Canada has taken action against the United States at the World Trade organization over the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law that Canadian producers say has hurt their hog and cattle sales. The country has requested a further round of consultations, which is the next step toward requesting a WTO dispute settlement panel after 60 days.

Canada had requested WTO consultations last year over the initial COOL rule, but it relented when the U.S. government adjusted the rule to make it more flexible. The country renewed its complaint after USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced voluntary additions to the COOL rule that he would make mandatory if the meat-processing industry didn’t comply.

"Recent instructions from the U.S. secretary of agriculture encouraging U.S. industry to use very strict labeling practices have removed the flexibility previously envisioned in the legislation and will affect the ability of our cattle and hog exporters to compete fairly in the U.S. market," Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day said.

The concerns about the COOL law, Reuters reports, is that meat processors may need to segregate animals according to country of origin, which may increase their costs and lead them to not buy Canadian animals or try to buy them at discounted prices.

Source: Reuters

Chicken sales up in recession

The amount of chicken sold in larger grocery stores increased about four percent in the year ending in February compared with the previous 12 months, Todd Hale, senior vice president for consumer and shopper insights of the Nielsen Company, told writers at a seminar sponsored by the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. Turkey saw a three percent volume growth, as did pork, while sales of beef were flat and seafood declined about six percent, he said.

“There’s been pretty good growth on a volume basis for the poultry industry,” Hale said, in breaking down grocery store sales data monitored by Nielsen. Chicken breasts were the leading item with a five percent growth rate, Hale said, adding that nearly all chicken parts saw sales growth during the past year.

Meanwhile, restaurant sales have dropped 10 percent to 15 percent in response to the recession, said Monty Henderson, president and chief operating officer of George’s Inc., a chicken company, speaking on a panel of top industry executives. “People are saving money by dining out less,” he said.

Product innovation is important in foodservice, added Bernard Leonard, group vice president/food service of Tyson Foods, as restaurant concepts try to weather the downturn. “In foodservice, particularly in casual dining, same-store sales are down, and one of the responses we have seen is in innovation,” Leonard said. He said restaurant concepts are launching new appetizers, entrees and other items, sometimes on a value basis, to “pull that traffic in.  Innovation is helping them to sustain their business.”

Meanwhile, products labeled “organic’’ throughout the grocery store have been hit hard by the recession, Hale said, with monthly sales growth dropping from 24 percent in March 2008 to only one percent in March 2009. The number of products making the “organic” label claim has also dropped, he said.

Source: National Chicken Council

Hormel releases corporate responsibility report

Hormel Foods Corp. announced the launch of its 2008 corporate responsibility report. The report is available at

“Hormel Foods is committed to the principles of integrity and quality established by our founder 117 years ago,” said Jeffrey Ettinger, chairman, president and CEO. “In our corporate responsibility report, we have highlighted our successes, but also identified new issues we should address, and most importantly, opportunities to move us forward through growth and innovation.”

The report is based on the company’s vision platform, Our Way, and its five areas — people, process (environment and animal welfare), products, performance and philanthropy. The report’s highlights include:

People: The company convened a cross-functional diversity and inclusion council to assist in meeting the growing needs of its diverse workforce and to ensure inclusion. In addition, the company’s injury incident rates are consistently equal to or below the Bureau of Labor Statistics industrial average for NAICS 3116 Animal Slaughtering and Processing.

Process: Hormel Foods established environmental data benchmarks for all 41 U.S. manufacturing locations in November 2007 and continues to implement the highest animal welfare practices in the industry. In 2008, Hormel Foods exceeded its water use reduction target and completed 44 packaging reduction projects. Regarding animal welfare, the company opened a state-of-the-art hog holding facility at its plant in Austin, Minn., in 2008. It also endorsed the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus and Transport Quality Assurance programs by requiring individuals working with hogs to have one or both certifications.

Products: The company has a variety of products that meet consumers’ needs for low-sodium and all-natural, and has removed more than 560,000 pounds of salt from the existing product line in 2007 and removed an additional 436,738 pounds of salt from existing products in 2008. In addition, the company opened the 5,000-square-foot Idea and Innovation Center in the Baoshan District of Shanghai, China, in February 2008, which will facilitate the entire creative process, from ideation to testing and manufacturing, with a focus on developing products for Asian consumers.

Performance: Hormel Foods established a lead director position on its Board of Directors in 2008 to help facilitate the Board of Directors’ oversight of the company.

Philanthropy: Hormel Foods donated $6.5 million to local charities, hunger organizations and other non-profit organizations in 2007 and 2008. The company also donated more than 1 million pounds of protein products to food banks in fiscal years 2007 and 2008.

Source: Hormel Foods

Pilgrim's Pride, Foster Farms make Farmerville deal official

Pilgrim's Pride Corp. announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to sell its chicken complex in Farmerville, La., to Foster Farms for $80 million, subject to a price adjustment for associated inventory and other reimbursements. The deal is subject to Foster Farms receiving $40 million from the state of Louisiana, and that bill is rapidly moving through the Louisiana State Legislature.

The Farmerville complex includes a processing facility, a cook plant, two hatcheries, a feed mill, a protein conversion plant and any associated inventory.

"We thank Foster Farms, Governor Bobby Jindal and the State of Louisiana for their commitment to this sale," said Don Jackson, president and CEO. "We believe it is in the best interest of all parties involved, including our employees, growers, the Farmerville community and our creditors." Pilgrim’s had previously announced intentions to close the plant effective today, which led to Louisiana state officials to help facilitate a sale to a buyer who would keep the plant operating. The deal is expected to close within 30 days.

Source: Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.

Supervalu names former WalMart exec new CEO

Supervalu Inc. announced that its board of directors has appointed Craig Herkert, 49, of Wal Mart, to the position of chief executive officer. He had been serving as president and chief executive officer of the Americas for Wal Mart since 2004. Jeff Noddle, 62, who has served as CEO since 2001 and chairman of the board since 2002, will continue to serve as the company’s executive chairman and will work with Herkert over the upcoming months to ensure a smooth transition of senior management. Herkert’s official start date has not yet been determined.

“As we approach the end of year three of our company’s transformation and as I begin planning for retirement, the time is right to lay the groundwork for continuity of leadership through the next phase of our journey,” said Noddle. “Craig Herkert is a talented executive with extensive experience in food retailing and supply chain management. As an integral part of Wal-Mart’s senior leadership team, he has demonstrated an ability to create shareholder value and achieve business results.”

Source: Supervalu Inc.

Cow breaks out of slaughterhouse, tours New York

A black heifer broke out of Musa Hala Inc., a New York City slaughterhouse that butchers animals according to religious restrictions, AP reports. The animal wandered around Queens for about an hour before being captured by police. The cow was taken to an Animal Care and Control center, where it was nicknamed Molly. Officials at the center are looking into whether Molly can be placed at a farm sanctuary or must be returned to the slaughter facility. It depends on if anyone claims the animal.

Source: Associated Press