Newsweekhas released its list of the Top 500 green companies, and several meat processors have been included on the list. Sara Lee Foods was ranked #10 in the food and beverage industry and #156 overall. Newsweek said, “While company has a limited number of sustainably grown agricultural products and gives lip-service to reducing packaging, it has not sufficiently disclosed information about environmental performance targets. It's new Good Origin coffee tracking tool on its website enables consumers to find out where their coffee came from and if it was sustainably grown.”

Other processors that ranked in the report include Kraft Foods (#221), Hormel Foods (#440), Tyson Foods (#479) and ConAgra Foods (#497). McDonald’s Corp. was ranked #22, second only to Starbucks in the media, travel & leisure category.

Source: Newsweek

Sara Lee reports improved environmental performance

Sara Lee Corp. released the company’s annual sustainability report, titled “Sara Lee Now…For the Future,” available, reporting that it has reduced its water usage by more than 21 percent in four years. This was the result of the company’s global focus on water reduction, which included facilities around the world conducting water audits, performing preventative maintenance on boilers and cooling towers and implementing dry clean-up techniques.

In addition, the company reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill by 18 percent over the past four years by focusing on increasing the amount of waste byproducts that are recycled, which lessens their impact on the environment.

“Fiscal 2009 marked another milestone year for Sara Lee’s sustainability efforts,” said Audra Karalius, Sara Lee Corp.’s vice president of sustainability, environment and safety. “Our annual sustainability report highlights our progress in our three key areas – environment, wellness and nutrition and social responsibility. With better reporting processes and goals in place, we look forward to continuous sustainability improvement in the future.”

In April, Sara Lee opened its new North American innovation campus, The Kitchens of Sara Lee, a 120,000-sq-ft research and development center located at the company's headquarters. One of the features of the state-of-the-art facility is a packaging lab, which saves both time and materials and is helping Sara Lee drive its sustainability strategy throughout the packaging function.

Sara Lee Thailand participated in an energy conservation project set up by the Ministry of Energy in Thailand. The facility implemented several energy conservation measures, such as an upgrade of boilers, overhaul of roasters, reviewing and eliminating compressed air leakages and reducing the chiller’s cooling water temperature. These actions led to a 13 percent reduction in energy usage in fiscal 2009.

In terms of social responsibility, Sara Lee donated more than one thousand tons of food to Feeding America, which then distributes to its more than 200 network members throughout the U.S. The company also launched the Returnships @ Sara Lee program. Designed as paid internships for experienced professionals, this unique program provides flexible opportunities for mid-career individuals to re-enter the workforce following an extended leave. Sara Lee began the program with 10 returnship participants spread throughout the organization, in departments such as legal, human resources, business development and packaging design.

Sara Lee addressed health and wellness with its Lower Sodium premium deli meats, which have earned the American Heart Association’s (AHA) heart check mark. In fiscal 2009, the company’s global injury rate also improved for the third straight year.

Source: Sara Lee Corp.

Tyson reaches hog farmer agreement with Iowa

Tyson Foods and the state of Iowa have signed an agreement that allows farmers who raise hogs for the company can form associations, report illegal activities and review and disclose production contracts. The state has signed similar agreements with other processors.

Tyson stated that it would not raise its own hogs in Iowa for another year, reports, and the state's attorney general stated that Iowa would not enforce a corporate farming law provision that prohibits a company from owning swine production and processing facilities, through 2015.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said, "The agreement avoids litigation and allows Tyson to proceed with programs to help maintain a steady supply of hogs for its Iowa operations, while protecting the economic and legal interests of Iowa's independent pork producers. The decree puts Tyson on equal footing with other pork processors who already have similar agreements with the state."


CKE raises $1 million to fight breast cancer

CKE Restaurants Inc. today announced it has reached its goal of raising $1 million for breast cancer programs and awareness through its “Pink Star” fundraising campaign. During the three-week, in-store fundraiser that began in April, guests at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants across the United States donated to the campaign in support of the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).

For each $1 donation, restaurant guests received a commemorative pink Happy Star to personalize and place on a restaurant lobby display. This leave-behind piece combined the icon for both the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurant chains with the color pink to represent hope and awareness for the plight of those fighting breast cancer. Guests also received coupons to use toward future visits. SynqSolutions, Inc. of Atlanta donated the cost of all printed materials related to the Pink Star program.

The official check presentation ceremony was held on Monday at Union Station in St. Louis. The check from this year’s event will represent the single largest one-time gift given to the NBCF. The donation is slated to fund the NBCF’s National Mammography Program. This program currently impacts 43 states across the country by providing free mammograms to underserved women nationwide through medical facilities within the network.

“Despite our country’s economic situation, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s loyal customers gave generously in support of breast cancer awareness and the National Breast Cancer Foundation,” said Andrew F. Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. “It is truly a testament to the generosity of our customers, the dedication of our employees and the commitment of our franchisees. We are very proud of all of our restaurants, both company and franchise, whose enthusiasm over the past five years made it possible to reach for and achieve our $1 million fundraising goal.”

Source: CKE Restaurants Inc.

Popularity, prices for chicken wings continue to rise

America’s taste for chicken wings has driven their wholesale price to unprecedented highs, with wings actually selling for more than boneless, skinless breast, traditionally the highest-priced part of the bird, the National Chicken Council reported.

“Wings are hot, hot, hot,” said Bill Roenigk, senior vice president and chief economist of the trade association representing chicken production and processing companies. “The demand for wings from casual dining restaurants, carryout stores, and retail groceries is extremely strong.  Even export demand is adding to the market strength.” Some wingtips are exported, although very few whole wings are sent out of the country.

As of Monday, Sept. 21, wings were selling for a weighted average price of $1.48 per pound wholesale in northeastern U.S. markets, while boneless and skinless breast was selling for $1.13 per pound, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Poultry Market News Service. The spread of 35 cents per pound in favor of wings is unprecedented, Roenigk said. “Wings have never outsold boneless, skinless breast on a sustained basis,” he said.

Boneless, skinless breast has been the industry’s premier product, in terms of price, since it hit the market in the 1980’s, about the same time the boom in Buffalo wings got underway, Roenigk said. But breast meat has always commanded a higher price – until now.

“Boneless, skinless breast has sold for as much as 90 cents per pound more than wings, although the gap has narrowed in recent years,” Roenigk said. “In 2008, breast meat averaged 23 cents per pound more than wings.”

Roenigk said the runaway popularity of Buffalo wings as appetizer items, or even entrees, at casual dining restaurants is most likely the most important key to today’s unusual price situation. Also contributing is the growing popularity of restaurants that specialize in chicken wings. Texas-based Wingstop has more than 600 locations, he noted, and like several other wing concepts, is expanding while other foodservice chains are pulling back. The sale of chicken wings through pizza shops and delivery chains is also a factor, he said.

Wing prices always go up in the fourth quarter of the year as restaurants stock up for the National Football League’s Super Bowl in early February. In January 2009, rumors circulated of an impending shortage of chicken wings, which proved to be unfounded.

NCC estimates that, in the year 2009, over 13 billion chicken wings (2.8 billion pounds) will be marketed as wings (as opposed to the wings on whole chicken or breast quarters). Of these, 9.5 billion wings (2.0 billion pounds) will be sold through foodservice channels. Another 3.5 billion wings (800 million pounds) will be sold in retail grocery stores.

The vast majority of wings, especially those destined for foodservice, are disjointed, with the third joint (the thin part known as the “flapper”) being exported to Asian countries and the meatier first and second joints (the “drummette” and the two-bone “flat”) being sold domestically. The actual number of wing portions sold is well over 30 billion since so many full wings are cut into portions.

Source: National Chicken Council