The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced several measures that will better ensure the humane treatment and slaughter of all cattle presented for processing at FSIS-inspected facilities.

"Under this Administration, we have significantly strengthened our ability to enforce the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, but we have more work to do and must continue to look for ways that ensure the safe and humane slaughter of animals," said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "That is why we are taking concrete steps to address outstanding humane handling issues, ranging from enhanced employee training to clearer guidance on existing rules."

The Agency is pursuing the following new measures:
1. Issuing procedures to inspection personnel to clarify that all non-ambulatory mature cattle must be condemned and promptly euthanized to ensure they are humanely handled, regardless of the reason for the animal's non-ambulatory status. The clarification is intended to ensure that the policy is consistently applied at all federally inspected establishments by resolving any uncertainty on how inspectors should interpret existing rules.
2. Responding to and soliciting comments on petitions from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Farm Sanctuary.
3. Appointing an Ombudsman in the Office of Food Safety, designated specifically for humane handling issues. The ombudsman will provide FSIS employees a channel of communication to voice their concerns when the standard reporting mechanisms do not adequately address outstanding issues.
4. Requesting the USDA Office of Inspector General audit industry appeals of noncompliance records and other humane handling enforcement actions by FSIS inspection program personnel. This will help determine whether FSIS has adequately handled humane handling violations identified by inspection personnel and challenged by an establishment. The audit will give the Agency a better picture of how well the appeals process works, and if problems are found, FSIS will take action to address them.
5. Delivering enhanced humane handling training to give inspection personnel more practical, situation-based training. Additional training modules that prepare inspectors for realistic scenarios they will face in the field will help the Agency enforce HMSA regulations more effectively and consistently.

"When Congress passed the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, they provided FSIS with the authority to prevent needless suffering, and we take our responsibility very seriously," said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. "Consumers need to be confident our inspectors have the direction they need to ensure that humane slaughter is carried out properly."

During the last two years, FSIS has implemented a number of measures to strengthen humane handling enforcement. For example, on March 14, 2009, the USDA announced a final rule to amend Federal meat inspection regulations to require a complete ban on the slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle for use in human food. FSIS also created 24 new humane handling enforcement positions, including 23 in-plant personnel and a headquarters-based Humane Handling Enforcement Coordinator. Most recently, on October 14, 2010, FSIS issued draft guidelines to assist meat and poultry establishments that want to improve operations by using in-plant video monitoring.

For more information on these proposals, contact FSIS' Office of Policy and Program Development at (202) 205-0495.

Source: FSIS

Three fired from Smithfield plant in animal abuse investigation

Smithfield Foods officials said Tuesday the company has fired two employees and their supervisor for mistreating pigs and violating Smithfield Foods' animal welfare policies at a company-owned farm in Waverly. The investigation came about after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video and pictures showing breeding pigs abused and crammed into small gestation crates at the farm of the company's livestock production subsidiary Murphy-Brown LLC.

The Humane Society has called on Smithfield Foods to renew its commitment to phasing out the crates, which severely limit a pig's movement and can injure the animals when they try to seek more comfortable positions. In 2007, Smithfield Foods said it would phase out gestation crates by 2017. The troubled economy led the company to stop the replacement of the crates in 2009.

Sources: Newport News Daily Press, Associated Press

American Foods Group given Governor's Award for Excellence in Energy Management

American Foods Group of Green Bay, Wis. was recently honored for earning the prestigious Governor's Award for Excellence in Energy Management. This award is in recognition of American Foods Group's dedication to adopt energy-efficient and sustainable practices in Wisconsin. AFG, home to 1,500 employees, harvests 2,100 head of cattle daily and sends its meat products to grocery stores and food service establishments nationwide.

With the help of Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, in partnership with Wisconsin Public Service and more than $437,000 in financial incentives, the beef processor has launched aggressive energy saving efforts and continues to investigate new technologies and find more ways to save energy throughout its business.

Since 2009, American Foods Group has saved more than four million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and 234,000 therms of natural gas annually—enough energy to power 650 Wisconsin homes for a year. The company will also benefit from $572,000 in savings on its energy bills each year.

To reduce energy usage American Foods Group implemented several energy-efficiency projects at its plant including:
* Installing a ThermoSorber, which uses steam to heat water and to cool liquid ammonia. Since AFG uses large amounts of hot water and has a large ammonia refrigeration system this technology has saved the company $10,000 per month in energy costs.
* Utilizing a condensing economizer on two of its boilers to recover waste heat and reuse it in the boiler make-up water.
* Upgrading to energy-efficient lighting and installing occupancy sensors throughout its warehouse.
* Installing an anaerobic digester that is fueled by paunch manure from the harvested cattle. The digester, equipped with two 600-kilowatt generator sets, can produce 1,200 kilowatts of electricity per hour.
* Starting an energy management team and making energy efficiency a key consideration in all project planning.
* Attending Focus on Energy training courses.
* Keeping up with preventive maintenance which improves equipment operating efficiency.
* Completing numerous feasibility studies to examine its systems and find custom solutions to save energy.

The annual environmental benefits of the American Foods Group efficiency efforts are equivalent to offsetting more than 12,000 barrels of oil from being burned – eliminating four million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the atmosphere.

"Energy efficiency has really helped our bottom line," said Bucky Derouin, plant engineer at American Foods Group. "We started an energy team eight years ago and it's been very rewarding to see all that we've accomplished. Focus has been a big help doing a lot of the legwork and research on projects."

"We're proud to honor American Foods Group with the Governor's Award for Excellence in Energy Management," said Ken Williams, Focus on Energy's business programs director. "We applaud their commitment to efficiency and recognize them as positive examples for other businesses to follow."

Source: Focus on Energy

Arbor investments completes sale of Allied Specialty Foods

Chicago-based Arbor Investments announced that it has sold its portfolio company
Allied Specialty Foods Inc. to industry veteran Steven Zoll, former President of ConAgra Foods Refrigerated Foodservice Co. Allied Specialty Foods, headquartered in Vineland, N.J., is a national manufacturer of custom raw and fully cooked beef and poultry items, including “Philly Steak” Arbor originally acquired Allied Specialty Foods in July of 2005.

The transaction represents Arbor’s fifth exit in 2010. In addition to Allied, successfully completed exits this year included the sale of Meridian Distribution to Snyder’s of Hanover, Stone Gate Foods to Second Bite Foods, Great Kitchens, Inc. to ARYZTA AG and National Deli to Rivers Associates.

Source: Arbor Investments