Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that the country would find alternative poultry import sources if the United States did not observe new safety rules.

"If some foreign suppliers do not want, or are unable to observe our safety demands, then we will have to use other sources (of supply)," Putin said, according to the New York Times. "One should not look for any political issues behind this," he told a meeting on prospects of Russian poultry breeding held in a village in northwestern Russia.

Russia banned all poultry products that were treated with chlorine, which is a common practice in the United States. The U.S. shipped $800 million worth of poultry products to the country in 2008. Meetings between the two countries are due to start soon.

Putin said that Washington was warned of the new rules well in advance of the Jan. 1 ban. He added that domestic chicken farmers should increase their output in order to replace the imports.

"Production in the next 4-5 years should not only cover domestic needs, but it should also occupy a significant place on the world market as is the case with grain," Putin said referring to large Russian grains exports.

Source: New York Times

Townsend Specialty Foods opens Innovation Center

Townsend Specialty Foods, the Atlanta foodservice business unit of Delaware-based Townsends, Inc., announced the opening of its Innovation Center north of Atlanta. The new facility provides Townsend Specialty Foods the flexibility to create distinctive products and adapt quickly to consumer trends while working hand-in-hand with key foodservice customers to achieve their specific poultry product objectives.

"We are bringing innovation to the table," said Townsend CEO Tom Weisser. "In today's fast-changing market, savvy new product development is more important than ever. The emphasis of our new Innovation Center is on customer-driven product development and solutions that will help Townsend's foodservice customers stay ahead of the trends."

The Innovation Center will draw from expertise both inside and outside the company, combining the knowledge of the research and development team, technical sales and consulting chefs with collaborative input from suppliers and customers. The objective of this team is to offer a blend of personal attention, culinary insight, practical processing experience and relevant menu solutions to top national and chain foodservice operators in the marketplace.

The location of the Innovation Center further enables Townsend to cultivate key alliances with long-term ingredient suppliers, who will provide benefits such as pilot plant partnerships, sensory evaluation testing and on-the-spot ingredient adjustments that will greatly enhance Townsend's success in satisfying the foodservice industry's speed-to-market demands.

Townsend will continue to carry out existing research and development functions at its processing facilities in North Carolina and Arkansas, such as addressing processing efficiencies, adjusting product formulations and maintaining product quality.

Source: Townsends Inc.

Proposed Tyson settlement over antibiotic-free claims to be reviewed

A proposed settlement in a lawsuit over Tyson's claims of antibiotic-free chicken would include giving consumers a total of $5 million in cash as well as coupons. A federal judge in Baltimore will review the proposal for the class-action lawsuit settlement for fairness. If approved, thousands of consumers could receive refunds of up to $50 per household.

"While we believe our company acted appropriately, we also believe it makes sense for us to resolve this legal matter and move on," Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an e-mailed statement, reports the Baltimore Sun. The Arkansas company denies any wrongdoing under the deal, outlined in a U.S. District Court filing late Tuesday.

Tyson had previously sold chicken under “raised without antibiotics” claims, though the company did inject its eggs with antibiotic ionophores to keep poultry healthy. It also injected eggs with a vaccine that contained a component used in human therapies. After a review, the company changed its claims to “raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans.” The USDA eventually rejected Tyson's argument and ordered the packaging changed. Eight consumer lawsuits were eventually filed in five states by 22 plaintiffs and were eventually consolidated in Baltimore.

Source: Baltimore Sun

Pork rinds to get left at Mexican border

U.S. Customs officials say people entering the U.S. from Mexico will have to leave behind a favorite snack starting Thursday — pork rinds, or chicharrones as they're called south of the border.

The salty slices of deep-fried pork skin often seasoned with chili powder will be seized by customs inspectors unless carriers produce a certificate issued by the national government where the snacks originated.

The new rules come as the U.S. Department of Agriculture keeps an eye out for produce that could carry threats to U.S. agriculture. A U.S. Customs spokesman said insufficiently cooked pork rinds could carry classical swine fever, also known as hog cholera, an illness that affects pigs.

Previously pork rinds were cleared if they passed a crispness test, crumbling in an inspector's hands when bent. Now only pork rinds from a few states in southern and western Mexico will be cleared on that test.

Sources: Associated Press, Houston Chronicle