A study of more than 500,000 middle-aged and elderly Americans has found that those who consumed red meat or processed meats daily were 30 percent more likely to die during the decade-long study. According to the Washington Post, those participants who consumed about 4 ounces of red meat each day were more likely to die from heart disease and cancer, the study showed.

“The bottom line is we found an association between red meat and processed meat and an increased risk of mortality,” said Rashmi Sinha of the National Cancer Institute, who led the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

“The uniqueness of this study is its size and length of follow-up,” said Barry Popkin, a professor of global nutrition at the University of North Carolina, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. “This is a slam-dunk to say that, ‘Yes, indeed, if people want to be healthy and live longer, consume less red and processed meat.’”

In a statement, the American Meat Institute stated that the report relied too much on self-reporting, which is notoriously unreliable. The study asked participants to recall what they ate over the previous 12 months and record it in a 35-page questionnaire, telling them to give estimates where they were unsure of exact answers.

“Meat products are part of a healthy, balanced diet and studies show they actually provide a sense of satisfaction and fullness that can help with weight control. Proper body weight contributes to good health overall,” said AMI Executive Vice President James Hodges. “Meat is an excellent source of zinc, iron, B12 and other essential vitamins and minerals. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines say to eat a balanced diet that includes lean meat. In this way, you derive a wide array of nutrients from many different sources. It’s the best return on a nutritional investment you can get.”

Hodges added, “Single studies cannot be used to draw major conclusions, yet that’s just what these authors seem to be doing by releasing this study with a major national press release.”

Sources: Washington Post, American Meat Institute

Chicken processors questioning Russian export ban

Sanderson Farms and Tyson Foods, two of the three companies that were part of the Russian ban on poultry exports from three plants, stated that they don’t use the drugs that Russia claimed to have found in its shipments.

Russia banned poultry exports from three processing plants -- Sanderson Farms in Hammond, La., Peco Foods in Canton, Miss., and Tyson Foods in Cumming, Ga. -- after it said that drug residue was found in the poultry.

Russian officials claimed they found residue of the antibiotic oxytetracycline and another drug nicarbazine in chicken imported from Sanderson's Hammond plant, Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson told Reuters. “We were using neither of those products,” Sanderson said.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mikelson said, “Based on preliminary information we've received through one of our trade organizations, the Russians claim they found traces of an antibiotic that is not even used by Tyson Foods. Tyson’s live poultry operations use only antibiotics that have been approved for use by the U.S. government.” He added that the company is awaiting more details.

Source: Reuters

U.S. small business credit initiatives unveiled

The Obama administration announced its new Public-Private Investment Program for banks. Last Monday, the administration unveiled a $15 billion Small Business Administration (SBA) program to accelerate loans to entrepreneurs and get the job-generating engine of small business back on track.

Administration officials said that by the end of March the Treasury Department would begin making direct purchases of securities backed by loans guaranteed by SBA. Even small businesses with good credit histories had lost the ability to borrow, administration officials said. As part of the administration’s small-business initiative, the Internal Revenue Service also announced last Monday that small businesses with deductions exceeding their income in 2008 could use a new net operating loss tax provision to get a refund of taxes paid in prior years.

The provision, enacted as part of the economic recovery plan, enables small businesses with a net operating loss in 2008 to elect to offset this loss against income earned in up to five prior years, instead of the usual two-year limit. The enhancements to the SBA program are part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package approved by Congress. The main enhancements for borrowers are a reduction of fees typically associated with getting an SBA loan.

Also part of the package is an additional $50 million that will be available for microloans, smaller loans made to startup companies or very small businesses looking to expand. The SBA also is increasing its bonding for smaller contractors to as much as $10 million, so they can bid competitively for some of the infrastructure projects being funded through the administration’s economic recovery act.

One SBA official said SBA-guaranteed lending volume is down 50 percent or more across the country - a sign that the job-generating ability of small business is very weak. Administration officials said small businesses in the U.S. represent about 50 percent of the workforce and 70 percent of job growth. More information is at www.sba.gov.

Source: Small Business Administration, North American Meat Processors Association

Hormel engineering VP to retire

Larry Pfeil, vice president of engineering for Hormel Foods Corp., is retiring from the company, effective April 17. Pfeil has spent 37 years with the company in engineering, starting as a staff engineer in the corporate office in 1972.

“Larry’s leadership has been integral in guiding the construction of new facilities and the expansion of existing facilities throughout the company,” said Jeffrey Ettinger, chairman of the board, president and CEO at Hormel Foods. “He also championed many automation and new technology initiatives, which strengthened our leadership position in food safety, employee safety and operational efficiencies. We offer our best wishes to Larry and his wife Teri, for a wonderful retirement.”

James Schroeder will succeed Pfeil as vice president of engineering. He has been with Hormel since 1984 and will oversee all aspects of engineering for the company, including design, construction and commissioning of plant facilities and equipment, plant engineering and maintenance as well as environmental engineering.

James Mino will be promoted to director of engineering. He started his career with Hormel Foods in 1980, and his responsibilities will include management of all facilities and equipment projects, including civil, mechanical and electrical engineering functions. He will report directly to Schroeder.

Source: Hormel Foods Corp.

Questions still remain in Pilgrim's Pride/Foster Farms deal

The acquisition of Pilgrim’s Pride Farmerville, La., facility by Foster Farms still has some hurdles to overcome if the deal is to be completed. State officials have to change state allow to allow the transaction, which includes a total of $50 million in taxpayer money, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

The state money would come from Louisiana’s mega-projects fund, which is a $415 milion development fund to lure large business prospects. The fund is designed to assist the recruitment of projects with more than 500 new jobs and a private-sector investment of at least $100 million, and the state’s investment would not exceed 30 percent. Louisiana is contributing up to 65 percent of this deal, with Foster Farms contributing $40 million, so those guidelines would have to be changed for the deal to work. The state legislature’s lawmaking session begins on April 27.

Meanwhile, officials at Sanderson Farms, which operates a plant in Hammond, La., are glad for the communities that would have been affected by the plant closure. However, the acquisition puts them in new territory. “We’ll be competing against a plant subsidized 50 percent by the government, and that's never been done before in our industry, which I'm aware,” said Sanderson’s CFO Mike Cockrell.

Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune