The Farmerville, La., chicken processing that was the subject of a acquisition debate between Pilgrim’s Pride, Foster Farms and the state of Louisiana is still scheduled to be idled May 8, with 1,300 workers being laid off. Pilgrim’s Pride, which still owns the facility, stated that it is not known if or when a final agreement between the two processors will be completed. "The final day of work for most salaried and hourly employees will be May 8, 2009, when the plant ceases procession operations," said company spokesman Ray Atkinson.

In order for the sale to be completed, the two companies have to sign off on a formal purchase agreement, which would have to be subject to conditions and approvals, including that of a bankruptcy court, according to AP reports. Furthermore, Louisiana lawmakers must approve the incentives that state officials offered Foster Farms in the deal. Louisiana had agreed to split the $80 million cost with the California-based poultry processor to facilitate the deal and keep the plant open.

Meanwhile, Foster CEO Ron Foster announced that the company is continuing negotiations with Pilgrim’s Pride and anticipates upgrading and adding to the capabilities of the plant. It will also continue to use local growers, who would be impacted by the plant closure.

"These enhancements, when operational and used in conjunction with the local work force, will allow us to build a strong sales base, leading to a return to full, double shift capacity, over time, after Foster Farm's purchase," he said.

Source: Associated Press

Swine flu news roundup

* A total of six countries have banned imports of U.S. pork products: China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has warned those countries about the ramifications of the bans. "Restrictions on U.S. pork or pork products or any meat products from the United States resulting from the recent outbreak do not appear to be based on scientific evidence and may result in serious trade disruptions without cause," the USTR's office said in a statement.

Jamaica and Australia are among countries that are monitoring the situation and may enact bans if necessary. Australian Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said the government is keeping up with the latest information, and will abide with any safety precautions that are recommended by the World Health Organization. Both countries reiterated that there have been no reports of infected pigs or concerns of contaminated pork products. (Sources: Fox News, Reuters UK)

* U.S. processors and producers continued to stress that their hogs and pork products were safe and not a risk to consumers. “Families can have confidence that the pork they purchase is safe to eat, and there is no reason to be concerned if you live or work near a pork production facility,” said Guy Hall, Alabama Farmers Federation pork director. Russia banned pork imports from Alabama as a result of the outbreak.

The World Organization for Animal Health in Paris issued a statement asking everyone to stop calling this influenza outbreak “swine flu,” since this name might lead people to believe that they can get the virus from eating pork. According to the statement, “There is no evidence that this virus is transmitted by food… the virus has not been isolated in animals.” The organization said that since “many human influenza epidemics with animal origin have been named after their geographic origin, e.g. Spanish influenza or Asiatic influenza, it would be logical to call this disease ‘North-American influenza.’”

AMI released a number of materials designed to set the record straight on North American Flu, including a video message about pork safety from AMI President J. Patrick Boyle that can be accessed on AMI’s YouTube Channel, accessible at In addition, AMI has posted a statement, a series of consumer questions and answers and audio sound bites on its consumer Web site American Meat Institute, Bizjournals, North American Meat Processors Association)

* Shares of the major U.S. pork producers dropped yesterday. Smithfield lost $1.24, or 12 percent, to $9.08. Tyson Foods dropped 68 cents, or 6.2 percent, to $10.25 and Hormel shed 88 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $29.75. Fears about the disease also sent the broader U.S. stock market lower, AP reported. Analysts predicted how consumers would react to swine flu fears.
"We remain very cautious about the outlook for the consumption of pork in the United States given that this tends to be more of a psychological issue at first (people may react in shock to the headline and not eat pork)," said Akshay Jagdale of KeyBanc Capital Markets.

Deutsche Bank analyst Christina McGlone said areas such as Tyson's prepared foods business and Hormel's pork-based grocery and refrigerated items will likely see lower consumption. Smithfield will likely be among the hardest hit by the outbreak, said McGlone, "owing to its vertical integration as hog prices will fall."
JBS SA, parent company of JBS Swift, which is one of the largest U.S. pork and beef producers, had its largest drop in six months on the Brazilian stock market based on fears of decreased pork consumption. The company remained optimistic, however. “An eventual consumption decline of pork products would represent an equivalent increase in demand for beef,” Sao Paulo-based JBS said in a regulatory filing. “JBS is basically a beef company.”
Grains suffered in trade as well on fears that the demand for pork and livestock feed may drop. Soybeans for July delivery dropped 5.7 percent to $9.75 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. That makes the biggest loss since February. Corn for July delivery dropped 4.1 percent to $3.70 a bushel. (Sources: Associated Press, Market Watch, Bloomberg)

Poultry feed recalled

Land O’Lakes Purina Feed LLC is voluntarily recalling a single lot of Country Acre poultry feed because of a higher-than-acceptable level of salt, which is a health hazard for poultry. The feed was manufactured in a St. Joseph, Mo., feed plant and was distributed in 50-pound bags to dealers in northeastern Oklahoma, eastern and central Kansas, western Arkansas and western Missouri. The lot being recalled is identified on the bag as 9MAR19STJ3.

Source: UPI

TGI Friday's expands menu

T.G.I. Friday's restaurants announced the launch of nine new sandwiches and salads at nearly 600 restaurants in the U.S. Friday's also announced that all sandwiches and salads, sixteen items in total including the nine new menu items, all full portions, will be offered at an introductory price of $5 beginning today through May 31, 2009.

The new sandwiches and salads include:
* BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad: crispy Romaine and iceberg lettuce tossed in ranch dressing with diced tomato and cucumbers, corn, black beans, shredded cheddar cheese, jicama and diced chicken breast, topped off with Jack Championship BBQ sauce and Cajun onion straws.
* Santa Fe Chopped Salad: Salad greens with tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, corn, black beans and tortilla strips tossed in a Chipotle Ranch dressing, topped with diced chicken, black olives, avocado, cheese and more tortilla strips.
* Shanghai Salad: crispy chopped Romaine lettuce with red peppers, celery, green onions, cilantro and peanuts tossed together with Asian Ginger dressing, then topped with crispy noodles and pork Pot Stickers.
* Mediterranean Salad with Chicken: chopped Romaine lettuce, green and red peppers, red onions tossed in house dressing, topped with sliced grilled chicken, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, pepperoncinis and finished with Feta cheese.
* Strawberry Fields Salad: mixed greens, Parmesan cheese, and glazed pecans tossed in Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing topped with fresh balsamic marinated strawberries and shaved Parmesan cheese.
* Meatball Sandwich: a fresh Ciabatta roll stuffed with four large meatballs, zesty marinara and topped with mixed cheese.
* Thai Chicken Wrap: grilled chicken, shredded lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peanuts, and cilantro with pickled carrots and onions topped with honey lime dressing and peanut sauce.
* BBQ Chicken Wrap: BBQ Grilled chicken, Cajun onion straws, lettuce, tomato, pickles, Ranch dressing and Jack Daniel's mayo, served with a side of BBQ sauce.
* Jack Daniel's Chicken Sandwich: Grilled chicken basted in Jack Daniel's glaze and topped with bacon, mixed cheese, frizzled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and Jack Daniel's mayonnaise on a bun.

Source: TGI Friday's Inc.