an additional ten percent of capacity is in the process of conversion.

Wong is however correct in that there is uncertainty as to the willingness of consumers to pay more for their eggs based on housing system when offered cheaper eggs from conventional cages.  The Humane Society of the United States was the prime mover in bamboozling the voters of California to accept Proposition #2 in November 2008.  The net result of the legislation by ballot was an approximately 50 to 70 percent increase in cost to all consumers in California irrespective of housing system. 

This increase which can be referred to as the “Pacelle Tax” has not materially changed the status of hens since introduction of Proposition #2 in 2012 but the ballot measure has certainly increased cost.  The resulting rise in price is the manifestation of the willingness of those who, under the guise of “welfare” are intent on eliminating intensive livestock production while generating funds for salaries, benefits, and revenue expended on lobbying, fund-raising and litigation. 

It is an unfortunate reality that organized animal welfare advocacy groups appear to have assumed the right to transfer money from the budgets of consumers to their own self-serving coffers, indirectly benefitting the media and politicians.

The advent of cage-free production will inevitably result in the demise of a large number of small-scale farmers and will ultimately favor companies that will grow by acquisition.  The capital requirements for conversion of at least the shell egg component of the U.S. egg production industry amounts to over $10 billion at 2017 values. 

It is only large companies with integrated production and marketing that are in a position to raise loans or sell equity to finance conversion.  It is entirely possible that the industry will in fact have a lower aggregate production by 2020 and retail prices may even approximate the levels in Europe and Canada where there is far less competition and retail prices approximate twice the present U.S. value for generic white eggs.

As with all EGG-CITE Editorials and Commentaries, responsible rebuttals or contrary views are welcome and will be posted subject to acceptable logic and content.

Simon

   
 

Dr. Piet Simons Publishes Egg Signals

Mar 24, 2017

Piet Simmons

    

Described as a practical guide to improving egg quality, this comprehensive and profusely illustrated book by a distinguished author should belong on the shelf of every participant in the egg industry.

Dr. Piet Simons obtained his baccalaureate and then a doctorate degree from prestigious Wageningen Agriculture University in Holland in 1971. He spent his entire career dealing with on aspects of poultry production at the Spelderholt Research Institute.

He has been a strong promotor of the poultry industry serving as the President of the World Poultry Association from 1991 to 2002.

 

His credentials include entry to the International Poultry Hall of Fame in 2008, receipt of the McDougall Gold Medal awarded by the World’s Poultry Science Association at their 12th WPSA Congress in Sydney and the Poultry Personality Award in 2014 during the VIV Europe Exhibition.  He serves as an ambassador of the Dutch Poultry Center and has been honored by the Queen of Holland for his contribution to world poultry and the Dutch industry.

Based on his distinguished career, it could be expected that Simons would produce an informative and educational text. This he has achieved. The organization of Egg Signals includes  formation of the egg, including the composition of the yolk, albumen and the shell. Successive chapters extend through production post-lay processing, packaging and marketing.

The emphasis of the text is on improvement of egg quality through recognition of abnormalities, diagnosis of possible causes and remediation.

Egg Signals is not a scientific text.  It has no references and it is written (professionally translated from Dutch) at a level which farmers, processing plant managers and those involved in the egg trade should be able to understand.  Readers will appreciate the illustrations with their captions, contributing to practical knowledge.  Egg defects are clearly illustrated and in almost all cases relate to causes encountered in production, whether disease, nutrition or mismanagement.

Egg Signals is highly recommended and should be issued in the form of a CD for wider distribution especially when translated into languages spoken by egg producers in nations where the knowledge contained in the text would have the most benefit.

Dr. Simons has succinctly compressed half a century 50 of research and experience acquired in both academia and contact with producers worldwide into a single volume.  We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his contribution.

Egg Signals is available from Roodbond  Publishers B.V. info@roodbont.com

   
 

GAO Highlights Deficiencies in Food Safety – Time for a New Agency

Mar 17, 2017

    

A recent Government Accountability Office report reviewed the current status of food safety, demonstrating major deficiencies.  Currently the U.S. food supply is subject to the oversight of 15 agencies with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSI) responsible for the bulk of items consumed.

  

In 2015 President Obama proposed a new food safety agency paralleling the established entities in the EU and specifically the UK.  To some extent, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) enacted in 2011address food safety by shifting emphasis to prevention and placing the onus on the agricultural community and food processors to apply preventive policies based on HACCP.  The concept of a Food Safety Agency sent tremors of concern through the Federal bureaucracy which closed ranks and signed memoranda of agreement to preserve turf.

Although the U.S. is considered to have the safest food in the World, incidence rates of salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis suggest that inspection is not the solution to the problem.  Of greater concern is the fact that the FDA responsible for safety involving 80 percent of the food supply is just not doing its job.  We are vulnerable to pathogens and adulterants given the reality that slightly over 20 percent of all food consumed is imported and that FDA conducts organoleptic inspection on approximately one percent of imports.  In terms of the FSMA, the FDA was required to inspect at least 600 foreign food plants in 2012 and for each of five years  thereafter.  The Agency has failed abysmally in its responsibility not only to food but also the inspection and oversight of foreign plants manufacturing drugs.

It appears that the USDA approach of tightening standards specifically for Salmonella and Campylobacter does not address the basic need to develop appropriate modalities to reduce infection throughout the chain of production.  Admittedly, the industries involved in their individual and collective efforts have lowered rates of contamination in finished products but we have attained a plateau following the Law of Diminishing Returns. 

This is especially the case with Campylobacter infection since there is no practical or reliable pre-harvest control measure or procedure to limit this pathogen. Modalities to limit Salmonella in plants appear to have beneficial effects but we cannot assume absolute safety, necessitating improved storage, handling and meal preparation to protect consumers.

EGG-CITE and CHICK-CITE have frequently advocated a unified food safety agency staffed by competent scientific administrative and regulatory personnel with a focus on food.  This will leave the FDA with the responsibility for drugs which it appears hard pressed to administer. The USDA will concentrate on activities other than food safety including research, SNAP, insurance agricultural statistics, trade and support.

It is maintained by Washington insiders that creating a new food service agency at sub-cabinet level would be too disruptive.  When faced with a crisis in 2001 the Department of Homeland Security was established.  Given the current environment in Washington, a new agency may bring innovation and technology to the issue of food safety and to enhance protection of our food supply.  The least we can do is to approach the issue with an open mind and consider whether a new approach may be more cost effective.