Sanderson Farms reported a first-quarter net loss of $6.7 million and net sales for $388.9 million. “The results for the first quarter of fiscal 2009 reflect prevailing economic conditions and reduced consumer demand for protein consumed away from home,” said Joe F. Sanderson, Jr., chairman and CEO of Sanderson Farms Inc. “Demand for chicken products held steady in the retail grocery market, but the slowdown in restaurant traffic continues to adversely affect sales to our food service customers.”

"We do not expect demand to improve until the economy gains some traction and consumers resume spending and dining out again,” Sanderson continued. “We will continue to manage our operations as efficiently as possible through this cycle and we do not plan to return to full production until we see an improvement in market conditions. However, we do expect that our feed costs will be lower this year as grain prices are also being affected by the economy and reduced demand.”

Sanderson’s results were ahead of Wall Street expectations; analysts had expected a loss of 39 cents a share (as opposed to the actual loss of 33 cents a share) and revenues of $365 million, Reuters reports.

Source: Sanderson Farms Inc., Reuters

Oklahoma water wells test positive for E. coli

Seventeen private water wells have tested positive forE. colibacteria near a northeastern Oklahoma town where an E. coli outbreak last summer killed one man and sickened hundreds, state officials said Wednesday. Additional testing is needed to determine whether the bacteria in the wells is the rareE. coliO111 strain involved in the August outbreak, AP reports.

Health officials have said a local restaurant, Country Cottage, was the source of the outbreak, but Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has said that it could have been the result of contamination from nearby poultry farms. He released a report on Feb. 13 that noted that 49 poultry houses are located within a 6-mile radius of Locust Grove, the location of the outbreak. Those houses can produce up to 10,000 tons of waste a year, and Edmondson said there is insufficient pasture land to dispose of all the waste.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mikelson said the test results do not show a link between bacteria in water well and poultry. “Tyson Foods wrote to the DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] pointing out that their testing of water wells needed to look for the specific rare form of E. coli that actually caused the illness in Locust Grove, and not for harmless bacteria that are found throughout the environment,” Mickelson said. “This is particularly important because scientific literature demonstrates that the type of bacteria that caused the Locust Grove outbreak is primarily associated with cattle and not poultry.”

Source: Associated Press

Sick pork plant workers improving

Researchers say 24 pork processing plant workers in Minnesota and Indiana who developed a mysterious neurological disorder have improved but still have some symptoms. All of the affected workers worked in or near areas where compressed air was used to extract pig brains from skulls, according to AP reports.

The study was led by the Mayo Clinic. Researchers do not know the exact cause of the illnesses but believe that the spray of liquefied pig brain tissue triggered an autoimmune response that caused nerve damage. Of the stricken workers, 17 were treated with immune therapy, such as steroids. The others had no treatment but improved when they were no longer exposed to the brain tissue.

The researchers plan to present their study at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in April in Seattle.

Source: Associated Press

Wood elected president of CattleFax

David Wood, chief operating officer and Beef Division chairman for Harris Farms, Inc. of Coalinga, Calif., has been elected as the new president of CattleFax, a member-owned and member-directed cattle market information and research organization.

Harris Farms operates Harris Feeding Company, the largest cattle feeder on the West Coast that markets approximately 250,000 head of cattle each year. Harris Ranch Beef Co. is California’s largest functionally integrated beef producer, and has been an innovative leader in developing fully cooked, heat-and-serve beef entrees.

Wood owns a 4,000-head cow/calf operation and runs approximately 20,000 yearlings annually in four Western states. James Herring, president and CEO of Friona Industries, L. P., is the new president-elect of CattleFax. Friona is the fourth largest cattle feeding operation in the United States, with four commercial feedlots in the Texas Panhandle with a one-time capacity of 275,000 head.

CattleFax is a member-owned and member-directed market information, analysis, research and educational service organization, serving beef producers in all segments of the industry.

Source: CattleFax

Wisconsin offers tax credits for meat processors

The state of Wisconsin is offering a new tax credit program for dairy cooperatives and meat processors who upgrade plants to increase production or efficiency. Companies will be eligible for tax credits of up to 10 percent of the cost of improvements, with a maximum of $200,000 per plant. The meat-processing program will give up to $300,000 in tax credits for work done in 2009, AP reports.

“We’re proud of all Wisconsin agriculture,” said Gary Radloff, director of policy and communications for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “But we are particularly strong in specialty cheese manufacturing, small meat processing. It’s kind of a combination of playing to your strong hand.”

John Haen, president of the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors, said it's too soon to say how many of the small, mostly family-owned companies his group represents would take advantage of the tax credit. But, he said, it provides an incentive to expand or upgrade equipment.

Source: Associated Press
By Sam Gazdziak