At least three U.S. beef plants will be closed today due to a major storm that is forecast to produce blizzard conditions and eight to 18 inches of snow in western Kansas, western Oklahoma, and the Texas panhandle.

The National Weather Service said it has issued winter storm warnings for much of that area through Saturday morning. In addition to snow, forecasts call for a quarter-mile visibility and winds of 30 to 40 mph.

Tyson Foods Inc's beef plants in Finney County, Kan., and in Amarillo, Tex., will be closed because of the storm, as well as the JBS-Swift beef plant in Cactus, Tex.

The snow should end on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Source: Reuters

Letter to president applauds creation of food-safety group

A letter sent yesterday by American Meat Institute (AMI) president and chief executive officer J. Patrick Boyle to President Barack Obama welcomed the creation of the White House’s Food Safety Working Group and stated that this group “will help ensure that changes to the food safety system in the United States are done in a manner consistent with the scientific principles you recently articulated and in a way that helps maintain public confidence in the food supply.”
Boyle stated that food safety has been and will continue to be AMI’s number one priority and that AMI members have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to food safety.  In the mid-1990s AMI petitioned the Department of Agriculture to mandate HACCP plans for all meat and poultry plants and more recently AMI has taken additional steps to enhance food safety through its Food Safety Initiative under the auspices of the AMI Foundation.  The letter noted that AMI members have contributed more than $6 million to facilitate a public/private partnership with government to fund food-safety research. 
Boyle underscored AMI’s ongoing commitment to food safety and the integrity of the food supply, stating that “Food safety research projects sponsored by the AMI Foundation Food Safety Initiative over the last several years have helped reduce the incidence of various foodborne pathogens, as evidenced, for example, by the precipitous decline in the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes in meat and poultry products over the past decade,” Boyle added.   
In his letter Mr. Boyle stated that “the Food Safety Working Group offers a unique opportunity for the government agencies charged with food safety to partner with the other sectors, including the regulated industries, consumers and state and local government” and he offered “the scientific and food safety expertise of the American Meat Institute and its members to participate in and contribute to your administration’s Food Safety Working Group.” 

Source: The American Meat Institute

Food-cost surge curbed

While prices may still seem painfully high in the supermarket aisles, long-suffering consumers are beginning to see a break in their grocery bills — a bit of good news amid economic gloom.

Falling raw material costs coupled with a feeble economy have curbed soaring food inflation in recent months. Food prices fell on a month-to-month basis in February for the first time since April 2006.
Last year, food and beverage prices rose 5.4 percent as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest annual jump since 1990, because of a big run-up in commodity and energy costs.

But as the global economy tanked in late 2008, prices for oil, corn, wheat and soybeans fell. Those declines, after a predictable lag, are filtering down to grocery shelves, said Ephraim Leibtag, a Department of Agriculture economist.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Recall due to packaging error

Sara Lee Corp. said Thursday it's voluntarily recalling 1,728 pounds of its Ball Park brand hot dogs because of a packaging error.

A partial production run of Ball Park Cheese Franks was inadvertently labeled as Ball Park Beef Franks. Thus, some Ball Park Beef Franks may contain cheese, a potential risk to people allergic to milk, as well as poultry and pork. The recall covers Ball Park Beef Franks with the UPC Code 5450010002 and packaging that says "Use by May 08 09 P8740A."

Sara Lee declined to say where the recalled hot dogs were primarily sold, though a representative said they weren't sold in the Chicago area. Sara Lee has received no reports of illness.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Agriculture futures trade mixed on the CBOT

Agriculture futures were mixed Thursday on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Wheat for May delivery rose 6.5 cents to $5.145 a bushel; May corn gained 5 cents to $3.9075 a bushel; May oats rose 3.5 cents $1.97 a bushel; and May soybeans fell 7 cents to $9.44 a bushel.

Beef and pork futures fell on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. April live cattle slipped 0.35 cent to 84.27 cents a pound; May feeder cattle lost 0.42 cent to 94.95 cents a pound; April lean hogs fell 0.73 cent to 60.52 cents a pound; and May pork bellies edged down 3 cents to 85 cents a pound.

Source: The Associated Press