Pilgrim’s Pride reported a net loss in the first quarter of $45.5 million on net sales of $1.6 billion. In spite of the loss, the company announced plans to reopen three previously shuttered planed over the next two years.

"While I am encouraged by the progress we have made in several areas of our business, our overall performance in the first quarter of fiscal 2010 was below our expectations," said Don Jackson, Pilgrim's Pride president and CEO.

The company said several factors contributed to the loss for the quarter, including: restructuring and reorganization costs; a delay in the addition of new further-processed volume which forced the company to sell commodity meat at lower prices; a loss of approximately $11 million related to grain hedges, of which $6 million was mark-to-market on open positions; and lower-than-anticipated market prices for dark meat. Jackson said the further-processed volume should be onboard before the end of June.

"Our single largest opportunity to create value is through improved product mix both in retail and foodservice," he explained. "At the same time, we must continue to focus on operating more efficiently. We are making good progress in all of these areas, and I am confident that our financial results in the second quarter will show significant improvement. Based on preliminary results, we were profitable for the month of April."

Consistent with its strategy of matching production to forecasted demand, Pilgrim's Pride announced plans to re-open its chicken processing plant in Douglas, Ga., by January 2011. The company also plans to re-open two other idled facilities, one by mid-2011 and the other by spring 2012. The re-opening of these three plants will result in a production increase of 10 percent, or approximately 3.5 million birds per week.

"Pilgrim's Pride and the industry have taken out significant production capacity over the past two years. We fully believe that with the strengthening economy and improving fundamentals, consumer demand for chicken is increasing. By re-opening these facilities, Pilgrim's Pride will be uniquely positioned to fulfill our customers' needs," said Jackson.

In a conference call, Jackson said that an increase in demand will merit the opening of the plants, as will better second-quarter results, Reuters reports.

"The commitment from our customers is there, but it has just taken a bit longer for them to complete the transition away from other suppliers," Jackson said. "All of that volume should be on board before the end of June."

Source: Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Reuters

Almanza reappointed as FSIS administrator

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the appointment of Alfred V. Almanza as Administrator of FSIS, overseeing the regulation of meat, poultry and processed egg products. Almanza has been in a limited term appointment as Administrator of FSIS since July 2007. In this position, he leads FSIS and its more than 9,500 employees in their mission of protecting public health through food safety. The appointment is subject to final approval from the Office of Personnel Management.

"During his 30-plus years of service in FSIS, Al Almanza has worked tirelessly to fulfill the agency's critically important mission - keeping the public safe from foodborne illness," said Vilsack. "I know he will continue to do an outstanding job managing a large agency and helping USDA meet the food safety challenges of the 21st century."

Since July 2007, Almanza has made several critical changes to agency policy to better ensure mission success and effective use of agency resources. He has worked hard to foster productive relationships with the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals and other public health partners.

"Al Almanza brings a wealth of common sense, knowledge, experience, and commitment to FSIS," said Jerold Mande, USDA deputy under secretary for food safety. "He has used these skills to make our food safer. I look forward to working closely with him to reduce further foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths."

Almanza's FSIS career began in 1978 as a food inspector in a small slaughter plant in Dalhart, Texas. Since that time he has served in a variety of positions throughout the Agency including deputy district manager, labor management relations specialist and processing inspector. Prior to accepting the Administrator position, Almanza was the District Manager for the Dallas District where he provided leadership and direction to more than 600 employees located in more than 350 federally inspected establishments.

Source: FSIS

Misbranded mini pretzel dogs recalled

Vienna Beef Ltd., a Chicago, Ill., establishment, is recalling approximately 49,600 pounds of fully cooked mini pretzel dog products because of misbranding, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced. The products are considered misbranded because they do not bear the USDA mark of inspection on the package.

The products subject to recall include 16-ounce bags of "Vienna Beef Mini Pretzel Dogs" with a sell-by date ranging from February 2, 2010 to July 1, 2010 and 32-ounce bags with a sell-by date ranging from May 31, 2010 to October 24, 2010.

The products were produced between December 2, 2009, and April 30, 2010, and were distributed at the retail level in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The problem was discovered by FSIS as part of routine surveillance of products in commerce. FSIS and the company have received no reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Source: FSIS

PSE levels in turkey meat may be costing industry $200 million yearly

Pale, soft and exudative (PSE) meat – meat that is pale in color, forms soft gels, and has decreased ability to hold water – is a problem often associated with pork. But according to researchers, it has increasingly become a challenge for some poultry producers as well, particularly in the turkey industry, according to the Poultry Science Association (PSA).

While researchers stress that PSE is not a problem with whole turkeys, it is impacting further processed products, such as sliced turkey deli meats, particularly whole-muscle deli rolls or loaves. In these whole muscle products, there is less opportunity for protein extraction due to decreased surface area compared to comminuted (i.e. chopped and formed) products. There is also decreased water binding in these products due to protein damage caused by the development of PSE. Therefore, the damaged proteins in PSE meat have a reduced ability to bind, hold water, and maintain their texture.

According to researchers Christine Alvarado, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Animal & Food Sciences at Texas Tech University Dept., and Casey Owens, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Dept. of Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas, a host of causes may play a role in the growing incidence of PSE meat in turkey plants. The two scientists have published extensively on the problem of PSE in Poultry Science, a scientific journal published by the Poultry Science Association.

Finding an effective means to reduce levels of PSE turkey meat would have a significant economic impact for the typical turkey producer, who, according to Alvarado and Owens, could be losing from $2 million to $4 million annually to the problem – a level which, if correct, puts annual turkey industry losses due to PSE meat at more than $200 million.

“PSE meat results from an animal’s inability to tolerate stress,” said Prof. Alvarado in a recent interview with PSA. “The root of stress intolerance may be genetic, as it is in swine, where the specific genetic mutation associated with stress-susceptibility is known. But to date, we lack sufficient evidence either to support or refute a similar genetic mutation as the underlying cause for the same condition in turkeys.”

Whether or not there is a genetic basis for increased stress intolerance, taking an active, holistic approach to reducing both pre- and post-mortem stress levels will be key to producers decreasing the level of PSE turkey meat in their plants.

“Turkeys and swine are both subjected to similar pre-mortem environmental stress such as heat stress, pre-slaughter handling practices and transportation. These can lead to a higher level of PSE in these animals. Therefore, finding ways to lower those stress levels will be critical to reducing PSE. For example, newer techniques in gas stunning methods where turkeys are stunned while on the truck after it arrives at the processing plant, rather than after they have been placed on the line, may help reduce PSE by decreasing the human-handling component,” said Prof. Owens.

Environmental factors in the post-mortem environment can also contribute to PSE, even in normal, non-stressed animals, according to Professors Alvarado and Owens. For example inadequate chilling, which turkeys are susceptible to given their relatively large body size and muscle mass, can contribute to PSE.

While current solutions are limited, researchers are looking for ways to reduce the prevalence of PSE meat. According to Alvarado and Owens, one approach might involve developing a sorting process in which meat having a higher probability of developing PSE would be directed away from whole-muscle products or toward product formulations incorporating marinades containing functional ingredients such as salt, phosphates, starches, or gums. This kind of sorting process might be based on characteristics such as meat color and meat pH. Similar automated pH assessment systems are already in development in the pork and beef industries for the same purpose of sorting meat for optimum meat function. And equipment to assess color online is already available and could be used for sorting.

“What’s critical in any approach to tackling the turkey industry’s growing incidence rate of PSE is that it be holistic, taking steps to reduce the many pre- and post-mortem stresses associated with production” said Prof. Alvarado.

Source: Poultry Science Association