Two organizations, joined by California Sen. Barbara Boxer, called for the USDA to make labeling changes for chickens that have been injected with saltwater during processing, known as plumping.

Americans eat more than 20 billion pounds of poultry a year. In just the last few years, the percentage of chicken in grocery stores that has undergone the injections has risen from 16 percent to more than 30 percent, according to the California Poultry Federation, one of the groups that called for changes. The Center for Science in the Public Interest joined the CPF and Sen. Boxer in the appeal.

Boxer said the extra weight amounts to about $2 billion in higher costs because consumers pay by the pound for most chicken products, reports the New York Times.

''In these difficult times, our families should not have to pay $2 billion for saltwater that they don't know about, they don't want and they certainly don't need,'' Boxer said. A serving of the plumped chicken can contain more than five times the amount of sodium as a serving of regular chicken, she added.

Under USDA guidelines, the warnings alerting consumers to the added ingredients can be one-fourth the size of the product name. A typical warning says ''Enhanced with up to Fifteen Percent Chicken Broth.''

But Boxer said most consumers see the all-natural label and don't look further to investigate other content. She's calling for new guidelines that they say will help consumers make a more informed choice.

The CPF joined in the cause as the vast majority of birds produced in the state are not injected.

"In my own home state of California, poultry companies are to be commended for raising consumer awareness about what 'natural' labeling should really mean," said Boxer.

Foster Farms issued a statement supporting the cause. The company has run a “Say No To Plumping” campaign for four months, generating 20,000 signatures for a petition to get the USDA to preserve the term “natural” for products that are not injected.

"At Foster Farms, we believe that 'natural' labeled chicken should be just that - fresh, raw chicken - not chicken loaded with saltwater and additives that's been trucked across the country to your grocery store," said Ira Brill, director of marketing for Foster Farms. "Consumers need to be able to rely on food labels; they need to know what they're buying. For Foster Farms, 'natural' means fresh, locally grown with no additives, preservatives or saltwater."

Source: New York Times, Foster Farms

Meat industry groups hold educational briefings on antibiotics

Livestock and poultry groups hosted educational briefings this week on Capitol Hill to share the facts about the importance of tools like antibiotics in raising healthy food animals. The informational sessions were co-hosted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association through beef checkoff funding, the National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Milk Producers Federation, National Turkey Federation, American Meat Institute and National Meat Association.

The briefings were held in cooperation with U.S. Reps. David Scott (D-GA), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Zack Space (D-OH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). Top livestock and poultry health experts from across the country presented information to attendees.

“Prompt and judicious use of efficacious antibiotics is critical for the successful treatment and, at times, control of specific bacterial diseases in cattle. Certain FDA-approved antibiotics also enable us to significantly improve the efficiency of beef production,” said Dr. Guy Loneragan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at West Texas A&M University, and presenter at the briefings. “Maintaining access to FDA-approved safe and effective technologies, including animal health products, helps ensure both the health and resource efficiency of U.S. herds and flocks.”

In addition to stringent federal regulations, responsible-use programs have been developed specific to feed, livestock and poultry organizations to give feed companies and producers specific guidelines and assistance on the safe and proper use of antibiotics in health management systems.

“We use antibiotics judiciously and responsibly to protect the health of our herds and to produce safe pork,” said Craig Rowles, DVM. “We know that a ban on antibiotics, like the one in Denmark, will have adverse affects on our pigs, will raise the cost of production and will not provide a benefit to public health.”

Despite allegations by activist groups, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that shows the use of antibiotics on farms contributes significantly to an increase in antibiotic resistance in humans, the groups stated. In fact, a growing body of evidence shows just the opposite; namely, the responsible, professional use of these products keeps animals healthy and enhances animal welfare while not contributing to resistance.

“Taking FDA-approved animal drugs off the market would leave farmers and veterinarians with very limited options for preventing and controlling disease in livestock and poultry, which would have serious repercussions for animal health and preventing foodborne disease, with the strong likelihood that there would be no improvement in human health,” said Dr. Timothy Cummings, clinical poultry professor for the Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine at Mississippi State University. “It's absolutely vital that any decisions about the care of animals and the safety of our food be based on sound science rather than unsubstantiated concerns.”

According to Dr. Leon Weaver, a veterinarian and dairy farmer from Montpelier, Ohio: “The U.S. dairy industry conducts more than 3.3 million tests each year on all milk entering dairy plants to ensure that antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply. According to the most recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data, less than one tanker in 3,800 tests positive for any animal drug residues, including antibiotics. In those rare cases, any milk that tests positive is disposed of immediately and does not get into the food supply.

Source: NCBA, NCC

Jennie-O launches health & wellness Web site

Designed to provide the guidance and community support needed to begin or maintain a healthy lifestyle, Jennie-O Turkey Store has developed a comprehensive, online destination to simplify personal health and wellness management. The new Web site, Wellness Daily, is an online community that collects the latest news, healthy living blogs, expert opinions, easy, nutritious recipes and videos on a variety of topics including weight loss, healthy eating, exercise and mental well-being.

To support members in their journey to better health, Jennie-O Turkey Store will provide a rebate for the purchase price of one product (up to $5.00) for the first 25,000 registered users. Additionally, users who help share the news of the site via Twitter are eligible for a chance to win a prize package which includes coupons for a year-long supply of Jennie-O Turkey Store product and a one-year gym membership, a combined value of $1,250.

"At Jennie-O Turkey Store, we're committed to providing nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods that fit into our consumers' active lifestyles," said Cristofer Eide, director of marketing, Jennie-O Turkey Store, "With we've created an online community that supports people in their effort to achieve a healthier way of life by aggregating the most recent and relevant information available online and enabling a well-rounded conversation."

Serving as a "community manager" blogger and healthy living enthusiast Tess, helps users make sense of all things integral to fitness, nutrition and personal well-being. Select guest bloggers, from weight loss experts to life balance gurus, will weigh in regularly to provide insight and round out the conversation. Additionally, enables users to create a customized personal health and wellness news feed so that they receive the most relevant news possible.

Source: Hormel Foods

Hormel, Minnesota Twins end 10-year partnership

When the Minnesota Twins play their first games at the new Target Field this year, the team will be doing it without its Dome Dogs, provided by Hormel Foods. The two companies have decided to end their partnership that began in 2001.

"After reviewing the change in cost for sponsorships at the new stadium, we decided to focus on different marketing initiatives in 2010," stated Julie Craven, Hormel's vice president of corporate communications, according to the Austin (Minn.) Post-Bulletin. "We wish the Twins the best of luck during the inaugural season at the new stadium.” She added that a final decision on what Hormel products will be available at Target Field is pending.

Kevin Smith, the Twins' executive director of public affairs, said the team and Hormel "enjoyed a great corporate relationship for nearly a decade" but both entities have "amicably parted company."

"The Twins wish Hormel nothing but the best," Smith said.

Source: Austin Post-Bulletin