Sanderson Farms said it is trying a new rinse in some plants that it hopes would allow its chicken to be exported to Russia. Russia banned all chicken imports earlier this year that violated its food safety rules concerning the use of chlorine in the production process.

The new rinse is expected to cost $20,000 more per plant per month, the company said. Last year, sales to Russia accounted for $45 million, or 2.5 percent, of its overall sales.

"We are hopeful that an agreement will be reached that allows the United States poultry industry to ship product into Russia once again," Sanderson CEO Joe Sanderson said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Reuters reports.

Sanderson added that it will also appeal China’s 64.5 percent anti-dumping tariff on its products, though he believes that the tariffs are part of a larger trade dispute between the two countries.

Source: Reuters

Smithfield appoints first chief sustainability officer

Smithfield Foods Inc. announced that it has promoted Dennis H. Treacy to senior vice president of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer as part of the company's long-term focus on corporate social responsibility and sustainability. Treacy joined Smithfield Foods in 2002 and last served as vice president, environmental and corporate affairs.

"Our business has become much more complex as we confront increasing government regulation and rising public and customer awareness of corporate social responsibility practices and sustainability. We understand that our long-term success directly correlates with our ability to effectively address these factors and that these programs must be managed from a senior level within our organization. The appointment of Mr. Treacy to this new role demonstrates our continuing commitment to operate our company in a socially responsible and sustainable way," said C. Larry Pope, president and CEO.

Prior to 2002, Treacy served as director of Virginia's department of environmental quality, held several positions in the private sector and also served as assistant attorney general in the natural resources section of the Virginia attorney general's office.

Source: Smithfield Foods Inc.

Maple Leaf Foods announces year-end results

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. reported its financial results for the fourth quarter and the year ended December 31, 2009. Fourth quarter highlights follow:

  -  Adjusted EPS increased to $0.19 compared to $0.12 last year due to substantial recovery in the prepared meats business
  -  Adjusted Operating Earnings increased to $57.8 million from $35.4 million
  -  Net earnings of $21.9 million compared to a net loss of $14.6 million

"The increased earnings in the fourth quarter reflect significantly better performance in our protein business, offset slightly by a softer quarter in the bakery segment," said Michael H. McCain, President and CEO. "Our prepared meats results improved substantially, although an unexpected, counter seasonal run-up in raw material costs compressed margins in both primary processing and prepared meats late in the quarter. In our bakery operations, lower wheat costs were more than offset by higher promotional activity to launch new products and poor market conditions affecting our U.K. business.

"In 2009, we substantially completed the restructuring of our protein operations and focused our company on higher margin consumer packaged goods. Looking ahead, our priority is to increase earnings and margins to levels consistent with our peers. We have work to do on this goal and it will involve achieving the full potential of our prepared meats business, investing in our plant network to reduce costs, and delivering higher levels of organic growth."

Sales for the fourth quarter decreased 1% to $1,324.9 million compared to $1,339.7 million last year, while sales for the year were consistent at $5.2 billion.

Adjusted Operating Earnings increased to $57.8 million compared to $35.4 million last year, while earnings for the year increased to $196.1 million compared to $128.4 million last year, due to better performance in prepared meats and fresh poultry businesses. This improvement was partly offset by lower pork earnings, higher pension expense, and increased promotional, marketing and other expenses in the bakery operations.

Net earnings increased to $21.9 million or $0.16 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to a net loss of $14.6 million or $0.12 per share last year.

Source: Maple Leaf Foods