Nearly 1,200 workers at the JBS plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, have voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776.

“I am delighted that we stood together and made the right choice to form a union,” said Bernard Coneghen, who has worked at the Souderton facility for 27 years. “We had the opportunity to speak with representatives of the UFCW about the benefits of having a voice at work and were able to make an informed choice about forming a union.”

“The outcome of this election shows that when workers get a free and fair process, they choose union representation,” said Wendell Young, IV, UFCW international vice president and president of Local 1776. "The UFCW applauds JBS for taking the high road to allow the workers to have a free and fair process. Having a union makes it better for everyone, workers, the company, and the larger community.”

The Brazilian firm JBS, S.A. acquired the former Moyer Packing Company’s Souderton facility with the purchase of the Smithfield Beef Group in 2008. JBS, out of respect for its workers, allowed a free and fair process for workers to decide about union representation, the UFCW states.

“We achieved our victory because we stood together and that’s what made us strong,” said Melina Martinez, who has worked at the plant for the last six years. “Now that we have a union, we want to get right to work on a contract that protects our rights and improves our working conditions.”

By choosing UFCW Local 1776 as their bargaining representative, workers at the JBS plant in Souderton will be joining together with 27,000 JBS workers and 250,000 meatpacking and poultry workers across the country who are already members of the UFCW.

Source: UFCW

Hog, cattle futures climb as dollar drops

Hog and cattle futures climbed for the first time in three sessions as a slumping dollar revived prospects for U.S. meat exports amid signs the economy is recovering. Bloomberg News reports that improvements in the economy may spur pork and beef consumption.

“If our economy is gaining traction, it’ll certainly support the idea of improving meat demand,” said Dennis Smith, a senior account executive at Archer Financial Services Inc. in Chicago. “The dollar’s down to new lows. It should support our export business with these meats.”

Hog futures for December settlement rose 0.35 cent, or 0.5 percent, to settle at 72.25 cents a pound at 1:04 p.m. on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The commodity has climbed 10 percent this year. Cattle futures for December delivery gained 0.375 cent, or 0.4 percent, to settle at 97.675 cents a pound on the CME. The commodity has gained 13 percent in 2010.

Source: Business Week, Bloomberg

Maple Leaf Foods announces growth plans

Maple Leaf Foods announced details of a comprehensive plan to significantly increase near and longer term shareholder value. The plan, which was unanimously approved by the company's Board of Directors at its annual strategy review, builds on a strategic direction previously approved by the Board in September 2009.

Maple Leaf expects the plan will deliver substantial earnings growth in each of the next five years. Specifically, the company expects its plan will increase EBITDA margin by more than 75% over the next four to five years - from a current level of 7% to 9.5% in 2012, and 12.5% in 2015.

The plan includes several initiatives that are expected to increase margins in the near term, of which several require little or no capital investment. Many of these near-term initiatives are well underway, including pricing and normalization of trade promotional activity, simplification of bakery and meat products formulation and manufacturing, early facility rationalization, and the implementation of an integrated SAP system that will provide a base to enhance business performance and further reduce administration and processing costs.

The plan also contemplates a series of plant consolidations, coupled with strategic capital investments in new manufacturing capacity and technology. This will include construction of two large scale facilities: a bakery in Hamilton, Ontario that is planned to be commissioned in mid-2011; and a new prepared meats facility, with construction planned to commence in 2012. These investments are expected to materially increase the profitability and competitiveness of Maple Leaf's manufacturing facilities and its distribution network.

James Hankinson, chair of the Governance Committee of the Board, said, "After a thorough review of management's plan and other alternative value creation opportunities, the Board concluded that this plan is the best path to deliver substantial earnings growth and shareholder value. It is achievable and measurable, with well-defined performance milestones. The Board will remain deeply engaged, working with management to ensure we realize that value."

"Maple Leaf Foods has a clear and achievable plan to deliver significant earnings growth now and through the next five years, yielding a very substantial return to shareholders," said Michael H. McCain, president and CEO. "The primary driver of this earnings growth will be increased efficiency throughout our manufacturing network, which represents the largest portion of our total cost structure. We expect to achieve this by reducing complexity, consolidating plants and investing in scale and technology. We intend to finance these initiatives through internal cash flow and debt capacity without issuing equity, while maintaining an investment grade balance sheet throughout the process."

Source: Maple Leaf Foods

Quiznos, Boston Market name new CEOs

Two large chains have named new chief executive officers within the past week. On Tuesday, Quiznos announced that it was promoting Greg MacDonald from president to CEO, replacing founder Rick Schaden, who stepped back as CEO in February, 2009. He will remain chairman of the company.

MacDonald has been with Quiznos since 1998, starting in senior development and marketing posts. He was named president of Quiznos Canada in 2005 and president of Quiznos worldwide in June 2009, reports the Denver Business Journal.

Earlier this week, it was announced that George Michel will become CEO of Boston Market Corp., replacing F. Lane Cardwell, who was CEO for less than 17 months.

"The leadership transition accompanies a shift in focus from the development of the vision for the new Boston Market toward careful attention to implementation," the privately held company said in a statement released Friday night.

Source: Denver Business Journal

Stonefire Grill becomes first U.S. restaurant chain to promote Canadian beef

Stonefire Grill, a fast-casual dining chain in Southern California, has become the first restaurant chain in the United States to promote Canadian beef. Now using Canadian tri-tip, Stonefire Grill has added the Canadian beef brand mark to its marketing materials.

“This is a great development for us,” says Marty Carpenter, senior director U.S. market development for the Beef Information Centre (BIC). “Canadian beef is served at many restaurants in the U.S. Stonefire Grill is the first to put our logo on their materials; we are thrilled to have their commitment.”

BIC developed a relationship with Stonefire Grill at the National Restaurant Association tradeshow, from there BIC worked with Stonefire Grill’s supplier to identify its Canadian beef specifications and supply. BIC was also “hands-on”, spending time on-site demonstrating the Canadian beef advantage to their chefs and executives.

“Canadian beef is a perfect fit for us,” says Kaduri Shemtov, Stonefire Grill. “The quality of beef is fantastic and guests continue to love our tri-tip.”

Seasoned beef tri-tip is one of a number of options available – created from family recipes with a focus on taste, value and convenience. Canada AA tri-tips are slowly cooked overnight in specially designed ovens to ensure a tender and juicy product. Then, they are taken directly from the ovens and finished on either mesquite-fired grills or high heat broilers.

“The team at the Beef Information Centre was very supportive,” says Shemtov. “We continue to work with them on this program as well as other items. We are very pleased with the relationship and the product, Canadian beef is a great choice.”

Source: Beef Information Centre