A hearing by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry turned into a verbal assault on the proposed Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration livestock rules. Congressmen from both parties criticized the proposed rules and demanded an extension of the comment period to give industry a further chance to discuss the proposed rules.
According toProgressive Farmer, subcommittee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., said USDA officials had "very, very seriously overstepped their boundaries" and that was especially true, Scott said, given that some of the provisions in the proposed rule "were soundly rejected" by the House Agriculture Committee, the House, the Senate and conference committee during the 2008 farm bill debate.

"And for you and the department to arbitrarily go against the wishes and the intent of Congress is a serious --- It is what Shakespeare said when he referred to, 'And to Brutus, yours was the meanest cut of all' --- that's what this has done. That's why you have heard the passion, the disappointment that was registered by both sides of the aisle against this proposed rule."

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said that the proposed rules would become a “lawyer’s field day to sue,” and several members questioned how the USDA would interpret the ban on packer-to-packer sales, pointing out that some small packers own feedlots of hog operations several states away from their packing plants.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he had asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week to consider an extension of the comment period. Peterson said producers had expressed concern to him that some of their branded premium programs could be in jeopardy because of the impact of the rule.

"I don't know exactly what you are trying to get at, if you're trying to make sure the big producers and the small producers are producing the same quality, get the same price, if that's what you are trying to do, or if you are trying to eliminate branded products."

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association issued a statement after the meeting to praise the committee members.

“We’re glad to see Congress bringing attention to this serious issue,” stated Colin Woodall, NCBA vice president of government affairs. “As evidenced in the bipartisan comments made in yesterday’s hearing, USDA has defied the intent of Congress and moved forward on the most sweeping changes to the Packers and Stockyards Act in nearly 100 years — all while making little initial effort to seek feedback from the livestock and poultry industry.

“While USDA officials stressed this is only a ‘proposed rule’ and industry will have the opportunity to provide comments, they have yet to answer our requests to extend the comment period. No matter where you stand on the issue, everyone would benefit from additional time to analyze and provide feedback on this extremely complex rule. “

Source: Progressive Farmer, NCBA

Veal group rebrands as Fontelli Food Group

In the final step of a merger that took place earlier this year, Catelli Bros, Delimax Veal Inc., NRV, and Specialty Meats Inc. today announced they will operate under a newly formed parent company called Fontelli Food Group. As a result of the merger, the Fontelli Food Group now oversees the full integration of its veal as well as the processing and fabrication of its lamb and also offer a broad range of products – from the finest quality feed to responsible farming of superior calves to customized cuts of veal and lamb for the foodservice and consumer retail industries.

The Fontelli Food Group name was born by combining the last names of the two families involved in this merger – the Fontaines and the Catellis – both of whom have a deep-rooted history in the industry. The Catelli family began in the industry more than 65 years ago, and the Fontaines have over 35 years of experience as well.

“When we were developing the Fontelli Food Group name we felt it was important to remain connected to our families’ long-standing traditions while continuing to grow and position the company for the future,” said Tony Catelli, president and CEO, Catelli Brothers Inc. “The Fontaines, like us, are family-oriented businesses and we have all worked hard to earn a reputation for producing the highest quality products using industry-leading food safety and traceability standards. We believe that working together as the Fontelli Food Group we will be able to build on that reputation.”

“The merger has created a stronger organization that allows us to expand products and services both regionally and nationally, better positioning us for the future,” said Alex Fontaine, president, Specialty Meats Inc. “The Fontelli Food Group name will always help us remember the hard work and dedication by our families that has brought our companies to where they are today.”

The new company, one of the largest veal and lamb purveyors in the country, serves the retail and foodservice industries throughout the U.S. with veal and lamb under such brands as Catelli Brothers, Catelli Brothers Italian Bistro, Lido Gourmet, Chef’s Reserve, and Summit Ridge. All the merging companies operate independently under their existing corporate structures and brand names, but through their affiliation these brands have national as well as regional distribution capabilities.

Source: Fontelli Food Group

Grandin praises Hormel hog holding facility

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., professor of animal science at Colorado State University, says the recently opened hog holding facility at the Hormel Foods Corp. Austin, Minn., plant is “as good as it gets.”

“This facility is at the top for the industry,” Grandin said. “I am super happy because everything is wonderful; it’s highly managed and perfectly maintained.”

Grandin conducts research and teaches courses on livestock handling and facility design, and has worked with Hormel Foods for more than 10 years.

The $6.2 million facility at Hormel Foods opened in 2008 and incorporates many of her industry-leading practices, such as nonreversal movement, nonslip flooring and circular corrals.

“It was an honor to have Temple tour this facility now that construction is complete,” said Glee G. Goodner, corporate manager of animal welfare and handling at Hormel Foods. “We were excited to see her enthusiasm for how our animal care efforts continue to provide leadership for the industry through state-of-the art building designs, maintenance schedules and employee training.”

Source: Hormel Foods Corp.

Restaurant count down 5,000+ from last year

U.S. restaurant unit count declined by -1 percent, or a loss of 5,204 restaurants, this spring compared to spring 2009, according to foodservice market research by The NPD Group, a leading market research company. NPD’s Spring 2010 ReCount, which is a census of commercial restaurant locations in the United States compiled in the spring and fall each year, reports that independent restaurant closings contributed to most of the decline, while chain units remained relatively stable.

According to NPD’s Spring 2010 ReCount, which was collected from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, the number of quick service restaurants declined by -1 percent or 2,521 units. Full service restaurant units, which includes the casual dining, mid-scale, and fine dining segments also experienced a unit loss of -1 percent or 2,683 units.

“It’s been a difficult time for the restaurant industry with customer traffic down over the past year,” says Greg Starzynski, director, product development-foodservice at NPD. “The unit losses we’re seeing in our latest census are a reflection of the weakness in the industry with the greatest impact on the independent restaurant operators.”

According to The NPD Group’s CREST, which continually tracks consumer usage of commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets, visits to U.S. restaurants declined by -3 percent for the year ending May 2010 compared to a year ago. Consumer spending at restaurants declined by -1 percent, the first decline in dollars NPD has reported since it began tracking the foodservice industry in 1976.

Source: The NPD Group Inc.

Temple Grandin to get Lifetime Achievement award at NCBA conference

World-renowned cattle-care advocate Dr. Temple Grandin will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) upcoming Summer Conference in Denver. Grandin, living with autism, has impacted every sector of the beef industry by revolutionizing livestock care and food production practices at the international level. She recently gained recognition as the subject of the Emmy-nominated HBO film,Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes.

Grandin’s work has transformed the design of cattle handling facilities worldwide. Fifty percent of the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are handled in equipment she has designed for meat plants. Grandin played an active role in the development of animal welfare guidelines for the meat industry, and serves as an animal-welfare consultant for international companies like McDonalds, Wendy’s International, and Burger King.

Grandin has published several hundred industry publications, book chapters and technical papers on animal handling, plus 45 refereed journal articles in addition to seven books. She currently serves as a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University where she continues her research while teaching courses on livestock handling and facility design. Her book, Animals in Translation, was a New York Times best seller.

The award ceremony will take place Saturday, July 31, during General Session II. For more information about NCBA’s Summer Conference, visit: www.beefusa.org.

Source: NCBA