Elevance Renewable Sciences has plans to build a $15 million plant in Newton, Iowa, adding on to an existing biodiesel operation. When constructed, the plant would use plant oils and poultry fat to replace petroleum-based chemicals used to make a variety of products, including jet fuel, lubricants, adhesives, cosmetics and candies.

"It allows us to make a very interesting slate of products, which is different and somewhat in contrast to how poultry fat is used today," said K'Lynne Johnson, Elevance CEO. "We are taking a waste stream of products ... and using it in a higher value manner."

The Chicago Tribune reports that the project is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy and could get the final go-ahead by January.

The USDA reports that the U.S. poultry industry produces 1.4 billion pounds of poultry fat every year. That could be turned into 250 million gallons of products that could replace petroleum products. It requires fat from about 50 chickens to make one gallon of fuel.

"In some ways it subsidizes actual food production because it lets poultry farmers get higher value for every chicken that they raise for food," Johnson said.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Meat exports show positive momentum

U.S. beef exports hit their highest monthly volume for the entire year in October, while pork exports achieved their second-best month of 2009, according to the latest statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

While the sluggish global economy and depressed currencies of many major trading partners have kept beef exports down, October showed promising signs of a rebound. Exports totaled 82,627 metric tons (182.2 million pounds) valued at $274.7 million, the largest monthly volume and third-highest monthly value (slightly behind May and June) of the year.

While still below year-ago levels, October’s beef exports show a 12 percent increase in volume and 5 percent in value over the prior month, and exceed the 2009 monthly average by 11 percent in volume and 7.5 percent in value. January-October exports of 743,085 metric tons (1.64 billion pounds) valued at $2.56 billion still lag last year’s pace by 12 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Brazil, the world’s largest beef exporter, has seen its exports slip even more than the U.S. – 15 percent in volume (no value figures are available). The only major exporter to see significant growth this year is Argentina, and that is due to the government’s relaxation of 2008 export restrictions and a sharp increase in cattle slaughter that led to dramatically lower prices.

“This has been a tough year globally for the beef industry due to the rough economic conditions,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “This year USMEF realigned its resources to put a lot of our emphasis on markets and niches within markets that showed potential for near-term growth, such as the convenience store niche in Japan, and that has helped limit the overall decline even though the strong U.S. dollar made our products relatively more expensive.”

Record U.S. beef exports to the Middle East represent one of the most positive drivers in October, totaling 10,608 metric tons (23.4 million pounds) valued at $14.9 million. This region continues to show a growing appetite for U.S. beef muscle cuts as exports through the first 10 months of the year more than doubled in volume compared to 2008. Egypt, which has long been a stellar market for beef variety meat, has imported nearly 30 times its 2008 volume of U.S. beef muscle cuts.

Japan also continues to outpace 2008 totals by a significant margin. October exports were up 24 percent in volume and 26 percent in value over October 2008. January-October exports to Japan totaled 78,823 metric tons (173.8 million pounds), valued at $404.9 million – an increase of 22 percent in both volume and value.

“We are extremely pleased with the growth achieved in Japan, as demand for U.S. beef continues to climb even in difficult economic times,” said Seng. “It’s important to remember that the U.S. industry is limited to exporting beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger, and this age restriction becomes particularly confining in the final months of the year as cattle supply dwindles. There is still tremendous room for growth in Japan if we can gain broader access to the market.”

South Korea, where USMEF has conducted extensive marketing efforts in recent months at both retail and food service, saw imports of U.S. beef reach their highest monthly volume since February - 5,695 metric tons (12.6 million pounds) valued at $20.9 million. While down from October of last year, these results are more than double the September volume and are 90 percent above the September value.

This month, USMEF launched a major U.S. beef imaging campaign in Korea which seeks to further capitalize on growing consumer demand and a strengthening Korean currency.

Other October highlights for U.S. beef included record exports to Greater China plus Vietnam, as well as the highest 2009 monthly volume of exports to both Russia and Taiwan. Demand in Taiwan appears to be holding up extremely well despite continued negative media coverage surrounding expanded market access for U.S. beef.

Even though beef exports to Mexico, the No. 1 destination for U.S. beef, remain down, there are signs of optimism here as well. October muscle cut exports there were just 4 percent below 2008 levels, although variety meat exports were down 39 percent in volume and 55 percent in value. For the year, total beef exports to Mexico trail last year’s pace by 27 percent in volume and 36 percent in value.

Pork exports continued their upward momentum with a strong performance in October. Exports of 164,092 metric tons (361.8 million pounds) represented the second-largest monthly volume this year, while pork muscle cut exports achieved their highest volume of 2009 at 128,392 metric tons (283.1 million pounds).

Year-to-date exports are down 11 percent in volume (to 1.53 million metric tons or 3.37 billion pounds) and 13 percent in value (to $3.57 billion) compared to 2008, the highest ever year for pork exports, but they remain nearly 50 percent higher than the second-best year on record, 2007. This year, exports account for 22.3 percent of total production compared to 24 percent last year, while the value of exports equates to $38.17 per hog slaughtered compared to last year’s $42.31.

“As we’ve seen on the beef side, the downturn in pork exports has been prevalent around the world,” said Seng. “The most recent data shows pork exports from the European Union are down nearly 20 percent and Mexico’s are down 17 percent.”

Among major exporters, only Brazil and Chile are up, and those were driven by sharp drop in the export value of pork from those countries. In addition, Chile is rebounding from dioxin-related market access issues that hampered it in 2008, and it is benefiting from Chile’s free trade agreement with South Korea, which limits duties on Chilean pork to about half of those paid on U.S. pork.

Mexico continues to be a stalwart for U.S. pork exports. For the first 10 months of 2009, exports to Mexico are up 33 percent in volume (409,628 metric tons or 903.1 million pounds) and 10 percent in value ($606.1 million) compared year-ago totals. It is the No. 1 volume market for U.S. pork exports.

Japan remains the No. 1 value market for U.S. pork. While export volume (355,323 metric tons or 783.4 million pounds) is down slightly through October, the value of nearly $1.3 billion still exceeds last year’s pace by about 1 percent. October exports to Japan increased by nearly 20 percent in both volume and value over September and exceeded the 2009 monthly average in terms of both volume and value.

“Japanese consumers have embraced U.S. pork, and we’ve found the food service and retail sectors very receptive to partnering with USMEF on promotional and educational programs,” said Seng. “Even though it is the No. 1 market for the value of U.S. pork exports, we still see considerable room for growth there.”

October exports to the Greater China/Hong Kong region reached their highest level of the year despite a continued ban on direct exports to mainland China. U.S. pork also overcame a variety of market access issues by recording a strong month in Russia. For January through October, however, these markets are still down more than 40 percent compared to 2008.

Pork exports to the ASEAN region achieved their second-highest monthly total of the year in October, with the Philippines accounting for most of the region’s growth. Results were similar in Korea, where pork exports still trail 2008 by about 19 percent, but October exports were the highest since May.

Though down slightly from an all-time record in September, pork exports to Taiwan recorded another solid month and have increased by 38 percent in volume and 27 percent in value for the year versus 2008. Exports to the Oceania region of Australia and New Zealand have increased 18 percent in volume and 11 percent in value.

Source: USMEF

NCBA task force recommends structural changes

Members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) are considering a structure change that would allow the nation’s largest cattle organization to quickly and efficiently address industry challenges without sacrificing grassroots input. The change is being recommended by producers and state organization executives from across the country who participated in NCBA’s Governance Task Force.

The change includes development of a smaller Board of Directors, while retaining strong producer input through a new House of Delegates. The recommendation is being submitted for review and approval of the concept at the 2010 NCBA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Tex., next month.

“We are being attacked on many fronts by rapidly changing issues and well-heeled groups, which are light on facts but heavy on funding, and they are threatening to put cattlemen out of business,” said Jan Lyons, co-chair of the NCBA Governance Task Force, NCBA past president and beef producer from Manhattan, Kan. “We’ve carefully reviewed challenges involved with restructuring, including the legal ramifications, and we believe our recommendation improves our organization and makes it the lean, mean fighting machine we need to face the forces lining up against our industry.”

The Task Force is recommending a 29-member Board of Directors, 26 of whom are elected by a 250-vote House of Delegates and three ex-officio non-voting members. These include the Federation of State Beef Councils Chair and Vice-Chair and the NCBA CEO. The House of Delegates will include 100 votes from NCBA Affiliates, 100 votes from State Beef Councils, and 50 votes from breed associations and other interested groups.

“Grassroots input through the House of Delegates is crucial to the success of the new structure, says NCBA Past President and Task Force Co-Chair John Queen, a beef producer from Waynesville, N.C. “Members of the House of Delegates will vote on policy and demand building programs to be recommended to the Board of Directors, which will be the body with legal and fiduciary responsibility for the association.” According to Queen, committees of beef producers who share common interests (such as cow-calf operators, feeders or those interested in beef demand) will provide grassroots input to the House of Delegates.

Queen says the Governance Task Force conducted a deliberate process in developing the recommendations, starting with listening sessions of producers when the group was established in July, 2008. In the end, it was determined that the current structure, which includes a 274-member Board of Directors, is unwieldy and makes authority and accountability within the organization difficult. The problems and gaps in the current structure were discussed and approved by the Board of Directors last July.

“As a former board member of my State Beef Council in Kansas and also as a former chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, I believe the Federation will have the strongest voice on demand-building programs in the House of Delegates and the Board because they are the experts on these matters at NCBA,” said Lyons. “And as ex officio members to the Board, the Federation chair and vice chair will have a considerable influence with the 29-member Board.” Lyons added that NCBA would continue, at the direction of its Board, to propose beef demand building and protecting programs to the Beef Promotion Operating Committee.

Representatives from all segments of the industry studied, debated and crafted the new structure recommendation, according to Lyons. The 21-member Task Force included both producer members and state organization staff interested in improving their national organization and the entire industry.

“This structure change is a move the Task Force believes NCBA needs to be made,” says Lyons. “The consumer marketplace has never been more challenging. And the policy climate in Washington, D.C. has never been more volatile. We need an organization that can move quickly, precisely and with unity. The future of our industry depends on it.”

The Task Force’s recommendation will be submitted to the NCBA Executive Committee in San Antonio, and be discussed by the full Board of Directors during its Annual Meeting Jan. 30, 2010. If the Board approves the direction, bylaw changes would be developed and voted on at the Summer Conference in Denver next July. Implementation of the new structure would begin upon approval of the bylaw changes by the Board.

Source: NCBA

Sodexo reveals college foodservice trends for 2010

Sodexo, a foodservice provider to 600 campuses in the United States, has developed its list of food trends at universities. This year's college food trends list reveals students want locally-sourced food that provides comfort with a twist. Items that top the list are regional and global comfort foods.

Sodexo's culinary team and customer insight experts released a food trends list for 2010:
  College Food Trends in 2010
  1. Apricot-glazed Turkey
  2. Meatloaf with Frizzle-Fried Onions
  3. Vietnamese Pho (Rice Noodle Soup)
  4. Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd's Pie
  5. Chicken Adobo (Mexican Stew with Chilies)
  6. Stuffed Pork Chops
  7. Vegetarian Jambalaya
  8. Lemon Herbed Baked Tilapia
  9. Rotisserie Chicken
  10. Home Style Pot Roast

Sodexo tracks research on the latest flavor trends, holds frequent taste-test focus groups with students, and consults with its team of topnotch chefs to develop this list.

"Comfort food is trendy for students because familiar favorites can alleviate stress linked to studying and being away from home," said Tom Post, Sodexo president of campus services. "The biggest change we're seeing is that students are expanding the category of feel-good foods to include comfort world cuisine, such as a Mexican stew or a Vietnamese noodle soup, and they are more open to vegetarian dishes with a flair."

Another trend shows that students who attend college out of state love to explore regional fare in their new home away from home. Sodexo's culinary team in each region identified the top favorites of college students.

"Being exposed to the cuisine of the region where you're studying is part of the college experience for students," said Chef Rob Morasco, senior director of offer development for Sodexo. "A student from New England who attends Tulane in New Orleans might adopt red beans and rice as comfort food, while a Southerner studying at MIT might make clam chowder a new favorite."

  College Campus Favorites by Region:
  --  South Central Region: Red Beans and Rice
  --  Midwest: Home Style Roast Beef
  --  Northwest: Classic Carved Turkey
  --  Mid Atlantic: Chicken Pot Pie
  --  Northeast: New England Clam Chowder
  --  Southeast: Traditional Meatloaf
  --  Southwest: Fish Tacos

The 2010 College Food Trends list was developed by Sodexo's Customer Insight team with research from Sodexo's Student Board of Directors, student Food Choice Awards events, Nielsen's Annual Restaurant Audit, Teenage Research Unlimited, Technomics Menu Monitor, NPD Group, Sodexo's culinary team of chefs and vendor partners.

Source: Sodexo Inc.

Applebee's opens 2000th restaurant

Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar opened its 2000th restaurant yesterday, the first casual dining concept in the world to reach that milestone. Harlem, New York's famed 125th Street, a neighborhood with a vibrant cultural and artistic history, will be home to the 2000th restaurant.

"Applebee's has a strong commitment to supporting the neighborhoods we serve," said Mike Archer, president of Applebee's Services Inc. "We're excited to get to know the 125th Street neighborhood in Harlem, with its rich history and close-knit community."

The grand opening festivities at the restaurant at One West 125th Street in Harlem included a VIP party to benefit the Harlem Week Scholarship Fund/Grant program, which provides funds for deserving students to attend college.

"The opening of Applebee's on the famous 125th Street adds to the increased legacy of Harlem's reputation for great and diverse foods as well as for fine restaurants," said Lloyd A. Williams, president and CEO of the Harlem Chamber of Commerce. "More importantly, Applebee's on 125th Street will provide much needed management and employment opportunities for our community as well as allow Harlem residents, business persons, tourists, church goers and students to spend a larger portion of their disposable income within our own community."

The 2000th Applebee's is being opened by Apple-Metro, Inc., which owns and operates Applebee's on Manhattan and surrounding boroughs, including three of the highest-grossing Applebee's in the system. Apple-Metro was honored as the 2009 Applebee's Franchisee of the Year.

"Small businesses are being heralded as key to our economic recovery and every franchise Applebee's location is essentially that, a small business in their neighborhood, bolstering its local community's economy daily while providing an unequaled level of casual family dining," said Zane Tankel, president and CEO of Apple-Metro. "Apple-Metro, Inc. currently employs over 3,000 associates, all hired from the communities surrounding our restaurants. We are thrilled to be bringing both a small business -- and jobs -- to the famous 125th Street neighborhood in Harlem."

Applebee's is committed to keeping jobs in the neighborhood; all of the nearly 200 positions in its 2000th restaurant are being filled by a Harlem resident.

Source: Applebee's Services Inc.