Missouri residents in Cameron and Gallatin have sued Prime Tanning Corp., claiming the company introduced cancer-causing agents to farms. Prime Tanning is owned by National Beef Leathers LLC, which National Beef Packing Co. acquired in March.

The tannery has delivered sludge to counties in Missouri for use as fertilizer. The lawsuit alleges that the sludge has nigh levels of hexavalent chromium, a chemical used to remove hair from hides during the tanning process, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. The chemical is also a known carcinogen.

The lawsuits were filed by William Kemper, whose wife died of complications from a brain tumor in 2008, and by Janet Lasher, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Erin Brockovich, a noted environmental activist, assisted with the lawsuits.

“I never thought I’d see a tanning process that has waste that gets distributed to farms and is deemed a fertilizer,” Brockovich said. “This is a process that needed to be stopped yesterday.”

National Beef spokesman Keith Welty issued a statement that read in part, “We take these allegations very seriously. National Beef is conducting a review of this matter and, in an abundance of caution, we have suspended land application of sludge pending the outcome of our investigation.”

A spokesman from the Environmental Protection Agency said that regulators had not found any chromium products when testing soil, drinking water and groundwater samples near Cameron.

Sources: Kansas City Star, Kansas City Business Journal

Livestock feed rules go into effect on April 27

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed today that April 27, 2009, will be the effective date for the final feed rule, but full compliance will not be required until October 26, 2009.

The new final rule, “Substances Prohibited from Use in Animal Food or Feed," prohibits the use of certain cattle parts in ALL animal feed, including pet food. Prohibited parts consist primarily of brains and spinal cords from cattle 30 months of age or older, and the entire carcass of dead stock cattle, unless such cattle are shown to be less than 30 months of age or the brains and spinal cords are removed.

According to FDA, the extended compliance date will permit renderers more time to comply with the new requirements and will give cattle producers and packers, more time to identify appropriate methods for disposing of prohibited materials.

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association criticized the implementation. “This decision is extremely disappointing,” says Dr. Elizabeth Parker, chief veterinarian for NCBA. “By going ahead with implementation of this unnecessary ban, the FDA is ignoring the substantial costs and environmental burdens it imposes on America’s cattle producers.”

The NCBA notes that the FDA delayed the implementation to give renderers time to comply with the new regulations and give producers time to determine appropriate methods of disposal, but the department never provided any means to resolve the disposal issues created by the rule.

“This amounts to an unfunded mandate,” Parker said. “FDA has acknowledged that this rule creates tremendous disposal issues for producers, yet they have not identified any viable solutions to that problem. Moving forward with implementation without addressing these concerns is irresponsible.”

On April 16, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that cattle material prohibited in animal feed is non-hazardous solid waste and can be disposed of in landfills. To view the EPA notice, go to http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/landfill/cattle.htm

The final rule is expected to be published in the April 24, 2009 Federal Register. To view a prepublication copy of the final rule, go to http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2009-09466_PI.pdf

Sources: American Meat Institute, National Cattleman’s Beef Association

McDonald's, Yum! Brands report first-quarter results

McDonald's U.S. posted a first quarter operating income increase of 6 percent fueled by strong comparable sales. Global comparable sales increased 4.3 percent, with 4.7 percent increase in the United States and 3.2 percent in Europe. Increased sales of chicken, breakfast and beverages contributed to results, the company said.

"McDonald's continues to deliver a relevant restaurant experience that provides consumers with a broad range of quality menu choices, affordable prices and unmatched convenience," said CEO Jim Skinner. "Our underlying business performance remains strong. In constant currencies, first quarter results reflect higher revenues, operating income and earnings per share over the prior year."

Yum! Brands Inc. reported results for the first quarter, including EPS (earnings per share) growth of 14 percentt excluding special items. EPS including special items declined 10 percent due to the lap of a $0.13 per share gain in 2008 from the sale of its minority interest in KFC Japan.

Worldwide same-store-sales growth of 1 percent were driven by 2 percent growth in mainland China and 6 percent growth in Yum! Restaurants International (YRI), partially offset by a decline of 2 percent in the United States.

“While sales in the U.S. were lower than anticipated,” said David Novak, chairman and CEO, “our U.S. business generated 7 percent profit growth with proactive reductions in our cost structure and margin improvement. U.S. same-store-sales declined 2 percent due to weakness at KFC and Pizza Hut. We are excited about the U.S. launch of KFC’s Kentucky Grilled Chicken, a great tasting product that will broaden the appeal of our brand.”

Sources: McDonald’s Corp., Yum! Brands Inc.

U.S. postpones tariffs in EU beef standoff

The United States agreed to a two-week postponement in implementing a series of retaliatory tariffs on gourmet items as part of a long-running debate over hormones in American beef. The European Union has had a ban on hormone-treated beef since the 1980s, and the World Trade Organization ruled in 1998 that the ban violated trade rules.

The United States previously had placed trade sanctions on certain EU products as a result of Europe’s refusal to lift the ban. New duties, including a 300 percent tariff on French Roquefort cheese and a 100 percent tariff on Italian mineral water, were scheduled to go into effect today as one of President Bush’s last acts in office. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk postponed the tariffs, citing progress in negotiations over beef exports to Europe. They are now scheduled to go into effect on May 9.

Sources: AFP, Chicago Tribune