The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has shut down the Murray’s Chicken plant in South Fallsburg, N.Y., leaving 350 people temporarily out of work. The closing of the plant was over food safety concerns and the plant’s ability to control Salmonella, though no recalls have been issued, and the company was allowed to ship chicken processed on Monday, reports theTimes Herald-Record.

Murray’s and FSIS has not commented about the specifics of the closure. "We're diligently working to appease (USDA) to get back in business," said Dean Koplik, the company's vice president of operations.

Murray Breskin, the company founder and president, posted an open letter on the company’s Web site explaining the situation to its customers and consumers.

“Let me be straight and forward, I guarantee every Murray’s Chicken ever produced at our plant is safe and wholesome,” he wrote.

“I am somewhat perplexed about USDA’s reasons for this temporary halting as just this past Friday, July 23, 2010 we received a letter from USDA stating we had passed our latest salmonella testing set. How can we have a passing grade on Friday and Monday morning have food safety issues? If the USDA legitimately has food safety concerns about our product, then where is the government ordered recall? There is none. The USDA had let us ship the product produced on Monday as safe and wholesome. Additionally, we have not failed a salmonella test set in the past five years.

“Since the closing notice I have been working closely with the USDA to resolve this issue along with continual contact with our local, New York State and U.S. government officials and agencies to help us in allowing the plant to reopen in a timely manner.”

Source: Times Herald-Record, Murray’s Chicken

Meat safety tops among food safety concerns

The results of a national survey conducted by NPR by Thomson Reuters, 61 percent of Americans are concerned about contamination of the food supply. Fifty-one percent of respondents say they are concerned about meat, compared to 25% who are concerned about seafood, 23 percent about produce and 4 percent about dairy.

But not everyone agrees on what to do to fix the problems, reports NPR. More people said food companies should improve their quality control systems, rather than calling for more inspections, oversight or stiffer penalties.

Consumers Union, which did its own survey recently, asked 1,000 people whether Congress should pass a law to give the Food and Drug Administration the power to force food companies to recall tainted products. It's one of the key provisions in a bipartisan food safety bill that passed the House last year but is languishing in the Senate. Eighty percent said yes.

Source: NPR

Study: Adding Hispanic POS materials leads to better beef sales

A recent pilot test of beef checkoff-funded Hispanic point-of-sale (POS) elements revealed the Hispanic marketing materials increased sales of fresh beef by remarkable percentages.

Volume sales of beef cuts increased across all major subprimals:
Round, up 35.5 percent
Chuck, up 60.1 percent
Rib, up 26.9 percent
Loin, up 41.7 percent
Volume sales of beef variety meats showed the biggest increase with 82.7 percent.

The test was conducted for 12 weeks in three Dillons stores in Kansas. Results also revealed that the Hispanic POS elements increased grocery shopping trips from 8.2 trips per month to 11.1 trips per month.

Nineteen percent of respondents said they will shop for meat at Dillons much more often and 51 percent say they will shop for meat at Dillons somewhat more often due to the new POS elements at the meat case.

Test store shoppers also reported consuming beef more often as part of their daily meals. The percentage of meals including beef grew from 62 percent to 77 percent.

“With a growing Hispanic population in the U.S., the need to reach out to this group is increasing,” says Jim Henger, executive director of marketing for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which contracts to manage retail programs for the beef checkoff. “The beef checkoff-funded Hispanic point-of-sale materials were developed to meet the needs of this growing segment of the population.”

The beef checkoff-funded research was conducted with assistance from the Iowa Beef Industry Council, in order to compare the performance of Dillons stores without the Hispanic point-of-sale materials to test stores with the materials. The point-of-sale materials in test stores included a shopper brochure with a dictionary of cuts, channel strips, counter posters, on-pack recipes, a theatre floor sign and a “Hablo Español” employee button.

Source: The Beef Checkoff