Cargill Pork announced today the new 100 percent vegetarian diet for hogs that supply its Good Nature pork line of products. The vegetarian diet is Cargill’s most recent addition to its strict all-natural standards for Good Nature pork. The product is already guaranteed to be antibiotic-free, and hogs selected from the program never receive antibiotics or growth stimulants.

“Good Nature pork is targeted at a growing consumer audience that is very conscious of how and where their food is raised,” said Joe Linot, pork marketing manager, Cargill Pork. “By using a 100 percent vegetarian diet for hogs in our program, Cargill can provide options for consumers who want to make healthy, environmentally responsible choices when they select Good Nature pork for their families.”

A vegetarian diet means hogs receive a mixture of natural grain – a diet completely free of any animal by-products. These responsible feeding practices create a pork product rich in taste without the use of artificial means.

“If you start with natural, healthy ingredients, you’re going to have a natural, healthy pork product and a great eating experience,” said Linot. “By saying ‘no’ to antibiotics, growth stimulants and animal by-products in our feed, we’re helping consumers say ‘yes’ to great-tasting meals.”

Source: Cargill Inc.

Townsends to expand Crestwood Farms further processing facility

Townsends Inc. announced plans to expand its Crestwood Farms further processing facility in response to the growing demand for its value added chicken products. The current project will add an additional fully cooked production line in its Mocksville, N.C. facility, and follows the company’s significant investment in a high speed fully cook line which was placed in service in December of 2008.

The expansion plans to add over 100 new jobs to the local community driven by the investment. “Food production and economic growth go hand in hand in North Carolina, a tradition underscored by Townsends’ expansion in Mocksville,” North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue said. The project will be funded in part by a grant from the One North Carolina Fund.

Townsends, a 118-year-old poultry company headquartered in Delaware, supplies value-added chicken products to the domestic and international food service and retail markets. Townsends differentiates itself from other fully integrated poultry processors through its sales and marketing focus on customer service and quality products. Consequently, the company has been able to grow its operations despite the overall challenging economic environment by targeting growing niche markets, as well as appealing to consumers’ evolving demands for convenience, fresh and healthy alternatives and bold flavor profiles. Tom Weisser, Townsends CEO, states “Our advantage is that we have the flexibility to adapt to the changing market and invest in projects like these that allow us to better serve our customers as they grow.”

Source: Townsends Inc.

Oklahoma poultry trial starts with a complaint about opening arguments

The trial that pits the state of Oklahoma against 12 poultry processors started late last week, and there is already a complaint lodged over a violation of court rules. The state is asking the judge to reprimand the companies over the opening statements from last week, in which the defense alleged that Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson was suing the companies to benefit his own interests, not the state.

According to the AP, the complaint also says the companies violated a pretrial order forbidding them from mentioning the result of a 2008 preliminary hearing, which found that the state lacked evidence to immediately stop the companies from spreading poultry litter in the Illinois River watershed while the case went to trial.

The complaint states that while "parties are traditionally granted wide latitude in what may be said in opening statement, that latitude does not extend, however, to violating court rulings, misstating a court ruling and misrepresenting what the state has said in its opening statement."

Tyson spokesman Gary Mikelson responded in a statement that the complaint "was filed in an effort to distract the court from the truth about this case. This case is really about a political tug-of-war with an attorney general at odds with state legislators and regulators over the regulation of poultry litter as a fertilizer.”

Source: Associated Press

Darden Restaurants report quarterly sales of $1.73 billion

Darden Restaurants Inc. reported sales and diluted net earnings per share for the fiscal first quarter ended August 30, 2009. In the first quarter, diluted net earnings per share from continuing operations increased 16% to 67 cents, versus 58 cents in the prior year.

First quarter sales from continuing operations were $1.73 billion, compared to $1.77 billion in the prior year, a 2.3% decrease. Blended same-restaurant sales for Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse were down 5.3% this quarter, which compares to an estimated decline of 7.8% for the Knapp-Track benchmark of U.S. same-restaurant sales, excluding Darden.

"We are pleased to report solid earnings growth for the quarter in such a difficult macro-economic environment," said Clarence Otis, chairman and CEO of Darden. "Despite the challenges, our brands once again posted meaningfully stronger sales results than our industry as measured by the Knapp-Track benchmark."

"Our competitively strong sales are the result of outstanding marketing and restaurant operations teams across the company," continued Otis. "We also have very talented restaurant support teams whose collective expertise reflects scale and resources that are unmatched in the full-service restaurant industry. While we benefited this quarter from favorable food and energy costs, our earnings growth in the face of a challenging sales environment is also a tribute to the increasingly efficient restaurant support platform these leaders have created. As a result of our marketing, restaurant operations and restaurant support strengths, we look forward to emerging from the current challenging environment as a company that's even better positioned competitively."

Source: Darden Restaurants Inc.