The U.S. Department of Labor has filed an administrative complaint against Tyson Fresh Meats, the world's largest supplier of premium beef and pork and a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc. The complaint alleges that Tyson systematically rejected female job applicants at its plant in Joslin, Ill.

"The Labor Department is firmly committed to ensuring that federal contractors give all individuals a fair and equal chance at employment," said Patricia A. Shiu, director of the department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. "Taxpayer dollars must never be used to discriminate. In our efforts to uncover workplace discrimination, OFCCP will utilize a host of remedies, including debarment, to protect workers, promote diversity and enforce the law."

OFCCP's investigation revealed that Tyson utilized a hiring process and selection procedures that discriminated against women seeking entry-level positions. Executive Order 11246, under which this lawsuit was brought, prohibits federal contractors such as Tyson from discriminating on the basis of gender when making their hiring decisions and empowers OFCCP to monitor their compliance with the law.

The complaint requests that all of Tyson's federal contracts be canceled; it be debarred from future government contracts until it has remedied the violations; and it provide complete relief, including lost wages, interest and other benefits of employment, to affected individuals. OFCCP believes that more than 750 women are owed back wages and more than 100 women should be given the option of working for the company.

This filing follows recent litigation by OFCCP involving another Tyson Foods Inc. subsidiary, TNT Crust, located in Green Bay, Wis. A Department of Labor administrative law judge found that TNT Crust systematically discriminated against Latino applicants in its entry-level position hiring.

An executive with Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson countered that the Labor Department's charges are based solely on an audit of job application forms, not complaints by anyone who came to the company looking for work, according to AP reports.

"We're disappointed the Department of Labor has taken this course of action," said Ken Kimbro, Tyson's senior vice president and chief human resources officer, insisting that "contrary to the impression left by the government's allegation" the company demands a discrimination-free workplace.

"We believe there were legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons certain applicants were not hired," Kimbro said. He added that during the time period covered by the review, 28 percent of the Joslin plant's work force were women and 66 percent of the employees were minorities.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Associated Press

Niman Ranch introduces cage-free eggs

Niman Ranch is expanding its breakfast offerings by introducing all-natural, cage-free eggs. The company says its cage-free brown eggs have been produced in accordance to Niman Ranch’s raising practices and protocols. Niman Ranch works with 25 local U.S. family farmers who raise Rhode Island Red Hens, a heritage breed that is particularly well suited for cage-free environments. Niman Ranch’s laying hens are never given added hormones or antibiotics and are fed a 100% vegetarian diet.

“This pairing seems obvious to us. Bacon and eggs is the quintessential breakfast classic, and now our customers can get the same commitment to sustainability, humane animal care, and U.S. family farmers from a Niman Ranch carton of cage-free eggs as they do from all of Niman Ranch’s products,” said Jeff Tripician, chief marketing officer/EVP of sales for Niman Ranch. “Niman Ranch’s customers are socially aware and engaged chefs and consumers who are concerned with these issues and this is the way for them to create a variety of gourmet breakfast selections that not only taste delicious, but they can feel good about serving.”

Niman Ranch’s decision to work with 25 U.S. family farmers will allow them to source eggs locally for specific geographic regions.

“Among the many benefits of this program is the fact that we’ll now support an entirely new set of U.S. family farmers, adding to our family farming network and ultimately creating a positive impact on a number of local rural communities,” Tripician, said.

Source: Niman Ranch

Uncle Charley's to offer new heat & serve sausage

Uncle Charley's Sausage Co. has introduced new heat & serve Cooked Sweet Italian Sausage with Peppers, Onions and Sauce and Cooked Hot Italian Sausage with Peppers, Onions and Sauce to supermarkets and other fine grocery stores. The sausage can be heated in minutes in a microwave or prepared in a conventional oven for a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

The Uncle Charley's Cooked Sweet and Hot Italian Sausage are available in 17 oz. trays bearing the company's “Uncle Charley's” brand and can be found in the refrigerated section of the meat department.

Company President Chas Armitage said that Uncle Charley's continues to develop new products that fit into busy lifestyles, while delivering the same premium sausage produced with custom blended recipes for extraordinary flavor.

"For people on the go who love the taste of Italian Sausage, these products are great options," Armitage said. "We worked hard to produce the perfect blend of seasoning and spices in a zesty red sauce to accent the flavor of our fresh pork sausage. These products really taste great served over pasta or rice or simply placed in a bun for a delicious sandwich."

Source: Uncle Charley’s Sausage Co.

ConAgra expands distribution for Wolf Chili

Wolf Brand Chili, a brand of ConAgra Foods, is expanding distribution and now is available at major retailers in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. This is the brand's first major expansion outside the South Central U.S., where the authentic Texas-style chili holds the No. 1 place in market share.

The brand's expansion was driven by consumer research that showed even though the Midwest has the highest index of chili consumption in the nation, the region reports only moderate canned chili sales.

"Chili eaters in the Midwest are more likely to make their chili from scratch," said Arnicia Fleming, brand manager, ConAgra Foods. "We think Midwesterners will convert to Wolf Brand Chili, because they found the quality and bold flavors of Wolf Brand Chili more reminiscent of homemade than other canned chili brands."

Consumer research also led to the development of the new Homestyle variety. Consumers reported that they like more vegetables in their chili, and the new variety contains onions, tomatoes and green peppers. Homestyle will be on shelf at retailers next to Original with Beans, Original No Beans and Turkey with Beans.

Source: ConAgra Foods

Max & Erma's acquisition finalized

American Blue Ribbon Holdings LLC, the parent of the Village Inn and Bakers Square restaurant chains, announced the completion of its acquisition of the Max & Erma's Restaurant chain.

"We are delighted to add the Max & Erma's casual dining brand to the American Blue Ribbon Holdings restaurant portfolio," said Hazem Ouf, president and CEO of ABRH. "It is very gratifying that our success over the last year and a half in turning around the Village Inn and Bakers Square chains has put us in a position to acquire another brand."

Ouf continued, "With a strong heritage and loyal following in its core Midwestern markets, Max & Erma's will nicely complement our existing operations and enable us to broaden our geographical footprint. Our plans are to re-energize the brand and ultimately capitalize on its longer-term growth potential."

ABRH has naned Jeff Neely as concept president of Max & Erma's Restaurants Inc. He began his career with Donatos Pizza, in the late 1970's. His background includes senior executive positions in operations, franchising and human resources for industry leaders including Domino's Pizza, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers.

"I am excited to take the helm of Max & Erma's, and looking forward to helping the chain once again become a significant player in the casual dining arena," commented Neely. "Being a native of Columbus and having grown up with very fond memories of the Max & Erma's brand, this truly is a childhood dream of mine coming true."

Max & Erma's currently operates 52 company-owned and 26 franchised restaurants. The restaurants are located mainly in the Midwest and Eastern United States.

Source: American Blue Ribbon Holdings LLC