Taiwan will agree to open its markets to U.S. bone-in beef after a six-year ban that was put in place following a case of mad cow disease in a U.S. animal. The ban will most likely end in November, Reuters reports.

The deal, signed yesterday, will allow imports of all beef products from cattle 30 months of age or younger. If that meat is found safe, meat imports from older cattle will be accepted later. The agreement is expected to improve overall relations between the two countries. It was estimated that the bone-in beef market will exceed $60 million per year.

"After a strict appraisal and risk analysis proving the safety of U.S. beef, the Department of Health today announces that in addition to the boneless products now allowed, it will open to other beef," the Taiwan government said in a statement. The government added that the imports will first be inspected by the USDA, and that the ban will be reinstated if a disease surfaces.

Source: Reuters

USDA to take time to decide on pork industry bailout

The USDA will take a month or more to decide if it should buy more pork products to help support an industry that has been suffering from the weak economy as well as fallout from H1N1 fears. At a House Agriculture subcommittee meeting, USDA Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse said losses "are expected to moderate from now through 2010 as demand increases and hog supplies decline. The department continues to evaluate pork market conditions and, if justified, (USDA) will initiate additional surplus removal purchases this fiscal year.”

The National Pork Producers Council, which also spoke at the meeting, wants the USDA to purchase at least $50 million of pork products to use in government assistance programs, Reuters reported. NPPC President Don Butler told the subcommittee that pork producers have lost nearly $23 for each hog that went to market since September, 2009, “and things look bleak going forward.”

Rod Brenneman, chairman and president of Seaboard Foods as well as current American Meat Institute president, testified about the challenges that face the pork sector, including the rising feed costs. “While there are various reasons for the increase in feed prices, certainly one of them has been the determined government policies to promote the use of corn for ethanol. This effort, while seeking a desirable goal which is to lower the U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, has had an unfortunate, unintended consequence to the U.S. meat industry and ultimately to consumers,” he said.

Sources: Reuters, AMI

Pilgrim's Pride to seek stockholder acceptance of reorganization plan

Pilgrim's Pride Corp. announced that it has received approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas to begin soliciting stockholder acceptance of the amended joint plan of reorganization of the company and six of its subsidiaries that are debtors and debtors in possession in the chapter 11 cases pending before the court. The company's creditors will not be voting on the plan of reorganization as they are not considered to be an impaired class and all will be fully repaid upon the company's emergence from bankruptcy.

All stockholders of record on October 22, 2009, are entitled to vote to accept the plan of reorganization. Copies of the plan of reorganization and the amended disclosure statement will be mailed shortly. The deadline for ballots to be received by the voting agent is December 1, 2009. A court hearing to confirm the plan of reorganization is scheduled to be held December 8, 2009.

Pilgrim's Pride said that it anticipates the plan of reorganization to be confirmed by the Bankruptcy Court in time for the Debtors to emerge from bankruptcy before the end of December.
Last month, the Debtors filed a joint plan of reorganization and related disclosure statement with the court. Under terms of the joint plan of reorganization, Pilgrim's Pride has entered into an agreement to sell 64% of the new common stock of the reorganized Pilgrim's Pride to JBS U.S.A. for $800 million in cash.

Source: Pilgrim's Pride Corp.

Martha Stewart to team with Hain Pure Protein

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. announced that it has partnered with The Hain Celestial Group Inc. and its affiliate Hain Pure Protein Corp. to introduce a new Martha Stewart-branded food line at retail, including poultry from Plainville Farms, baking mixes from Arrowhead Mills and dried pastas from DeBoles using all-natural ingredients. The product lines are expected to be distributed in supermarkets, mass-market retailers and warehouse clubs across the country. Hain Pure Protein is a joint venture between Hain Celestial and Pegasus Capital Advisors, L.P.

The new Martha Stewart-branded products will launch with limited distribution of fresh and frozen vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free turkeys from Hain Pure Protein's Plainville Farms in time for Thanksgiving 2009, including online availability via http://www.marthastewart.com/turkey. The launch of the turkey products will be followed by natural baking mixes and dried pastas in Spring 2010, expanding the gourmet quality of the natural baking mixes and dried pastas using recipes from Martha Stewart. The new offerings extend MSLO's relationship with Hain Celestial, which is producing Martha Stewart Clean, a branded line of all-natural cleaning solutions that is expected to launch next month.

Martha Stewart, Founder of MSLO, stated: "As an avid cook with an appreciation for good food made with wholesome ingredients, I'm delighted to be offering consumers antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed turkeys that are moist, tender, and absolutely delicious. I'm also pleased to be developing natural, healthy baking mixes and pastas from Arrowhead Mills and DeBoles, two well-respected food brands."

"We're thrilled to be expanding our offerings with MSLO. The name Martha Stewart is synonymous with good food, and Hain Celestial is known for helping consumers to lead A Healthy Way of Life(TM). Working with MSLO is an ideal partnership for Hain Celestial and Hain Pure Protein and for consumers who will benefit from the offerings," said Irwin D. Simon, president and CEO of Hain Celestial.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

Steak n Shake, Western Sizzlin Corp. to merge

The Steak n Shake Co. and Western Sizzlin Corp. jointly announced that they had executed an agreement for a wholly owned subsidiary of Steak n Shake to merge with and into Western. Western has also declared a special dividend payable to Western stockholders in the form of 1,322,806 shares of Steak n Shake common stock presently beneficially owned by an investment subsidiary of Western. Together, the dividend and (if and when completed) the merger are estimated to have an aggregate transaction value (in principal amount of Steak n Shake debentures and market value of Steak n Shake stock) to Western's stockholders of approximately $38.8 million, or $13.67 per Western share, based on 2,840,384 shares of Western outstanding as of October 22, 2009 and the closing price of Steak n Shake common stock on October 22, 2009. The market price of Steak n Shake's common stock will fluctuate before the special dividend payable to Western stockholders is distributed.

Steak n Shake is a holding company. Its primary restaurant operation is conducted through Steak n Shake Operations Inc. The Steak n Shake restaurant chain, founded in 1934, is a classic American brand serving premium burgers and milkshakes through its chain of 485 restaurants. Western Sizzlin Corp. is a holding company which owns a number of subsidiaries, with its primary business activities conducted through Western Sizzlin Franchise Corp. and Western Sizzlin Stores Inc, which franchises and operates restaurants.

Source: The Steak N Shake Co.