CKE Restaurants Inc., owner of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's quick-service restaurant chains, and Thomas H. Lee Partners announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which THL will acquire CKE for approximately $928 million, including the assumption of approximately $309 million of net debt.

Byron E. Allumbaugh, CKE’s chairman of the board, said, “We are excited to announce this transaction which provides substantial value to our shareholders.”

Andrew F. Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, said, “We believe this transaction provides excellent value to our shareholders and represents an exciting opportunity to continue the growth and development of CKE Restaurants in partnership with THL. THL’s proven history of success as an investor and value-added partner to its portfolio companies, coupled with its deep financial expertise and experience in the consumer sector, will also benefit all of our stakeholders, including our franchisees and our employees.”

Todd Abbrecht, Managing Director of THL Partners, said, “THL is pleased to partner with CKE’s seasoned management team to continue building on the Company’s powerful brands and strong position in the marketplace. We are committed to making this great company even better, and to working together with the entire organization to provide an even stronger foundation for value creation, expansion and profitable growth.” THL is also a part-owner of Dunkin' Donuts and Aramark.

In addition, under the merger agreement, CKE Restaurants will actively solicit superior proposals from third parties for a period of 40 days continuing through April 6, 2010. CKE Restaurants does not intend to disclose developments with respect to this solicitation process unless and until its Board of Directors has made a decision regarding any superior proposals that may be made. There can be no assurances that this solicitation will result in a superior proposal.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2010, subject to approval by CKE shareholders, regulatory approval, and other customary closing conditions.

Sources: CKE Restaurants Inc., Associated Press

National Chicken Council releases revised animal welfare guidelines

The National Chicken Council released a revision of its Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist, the industry-standard program for assessment of animal welfare programs and practices in broiler and broiler-breeder operations.

“Our revised program demonstrates the chicken industry’s strong commitment to animal welfare and ensures that companies that use the program will continue to meet the expectations of their customers for the proper treatment of animals,” said Thomas M. Hensley Jr., chairman of the National Chicken Council and president of Fieldale Farms in Baldwin, Ga.

The revisions were recommended by a task force of industry veterinarians and other experts chaired by Bill Lovette, president and chief operating officer of Case Foods in Troutman, N.C., and approved by the NCC executive committee and board of directors.

“Animal welfare has become engrained in the operations of our companies and in the expectations of our customers, the supermarket and restaurant companies that buy our products,” Lovette said. “It’s part of the way we do business. The NCC program is utilized by companies with the vast majority of production in the industry and is widely accepted by customers.”

The revision is the first overhaul of the program in about five years. Lovette said key differences in the new program, compared with the guidelines in effect since 2005, include:
-- Greater emphasis on corporate commitment to animal welfare, including a requirement that senior management must sign off on company’s animal welfare program.
-- Each department of the company handling live animals (hatchery, growout, catching and transportation, and processing) must have a person in charge of promoting adherence to the Guidelines.
-- Each department must have a disaster response and recovery plan.
-- Employees who handle live animals must be trained in advance and must receive retraining every year, in languages other than English if necessary.
-- Addition of a preface stating principles of animal welfare.
-- Commitment to review the program every two years, beginning with review by scientific advisors in 2011 followed by an industry committee review in 2012.

“Numerous specific changes were made and metrics revised, resulting in a program that will be more challenging for our companies to comply with,” Lovette said. “But we believe this is what our customers expect.”

Among the principles stated in the document are:
-- Poultry raised for food should be cared for in ways that prevent or minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering.
-- Guidelines for welfare should balance scientific knowledge and professional judgment with consideration of ethical and societal values.
-- It is the welfare of the chickens themselves that is foremost, not how humans might perceive a practice or an environment.
-- Poultry should be treated with respect throughout their lives and provided a humane death when processed for food or when they are euthanized for any other reason.

The NCC Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist documents are available at

Source: National Chicken Council

Australian retailers announce plans to stock only domestic beef

Changes to Australian import rules may open the market to beef from the United States, Canada and other countries that have had an outbreak of mad cow disease, but that does not mean that retailers will buy the product.

"Regardless of impending changes to beef importation laws, we have no plans to sell anything other than Australian beef at Coles," a spokesman for the supermarket chain said. A Woolworths spokesman said 100 per cent of its fresh meat was Australian "and we have no plans to change that," reports The Australian. He did acknowledge that the chain has no control over what meat goe sinto processed foods, like the country's meat pie.

The ban of beef from countries that had experienced an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, was enacted in 2001, and U.S. and Canadian beef was banned in 2003. The decision to allow beef from those countries has met with considerable debate.

"Australia is the safest place in the world to eat beef but it won't continue to be," said Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan. Meat industry officials have been more sympathetic to the decision.

"America is far and away our best market, and we are treating them with such disrespect," said Greg Brown, president of the Cattle Council. "Now we've got consumers concerned and saying they're not eating beef. There is no chance of BSE-infected beef coming into Australia because it is only in the spinal column, and only the muscle cuts will come in."

Source: The Australian

Study shows allergic reaction to meat may not be rare

A study of 60 patients who had unexplained severe allergic reactions indicates that a compound in meat known as alpha-galactose may be the cause, according to research presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & immunology in New Orleans. According to Reuters reports, the study found immune system proteins called IgE antibofies in 25 out of 60 patients with the unexplained allergic reactions.

"We believe that the presence of IgE antibody to this sugar is wider spread in the human population as a whole than we had initially expected," Dr. Scott Commins of the University of Virginia, who led the research, said in a telephone interview.

"What we're finding is that this traditional notion of allergy to meat being very rare may, in fact, not be true," Commins added.
Alpha-galactose is produced in most mammals but humans and great apes make an antibody to the sugar, Commins said.

"So the problem becomes when people make IgE antibody to this sugar and then they eat meat or dairy products that contain the sugar then they get a delayed reaction," Commins said.

Unlike other allergic reactions, which can take place immediately or within two hours of eating something, the reactions for this case seem to occur four to six hours later, making it difficult to determine the cause of the reaction. The reseachers said that no other patterns were found that could otherwise explain the cause of the anaphylaxis.

Source: Reuters