Speaking at the CLSA AsiaUSA investor conference, Tyson Foods Inc. Chief Operating Officer Jim Lochner and Chief Financial Officer Dennis Leatherby told investors that Tyson has improved its chicken business over the past year and believe the changes the company has made, along with favorable market conditions, should bring good returns in the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years.

The key is declining domestic availability of protein, according to Lochner. For the first time in 40 years, forecasters predict a reduction of available protein (chicken, beef, pork and turkey) in two consecutive years.

"U.S. per capita consumption is projected down due in part to reduced supplies, which should mean higher prices," Lochner said. "Long-term protein supplies are driven by profitability -- or the lack of profitability. Beginning with the 2006-2007 crop, corn and soybean prices became extremely volatile, coupled with a supply-demand imbalance. Most livestock and poultry producers lost money in '08 and '09, which led to cutbacks in the herds and flocks and less protein available in the marketplace."

Tyson is well positioned to benefit from these market circumstances, they added. Its Beef, Pork and Prepared Foods segments are operating well and produced returns above their normalized operating margin ranges in the first fiscal quarter of 2010. Although Tyson's Chicken segment has underperformed in recent years, Lochner and Leatherby are confident the on-going operational improvements will lead to long-term success.

"We expect our chicken segment to be in the 5-7% normalized operating margin range for fiscal 2010," Leatherby said.

"Strong cash flow has enabled the company to reduce its net debt level significantly," he added. During the first quarter of fiscal 2010 and through February 5, Tyson used cash and restricted cash on hand on hand to repurchase and retire $510 million of the company's debt.

Tyson potentially could bring incremental profitability in the long-term with renewable products initiatives such as renewable diesel made from non-food grade fats, greases and oils. Dynamic Fuels, Tyson's joint venture with Syntroleum, Inc., is set to open its first plant this summer. Tyson also launched a line of 100% natural premium pet treats under the True Chews brand in February. Tyson was able to open its idled plant in Independence, Iowa to produce True Chews.

Source: Tyson Foods Inc.

March 10 meeting to discuss FSIS E. coli product tracing efforts

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced it will hold a public meeting to discuss and receive public input on the agency’s product tracing efforts related to E. coli O157:H7. The public meeting will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 10, 2010, in the USDA South Building, Jefferson Auditorium, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250.

In March 2009, President Obama announced the formation of the Food Safety Working Group, and in July, the Group released its findings, which highlight steps that FSIS and other Federal agencies are taking to improve food safety. The public can provide valuable input to strengthen the FSIS’ food safety prevention, surveillance and response and recovery efforts, as outlined by the Administration’s Food Safety Working Group (http://www.foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov/).
Pre-registration is recommended for this meeting. Registration information and the meeting agenda will be made available on the agency’s Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News/Meetings_&_Events/. All attendees should enter the building with proof of identification at Wing 5 on Independence Avenue.

FSIS also invites interested persons to submit comments on the issues to be addressed at the public meeting. The Agency encourages comments to be submitted before the meeting or no later than May 7, 2010, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, by mail to: Docket Clerk, USDA, FSIS, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Mailstop 5474, Beltsville, MD 20705. All comments must identify “FSIS-2010-0008.” Comments will be available for viewing at the above link.

Source: FSIS

FSIS, CDC, FDA to host workshop on measuring success of food safety programs

A joint public workshop on how best to measure progress in reducing foodborne illness will take place March 30, in Washington, D.C. The meeting is sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The President's Food Safety Working Group has emphasized the need for improved metrics for evaluating the government's efforts to prevent foodborne illness. The workshop will focus on current methods for evaluating food safety progress, the methodological and data challenges involved, and the potential for improved metrics.

"Being able to draw links between what we're doing to keep the food supply safe and the frequency of human illness is crucial for gauging the effectiveness of our programs — what changes are needed, and in what areas," said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor.

"To make our food safer, we must know as quickly as possible which foods are making people ill and why," said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Jerold R. Mande. "This meeting will help us develop the specific measures we need to see which policies work best to improve food safety."

The public workshop will include explanations, by CDC, of how rates of foodborne illness are estimated for various purposes; for example, to determine overall rates of foodborne illness and rates for specific pathogens. FDA, FSIS, and a state representative will describe other measurements they use to gauge the success of policies and other interventions for reducing foodborne illness.

A notice about the workshop is scheduled to be published in the March 1 Federal Register. Information about the workshop is available in the Federal Register notice, at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-4110.pdf. To register on-line, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/WorkshopsMeetingsConferences/ucm201102.htm. Pre-registration, which may be done on-line, will end March 24.

Source: FSIS

Morton's reports 14.7% drop in revenues in 2009

Morton's Restaurant Group Inc. reported unaudited financial results for its fiscal 2009 fourth quarter and its fiscal year ended January 3, 2010. The three month period ended January 3, 2010 as compared to the three month period ended January 4, 2009. Revenues decreased 9.4% to $79.2 million for the quarter, and revenues for the year decreased 14.7% to $281.1 million.

The decrease in revenues, the company said, is primarily attributable to the decrease in comparable restaurant revenues. A portion of the decrease was offset by an increase in revenues from four new Morton's steakhouses opened during fiscal 2008 and two new Morton's steakhouses opened during fiscal 2009.

"There is no question that 2009 presented one of the most challenging economies in our 31 year history,” said Christopher J. Artinian, president and CEO of Morton's Restaurant Group Inc. “The weakened economy resulted in huge downturns in business travel, conventions, entertaining, and spending in general, which adversely impacted our industry. Despite comparable revenues decreasing in the fourth quarter, we are pleased to be seeing a modest increase in comparable revenues starting in December 2009 and continuing into January and February of 2010.”

Source: Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc.