Pilgrim's Pride has agreed to sell 64 percent of stock in the reorganized company to JBS for $800 million, implying a total company value of $1.25 billion. The company's existing shareholders will receive shares totaling 36 percent of the company, worth $450 million, according to AP reports.

The reorganization plan must be confirmed by a bankruptcy judge, the New York Times reports. Proceeds from the sale of the new common stock of the reorganized Pilgrim's Pride to JBS will be used to fund cash distributions to allowed claims under the plan. Under the terms of the plan, all creditors of the Debtors holding allowed claims will be paid in full, either in cash or by issuance of a new note.

"Over the past 10 months, we have fundamentally restructured Pilgrim's Pride as a market-driven company clearly focused on delivering the best service, selection and value to our customers as efficiently as possible," said Don Jackson, president and chief executive officer. "Thanks to the shared commitment and hard work of our employees, we believe that Pilgrim's Pride is positioned to emerge from bankruptcy as a stronger, more efficient competitor. We have returned to profitability, the quality of our asset base has improved significantly and we are gaining additional business. While we recognize that some of the changes made during our restructuring have been painful for our employees and contract growers, these decisions were absolutely necessary in helping Pilgrim's Pride to operate more efficiently while protecting the greatest number of jobs in the long-term. As a result of the improvements achieved this year, we believe we have been able to maximize the value of our company through our plan of reorganization that achieves what precious few restructurings can: full repayment of allowed creditor claims and substantial retained value for existing stockholders."

"Looking ahead, we are truly excited about the strategic growth opportunities available with JBS as our majority shareholder," Jackson added. "JBS has a well-earned global reputation for operational and service excellence in beef and pork production. We are confident that our plan will earn the support of all stakeholders and provide the foundation for sustained, profitable growth in the years ahead."

"We believe our reorganization plan will pave the way for Pilgrim's Pride to emerge from bankruptcy before the end of the year and mark a new beginning for this proud company, one that I fully support and endorse," said Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim, senior chairman. "While the past year has been a difficult time for everyone involved in our restructuring, I take pride in knowing that we have a plan in place to pay back our creditors in full and preserve a great deal of value for our existing stockholders."

"Two years ago, JBS acquired Swift & Company, a U.S. beef and pork company, with a goal of managing its strong assets and turning it into a well-managed, efficient and profitable company. We believe the company's performance demonstrates our continued success in meeting this goal," said Wesley M. Batista, president and CEO of JBS USA Holdings. "In 2008, we acquired Smithfield Beef and Five Rivers Cattle Feeding to strengthen our beef platform and provide synergies to our existing operations. As a U.S. beef and pork company, we are proud to now enter into the U.S. poultry industry with the acquisition of Pilgrim's Pride. We look forward to working with Pilgrim's management to increase the company's competitiveness both domestically and internationally. As we have accomplished with our beef and pork platforms, we will utilize our existing assets and strong management to grow Pilgrim's poultry business. We are excited about the opportunity to work with Pilgrim's employees, contract growers, customers, vendors and shareholders to enhance value."

Source: Associated Press, Pilgrim's Pride

FSIS proposes interstate commerce shipping regulations for small plant operations

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will publish proposed regulations to implement a new voluntary cooperative program under which select State-inspected establishments will be eligible to ship meat and poultry products in interstate commerce. The new program was created in the 2008 Farm Bill to supplement the existing Federal-State cooperative inspection program to allow State-inspected plants with 25 or fewer employees to ship products across State lines. This announcement is part of the USDA's new 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative, which seeks to better connect consumers with local producers to help develop local and regional food systems to spur economic opportunity.

"This new cooperative interstate shipment program will provide new economic opportunities for many small and very small meat and poultry establishments, whose markets are currently limited," said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Jerold Mande. "We can provide new markets for these establishments, while maintaining the integrity of the Federal mark of inspection."

Currently, 27 states operate State meat or poultry inspection programs, and FSIS verifies that the State programs are implementing requirements that are "at least equal to" those imposed under the Federal meat and poultry products inspection acts. For these programs, FSIS provides up to 50 percent of the State's operating funds and provides oversight and enforcement of the program.

Under the proposed rule, which went on display at the Office of the Federal Register Monday and will be published this Wednesday, selected establishments will receive inspection services from federally trained and/or supervised State inspection personnel who will verify that the establishments meet all Federal food safety requirements. Meat and poultry products produced under the voluntary cooperative program will bear an official USDA mark of inspection, thereby enabling interstate shipment of the products.
State-inspected establishments that are not selected for the voluntary cooperative program, including state-inspected establishments with more than 25 employees, are only eligible to sell and ship their products within their State.

Comments must be received on or before Monday, November 16, 2009, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, by mail to: FSIS Docket Room, USDA, FSIS, OPPD, Docket Clearance Unit, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Stop 5272, Beltsville, MD 20705. All comments must identify FSIS and the docket number FSIS-2008-0039. Comments will be available for viewing online at www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/2009_Interim_&_Final_Rules_Index/index.asp.

For further information contact Philip Derfler, Assistant Administrator, Office of Policy and Program Development, at (202) 720-2709, or by fax at (202) 720-2025.

Source: FSIS

Jack Daniels launches fully cooked meat line

Jack Daniel's Properties Inc., the brand licensing unit of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, has partnered with Completely Fresh Foods Inc. to nationally launch a line of Jack Daniel's ready to eat meat entrees available in refrigerated sections of grocery and club stores.

The Jack Daniel's heat-and-serve offerings include baby back ribs, roasted beef brisket, pork loin, barbecue pulled pork, barbecue pulled chicken and other "center-of-the-plate" home meal products. All varieties are made with Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey. The national launch comes at a time when grocers are experiencing increasing popularity and consumer demand for higher quality fully prepared ready-to-serve entrees for use as home meal replacements. The retail market for refrigerated foods in U.S. grocery stores is projected to reach $55 billion in 2009 (source: Datamonitor).

"With the launch of this premium line of Jack Daniel's ready-to-eat meat entrees we are furthering the long established connection between Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey and high-quality American cuisine,'' said David Dorsey, vice president and director for licensing at Brown Forman Corporation. "The unique mellow taste of Jack Daniel's has long been recognized for adding a delicious touch to marinades and sauces, and we have enjoyed great success with Jack Daniel's brand grilling sauces, mustard and other products. Now consumers may go to their supermarket or club store and purchase the finest ribs, barbecue meats and chicken prepared with Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey and ready to heat and serve at home," said Dorsey.

"Our endeavor at Completely Fresh Foods is to provide world class products and we are using special cooking and preparation methods to create authentic Jack Daniel's products including slow cooking for up to nine hours, proprietary Jack Daniel's flavored spice rubs that are hand-applied and oven glazing, an extra step that builds in flavor," said Josh Solovy, president of Completely Fresh Foods.

Jack Daniel's ready-to-eat meats were introduced into test market in September, 2008 in Southern California and have been expanded in distribution across the United States into leading grocery banners including select Albertsons stores as well as Kroger, Supervalu, Ahold and select Costco locations. "The Jack Daniel's meat products have established a strong foothold in the U.S. grocery sector and are one of the fastest-growing new meat product introductions in the last 10 years," stated Solovy.

Source: Jack Daniel's Properties Inc.

Monogram to acquire Wild Bill's Foods

Monogram Food Solutions LLC, the Memphis-based manufacturer of value-added processed meats, today announced its intent to acquire Wild Bill's Foods Inc. of Lancaster, PA. The purchase is scheduled to be completed on October 23, 2009. According to agreements, Monogram will acquire the rights to the Wild Bill's brand name, all equipment and inventory, and the business of Wild Bill's.

Upon completion of the acquisition, Monogram will transfer production of the Wild Bill's branded products, including jerky and beef sticks, to its recently acquired production facility in Martinsville, VA. Production is expected to be up and running in Martinsville before Thanksgiving.

Wild Bill's is the number-seven ranked beefy jerky brand in terms of total United States convenience store sales although it is currently available in only 6 percent of the nation's convenience store outlets. The brand also is growing at twice the rate of the product category as a whole, 6 percent versus 2.9 percent, on a total revenue basis.

"The Wild Bill's brand will dramatically strengthen our position in the category and will be a strong addition to our branded product offerings from Monogram Meat Snacks," said Karl Schledwitz, chairman and CEO of Monogram.

"Wild Bill's has a very unique production process and flavor profile which makes it a super premium product. These unique and innovative characteristics generate a very loyal consumer following, and we look forward to integrating it into Monogram’s production systems," said Wes Jackson, president of Monogram Food Solutions. "We are committed to the continued growth of this very strong regional brand and to providing our consumers with top-quality regional and nationally distributed meat products as a part of the company's national growth platform."

This acquisition follows two purchases earlier this year. The purchase in May of Al Pete’s Meats' business, the Pete's Pride brand name, and its production facility in Muncie, Ind., and the purchase in August of the Bull's, Hannah's, O'Brien's and Dakota brand names and a production facility in Martinsville, Va., from American Foods Group LLC.

Source: Monogram Food Solutions Inc.

Study shows consumers favor premium burgers

Consumers are relying on restaurants to provide value in hamburgers through “premiumization.” According to a new report from foodservice industry consultant Technomic, consumers are willing to pay more for a specialty burger, especially a premium burger, than they are for a standard burger, regardless of restaurant segment.

“American consumers take their burgers seriously. It may be one area of foodservice where they are less willing to cut back, despite the current economic environment,” says Darren Tristano, EVP at Technomic. “They expect to pay more for a higher quality, better burger, and are willing to do so because the value proposition is heightened.”

Hamburger trends, consumer purchase behavior and menu insights are detailed in Technomic’s new Burger Consumer Trend Report. Select findings include:
* Consumers overwhelmingly (75 percent) ranked quality of meat as the first or second most important attribute in choosing a burger.
* One out of three consumers (35 percent) say they will pay more for a burger they consider to be premium, down from 45 percent in 2007.
* When asked what makes a burger premium, 72 percent of consumers said a high-quality type of meat (Angus, Wagyu) and 71 percent responded high-quality cut of meat (sirloin).
* Compared to 2007, preference for premium types and cuts of burger is growing. Today, 27 percent of restaurant customers prefer to purchase burgers made with Angus beef, compared to 20 percent in 2007. Additionally, 19 percent of consumers reported they would prefer to purchase sirloin burgers, up from 13 percent in 2007.
* Nearly half of consumers (47 percent) said they think restaurants should offer a variety of burger sizes, ranging from mini-burgers to half-pound burgers.

Based on more than 2,250 online surveys with U.S. and Canadian consumers, the Burger Consumer Trend Report was developed to give restaurant operators and foodservice suppliers vital market and consumer insights to drive business-building efforts in the burger category. Analysis of the latest menu trends was based on Technomic’s MenuMonitor database and primary and secondary industry data. The report also includes analysis of current and upcoming burger trends, competitive insights into over 40 chains, segmentation data and demographics for specific burger chains.

Source: Technomic Inc.

New group promotes conservation through ranching

A group of respected ranching and conservation organizations have come together to form a unique broad based coalition to enhance ranching practices that consider important conservation issues throughout the West. The Coalition for Conservation through Ranching is a new multi-stakeholder partnership between national conservation-minded groups that share an interest in promoting open space for ranching and healthy landscapes. The recently signed agreement marks the beginning of the unique relationship. Steering committee members of the coalition include the Public Lands Council (PLC), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Family Farm Alliance (FFA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Other organizations that have joined the coalition at this time are the American Farmland Trust, the American Forage and Grassland Council, the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Society for Rangeland Management, the Wild Sheep Foundation, and the Wilderness Society. The Bureau of Land Management serves as an advisor to the group.

“Cherished iconic western landscapes depend upon productive partnerships between ranchers and conservationists. The Coalition for Conservation through Ranching will promote solutions that will keep western landscapes healthy and in the process benefit working ranches, wildlife and other natural resources,” says Dan Grossman, Rocky Mountain Regional Director, EDF.

“Intact working ranches that are managed with wildlife in mind can help support habitat for grassland birds, mammals, and fish, all of which face uncertain prospects without the large spaces they need to survive. By working together we can encourage ranching practices that ensure the preservation of wildlife, and develop incentives that help ranchers to do so,” says Martha Kauffman, managing director, WWF Northern Great Plains Program.

The coalition formed by six leading ranching and conservation organizations will support ranching on public and private lands in the West that is conducted in an ecologically sustainable way. “Maintaining a sustainable business environment and keeping ranchers on public lands allows our Western landscapes to remain open for wildlife habitat and recreational use and also provides for conservation efforts that might not otherwise occur,” says Skye Krebs, President of PLC and rancher from Ione, Ore. “Together, the members of this coalition share a common interest in supporting working ranches and healthy landscapes.”

“As cattlemen, we rely on healthy land to produce healthy livestock. And one of the biggest gauges we can use to judge the health of our land is the co-existence of wildlife alongside of our livestock,” said Gary Voogt, NCBA president and rancher from Marne, Mich. “America’s farmers and ranchers are always looking for ways to increase efficiencies and build upon existing stewardship practices to keep our land and animals healthy and continue providing safe, high-quality food for America’s families. By bringing together leaders from industry and the environmental community, we can help further these goals in a way that benefits our nation’s land, animals and citizens.”

This collaborative conservation effort will provide for a more efficient use of resources, increased outreach opportunities, and a holistic approach to problem solving. It will also help to increase the understanding of complex issues between ranching and conservation and provide a forum to discuss the interaction between natural resource management and ranching.

“Conservation districts—located in nearly every county across the nation—address natural resource issues on a local level,” says NACD President Steve Robinson. “NACD is eager to collaborate with private landowners, government officials and members of this newly-formed Coalition to ensure that the health of our public and private lands is maintained and improved.”

The coalition will work on common ground issues which may include a pro-grasslands agenda, including grassland research projects, specific species conservation projects, and climate change including raising the awareness of the important role of grasslands on carbon sequestration, as well as other issues of common interest.

Source: National Cattleman's Beef Association