The U.S. beef cattle herd has shrunk to its lowers figure since 1973, as farmers are wary of beef demand during the economic struggles. Cattle producers may make about $51.53 per cow this year, Bloomberg reports, after two years of losses from high feed costs and declining demand. The beef and dairy herd at the start of July was 100.8 million head, down 1.2 percent from 2009.

Erica Rosa, an economist at the Livestock Marketing Information Center in Denver, said uncertainty about economic recovery may be keeping ranchers from expanding herds.

“Overall, cow-calf producers continue to reduce herd numbers, rather than expand by retaining heifers,” Rosa said. “Although calf and feeder-cattle prices are higher than 2009, input/production costs still remain high and there is still quite a bit of uncertainty currently and about the future.”

The calf crop also fell 1.2 percent to 35.4 million head.

Meanwhile, the cattle numbers in Australian feedlots have increased by 11 percent in the June Quarter, boosted by processor demand and larger-than-expected sorghum supplies. The total increased from 790,772, up from 711,198 three months ago. Australia is the second-largest beef exporter in the world, after Brazil.

Source: Bloomberg, Business Week

McDonald's Q2 earnings up 15%

McDonald's Corp. today announced strong results for the second quarter driven by all areas of the world. Global comparable sales increased 4.8%, with the U.S. up 3.7%, Europe up 5.2% and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa up 4.6%. Operating income in the United States rose 7%, thanks to the company's new beverage lineup, as well as its core menu and dollar menu.

"McDonald's second quarter reflects strong top-line and bottom-line results with each area of the world generating higher comparable sales, traffic and profits," said CEO Jim Skinner. "This performance demonstrates the popular appeal of McDonald's relevant menu choices. We're delivering great tasting food to our 60 million customers around the world every day with the outstanding value and unmatched convenience they expect from McDonald's."

The company reported the following highlights for the quarter:
  --  Consolidated operating income increased 10%
  --  Diluted earnings per share were $1.13, up 15%
  --  Returned $1.6 billion to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends

In addition, McDonald's Board of Directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.55 per share of common stock, payable on September 16, 2010, to shareholders of record at the close of business on September 1, 2010.

Source: McDonald's Corp.

T-bone debuts in Korean supermarkets

Lotte Mart, the third-largest retail chain in South Korea, recently launched sales of U.S. T-bone steaks at 85 locations across the country. This marks the first time this cut has been offered in the retail sector since Korea resumed imports of U.S. beef, reports the Beef Checkoff Program.

“The reintroduction of T-bones really demonstrates the traction U.S. beef is regaining in Korea,” said Junil Park, U.S. Meat Export Federation Korea retail specialist, contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. “Consumer acceptance of U.S. beef has become much more widespread as the result of positive imaging, aggressive promotion and USMEF’s collaborative efforts with suppliers, importers and retailers.”

The groundwork for this new product offering actually began several months ago. With support from the Beef Checkoff Program, USMEF held a beef seminar in March for supermarket meat managers and retail meat buyers focused on the safety and quality of U.S. beef. USMEF also hosted nine representatives from Lotte Mart – chosen through a sales competition – to take a U.S. beef industry tour. During these events, Lotte Mart buyers and managers were encouraged to promote new U.S. beef cuts and expand the U.S. share of their imported beef section.

Lotte Mart has also taken note of the resurgence of premium-quality steaks in Korea’s high-end foodservice sector, and sees increasing potential for these cuts to perform well at the retail level as well.

That’s why Lotte Mart is not only featuring U.S. T-bones, but U.S. tenderloins and striploins as well. In fact, Lotte Mart now carries six chilled U.S. beef cuts and eight frozen beef items, and dedicates 30 percent of its imported beef section to U.S. products.

“Lotte Mart will focus on increasing sales of T-bone steaks with consistent in-store promotions such as intensive tasting demonstration at high-demand outlets and distributing a steak recipe brochure to help consumers know how to prepare the product,” said Ji-young Yoon, Lotte Mart’s imported meat merchandiser.

Over a four-day promotion at Lotte Mart earlier this month, the chain sold U.S. T-bone steaks, ribeye rolls and striploins valued at more than $91,000 (110 million won), with 88 percent of those sales being T-bones. One focused customer who couldn’t find the T-bone steaks at his local Lotte Mart reported to store management that he drove to a distant store just to buy the steaks, and thanked the store for providing him with cooking tips.

Through May, Korea has climbed to third place in 2010 U.S. beef export volume at 37,177 metric tons (nearly 82 million pounds) and fourth place in terms of value at $162.8 million. These totals represent an increase of 66 percent in volume and 94 percent in value over last year’s pace. Based on more recent USDA/FAS weekly export data, Korea has been importing U.S. beef at about the same level as Mexico, the U.S. beef industry’s No. 1 foreign market.

Source: Beef Checkoff Program

Pilgrim's Pride prepares Russian exports

Pilgrim's Pride Corp. has received formal approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to resume exporting chicken products to Russia. The company said USDA has approved exports to Russia from Pilgrim's processing facilities in Boaz, Ala., Russellville, Ala., and Dallas, Texas. The Alabama plants already have begun packing product for Russia, and Pilgrim's said it expects to resume shipments shortly. The Dallas plant will resume production today.

Earlier this month, Russian officials signed a formal poultry agreement with the United States outlining new processing requirements for domestic chicken that is to be exported to Russia. Under the new requirements approved last week, U.S. chicken companies can replace the chlorinated rinse with cetylpyridinium chloride, peroxyacetic acid or hydrogen peroxide. Pilgrim's plants in Boaz and Russellville were converted to peroxyacetic acid earlier this year.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has compiled a new approved list for Russia that was sent to the Russian government last Friday that is based on the Russian-approved list that was in effect December 31, 2009. As soon as companies appear on the new FSIS list, they are eligible to begin shipping to Russia immediately.

"We are pleased that the new agreement is in place and we look forward to resuming export shipments to Russia as soon as possible," said Don Jackson, Pilgrim's Pride president and chief executive. "Russia is an important export market for U.S. chicken and the re-opening of the borders will be a significant benefit to our company and industry."

Source: Pilgrim's Pride Corp.