Chicken farmers testified Friday at Alabama A&M University, where the U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture held a hearing on competition in the chicken industry. The farmers told federal officials, including the attorney general and USDA secretary, that they lack power and have little ability to deal with the big poultry companies that control the industry.

Fifty-seven-year-old Gary Staples of Steele raises birds for Pilgrim's Pride, one of the nation's biggest poultry companies. He says farmers are seeing poultry companies demand more but pay less, AP reports.

Staples and other farmers said they have been putting up with more demands and smaller payments from the poultry companies. In some regions, farmers only have one or two potential buyers, so it's hard to make demands. Staples owes more than $1 million on his farm, and he doesn't want to upset Pilgrim's Pride.

"The chicken companies know they don't have to treat you fairly," Staples said.

Richard Lobb, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council trade group, says the hearing was skewed with testimony from unhappy farmers but many are satisfied with contracts that allow them to sell a steady supply of chickens.

"The processing plant has to have birds coming in. They've got to continue working with farmers in that area to secure a supply of birds. (Companies) are not going to cut off their nose to spite their face," he said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who both attended the hearing, said stepped up antitrust enforcement in agricultural businesses is a top priority for the Obama administration. If that happens, farmers might earn more, but food prices might also increase.

Holder suggested during a news conference that the Justice Department hasn't been vigilant enough in pursuing antitrust cases against big poultry companies.

"There is a new attitude in the antitrust division," Holder said. "Everyone should understand. There is no hesitancy on the part of this antitrust division, in this administration, to take action where we think it is needed. This antitrust division is open for business again."

Source: Associated Press

Survey: Foster Farms' education program had positive impact

According to a survey of parents whose children participated in the Foster Farms-sponsored program, Food 4 Thought is having a positive impact on students both in the classroom and at home. As a result of the program's success, Foster Farms, with the added support of new sponsors, will be continuing and expanding the program for 2010-2011 to reach 325 additional students - 825 in total - with more than 125 of those new students in Merced County alone.

A recent survey of 341 Food 4 Thought parents found Foster Farms' program to be extremely effective:
  * 82 percent reported that their child's grades improved as a result of participating in Foster Farms' Food 4 Thought program.
  * 91 percent said the program improved their child's personal life.
  * 89 percent responded that their child's communications skills have improved as a result of their participation in the program.
  * The majority report that Food 4 Thought significantly helped their family's grocery budget.

"Food 4 Thought has had a significant positive impact on our students and their families," said George Solis, principal of Campus Park Elementary, a Merced County Food 4 Thought school. "We are grateful to Foster Farms for bringing this program to our school and helping to build a strong foundation for the children's future."

According to after-school administrators, news of the program's expansion couldn't come at a better time given expected budget cuts throughout schools in Stanislaus and Merced counties this fall and combined with the area's continually high unemployment rates and increasing demand for food assistance.

Despite California's agricultural bounty, 4.5 million Californians - one in four of them children - still go hungry, and the unemployment rate remains high in Stanislaus and Merced counties - 19 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Studies show that children in need of food assistance are more likely to miss school. With the help of the Food 4 Thought program, three-quarters of respondents stated that their child's attendance improved. Survey findings indicated that the majority of student participants have a better understanding of their schoolwork, can work better independently and have a more positive attitude both at home and at school.

"My son was having trouble in math, but he is now showing a bit of improvement. Thank you," responded one parent whose child is a Food 4 Thought participant. "This program has been a great help as [I am] a single parent," wrote another parent. "It makes the lives of my kids much richer."

During the 2009-2010 school year, Foster Farms' incentive-based program supported 500 elementary students at four schools in Stanislaus and Merced counties. In exchange for their participation in eight hours of after-school tutorial programs, students received a 15- to 18-pound bag of groceries twice monthly. During the 2009-2010 school year, the students collectively earned more than 162,000 pounds of groceries.

The Foster Farms Food 4 Thought pilot program served students at Agnes M. Baptist Elementary, Josephine Chrysler Elementary and George Eisenhut Elementary in Modesto and Campus Park Elementary in Livingston. Schools were designated by the county school districts based on free or reduced school lunch participation and existing after school programs. These schools will continue with the program and new schools will be added.

"Foster Farms is committed to the future and success of our children here in the Valley," said Ira Brill, director of marketing and advertising services for Foster Farms and a Second Harvest board member. "We couldn't be more proud of the positive results of the parent survey, which demonstrate that Food 4 Thought is working on all fronts - both academically and in helping families make ends meet. We look forward to reaching even more families with this worthwhile program in the coming school year."

Source: Foster Farms

Ohio State plans short labeling course

The Ohio State University has scheduled a Meat & Poultry Product Labeling Short Course for June 15-16 at Columbus, Ohio. According to the University, it will be “a comprehensive seminar on product labeling. Presented by Lamar Hendricks and Kim Karweik (both formerly of Sara Lee), topics will include Basic Label Requirements, Standards of Identity, Feature Placement, Product Name Qualifiers, Nutritional Label Formats, Nutrient Declaration, Exemptions, Compliance Issues, and Nutrient Content Claims. Ample opportunity will be given for discussion.”

The cost for the course is $225/person for very small companies (less than 10 full-time employees), $300/person for small companies (10-500 employees) and $375 for large Ohio companies (more than 500 employees). There is a $75 discount for three or more attendees from the same company, and a $50 fee for late registrations (after June 5).

To register, complete and mail the registration form and check (payable to: The Ohio State University) to: Labeling Training, 110 Animal Sciences, 2029 Fyffe Road, Columbus, OH 43210. Registration form can also be faxed to (614) 292-3513. For more information, call or e-mail Lynn Knipe: (614) 292-4877 or

Source: The Ohio State University

Margaritaville Foods introduces chicken chunks

Margaritaville Foods recently launched the newest addition to the portfolio of island-inspired food and beverage products, Margaritaville all-natural, breaded chicken breast chunks, at the 2010 Food Marketing Institute Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The newest Margaritaville Chicken line of products includes three flavors of fully cooked, frozen and easy to prepare breaded chicken breast chunks. Each chicken breast chunk item is sold in a 25 oz. bag and includes two sauce packets with flavors and spices inspired by Island cuisine. The flavors include Island Buffalo, Sweet & Sour Mango and Spicy Orange. The two packets in each bag provide ample sauce perfect for tossing and/or dipping the product.

“We received excellent feedback on our new chicken products from buyers and guests of the FMI show and look forward to consumers having the same reaction now that the product is in stores,” says Joe Ferraro, vice president marketing and sales. “We believe the Margaritaville Chicken line is an excellent complement to our frozen seafood, chips and salsa, salt rimmers and mixers, Paradise Key Teas and Landshark Lager.”

Source: Margaritaville Foods

Grace Farms recalls Brazilian-made corned beef

Based on an advisory by its Brazilian corned beef supplier, Grace Foods USA has joined in the voluntary Class II recall of two batches of canned Corned Beef, which were produced for the USA market by that supplier. A Class II recall signifies that there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from the use of the product.

The Grace Corned Beef products affected by the recall include 12-ounce cans bearing CODES 100204 or 100205 with "Brasil Inspecionado 337 S.I. F." stamped on the top of the can.

The supplier has advised that this recall was initiated after routine testing revealed higher than USDA allowable levels of Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic treatment routinely used for cattle, in two affected batches of the product.

Source: Grace Foods USA