Activists Group Urges McDonald’s to Eliminate All Antibiotics in Meat

Nov 30, 2016


The Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Boene, TX., a nominal shareholder in McDonald’s Corporation has resumed the call for the Company to ban all antibiotics used to produce meat and poultry for their supply chain. 

In 2015, twenty percent of shareholders voted in favor of a similar proposal.


McDonald’s has already announced that antibiotics of human health significance will not be allowed to produce foods for their supply chain but has yet to issue a timeline for complete elimination of antibiotics. The Company noted that “we continue to engage with key experts including some who serve as advisors to the World Health Organization to advance progress across the industry.” One of the problems facing McDonald’s is that in many nations, suppliers do not have systems to verify compliance.

According to Reuters, the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters is part of an Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility which has links to activists and pro-vegan organizations.  Two of these groups, As You Sow and Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return are targeting a number of quick service chains and protein producers.

The Food and Drug Administration has taken appropriate action based on available science to eliminate routine sub-therapeutic administration of antibiotics for the purpose of growth promotion.  By classifying antibiotics according to criticality and importance in human therapy, restrictions have been imposed on administration to livestock.  The regulations governing veterinary feed directives and prescriptions will take effect in January 2017 and should regulate the use of antibiotics for preventive and therapeutic purposes. 

This action which represents a science-based and responsible move towards reducing and ultimately eliminating antibiotics will prove more effective than web-postings and corporate resolutions which are effectively coercion.  Generation of hysteria implicating food animal production in the emergence of multi-drug resistant pathogens in human medicine is superficially effective at the interface of our FMI, NCRR and NRA customers and their consumers.

Unfortunately the statistics on drug resistant infections which are deliberately distorted and frequently misquoted appear convincing but should be questioned.   The most significant drug-resistant diseases responsible for hospitalization and fatalities include tuberculosis, Clostridium difficile enterotoxemia, and gonorrhea, none of which have any connection to livestock production or administration of specific human-designated drugs. The main genera of pathogens involved in emerging drug resistance in the U.S. and the EU are included in the acronym “ESKAPE” (Enterococcus, Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, and Enterobacter)

Notwithstanding available scientific information, the public perception that administering antibiotics to livestock is deleterious to human health persists. It is inevitable that market pressures will demand production of antibiotic-free protein by the poultry and meat industries. Many of our leading producers are progressing towards antibiotic-free production or are marketing brands with a USDA Verified, “No Antibiotics Ever” claim.


Poultry Industry News


Weekly Broiler Production and Prices

Nov 30, 2016


The November 23rd 2016 edition of the USDA Broiler Hatchery Report confirmed that 165 million day-old chicks were placed among the 19 major broiler-producing states during the week ending November 19th: 1.0 percent more than the corresponding week in 2015.

Total chick placements for the U.S. amounted to 172 million. Average hatchability was 84 percent for eggs set three weeks earlier. Cumulative placements for the period January 9th through November 19th amounted to 8.14 billion chicks, one percent more than the corresponding period in 2015.


For the processing week ending November 16th 159.147 million broilers were processed at an average live weight of 2.83 kg (2.78 kg. last week) and a yield of 76.0 percent. The number of broilers processed was 1.4 percent more than the corresponding processing week in 2015 and was 1.8 percent less than the previous week.   Year-to-date (YTD) slaughter of broilers attained 7.355 billion, 1.1 percent higher than YTD 2015.  Processed (RTC) broiler production attained 15.608 million metric tons YTD, 1.9 percent above YTD in 2015 indicating proportionately higher live weights.

Based on the controversy concerning the difference between the Georgia Dock and USDA benchmark prices CHICK-CITE will post the USDA Southern States benchmark prices in $ per kg. as reflected on successive weekly editions of the Broiler Market News Report.


Weekly Turkey Production and Prices

Nov 30, 2016


The November 17th edition of the USDA Turkey Hatchery Report, issued monthly, documented 27.8 million eggs in incubators on November1st 2016, up 11 percent from November 1st 2015, impacted by HPAI.

A total of 23.6 million poults were hatched in October 2016, up 21 percent from October 2015 impacted by HPAI.

A total of 21.8 million poults were placed on farms in the U.S. in October 2016, up 8 percent from October 2016. Year-to-date placements through October attained 227.3 million poults.


The November 25th edition of the USDA Turkey Market News Reports confirmed the following provisional data for turkeys slaughtered under Federal inspection:-

  • For the processing week ending November 19th 1,935 million young hens were slaughtered at a live weight of 7.66 kg (7.90 kg last week). During the corresponding week in 2015, 1,786 million hens were processed. Ready-to-cook hen weight for the week attained 12,079 metric tons, 9.7 percent less than the corresponding week of 2015. Dressing percentage was 80.5. Year-to-date RTC hen production has attained 545,072 metric tons, 9.3 percent above YTD 2015 depressed by HPAI losses in the Midwest.
  • For the processing week ending November 19th 2.463 million toms were slaughtered at 18.47 kg (17.75 kg last week) compared to 2.731 million toms during the previous week. For the corresponding week in 2015, 2.559 million toms were processed. Ready-to-cook tom weight for the past week attained 36,626 metric tons, 4.2 percent less than in the corresponding week of 2015.  Dressing percentage was 80.5.Year-to-date RTC tom production has attained 1,662,920 metric tons, 3.1 percent more than YTD 2015.


CME Prices

Nov 30, 2016


At the close of trading on November 25th CME rounded quotations for corn, soybeans and soybean meal are shown with values for corresponding months  indicated in parentheses:-


Corn (cents per bushel)

Dec.   349    (346)

March ’17    349    (354)

Soybeans (cents per bushel)

Jan. 1,044    (975)

March ’17  1,053   (1,004)

Soybean meal ($per ton)

Dec.   321    (311)

March ’17    352    (316)

Changes in the price of soybeans and soybean meal this week were:-

  • Corn:                 December quotation up by 3 cents                      (+0.9 percent)
  • Soybeans:         November quotation up by 69 cents over Dec.    (+7.0 percent)
  • Soybean Meal:   December quotation up by $10/ton                     (+3.2 percent)                                 

For each 10 cent per bushel change in corn :-

  • The cost of egg production would change by 0.45 cent per dozen
  • The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight

For each $10 per ton change in the price of soybean meal:-

  • The cost of egg production would change by 0.40 cent per dozen
  • The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight

See posting on the November USDA-WASDE Report #559 under the STATISTICS Tab for a review of quantities and price projections for commodities




HPAI Reported in the Netherlands and Scandinavia

Nov 30, 2016


A duck farm in the village of Biddinghuizen east of Amsterdam was depleted as a result of an outbreak of avian influenza. 

The serotype has not been released but it is presumed to be H5N8 as reported in neighboring countries. 

According to the report, close to 200,000 ducks were killed in an attempt to contain infection.  Ducks are raised on range in Holland and would therefore be susceptible to infection from migratory waterfowl. 

Finland has confirmed H5N8 influenza in migratory birds on Aland Island in the Baltic Sea in parallel with an outbreak in Sweden.



Family Business Strategies Workshop for 2017 IPPE

Nov 30, 2016

The North American Meat Institute, co-sponsor of the 2017 IPPE together with USPOULTRY and the AFIA will present a workshop entitled “Family Business Strategies for Success”.  The program will focus on succession planning and employment of family members. 

The workshop will be led by Dave Miniat, CEO of Ed Miniat, LLC and Jenifer Pendergast Senior Consultant, with the Family Business Consulting Group.The event will take place on Tuesday January 31, 2017 from 0H830 to 10H30. 

For more information and to register access www.ippexpo.org


Hubbard to Supply GGP strains to Yisheng in China

Nov 30, 2016


Hubbard will deliver GGP broiler breeder stock to Shandong Yisheng Livestock and Poultry Breeding Company, sufficient to multiply up to a volume of 17 million Parent Stock chicks annually.

Yisheng has moved to self-sufficiency based on the unjustified embargo placed on delivery of Grand Parent Stock from the U.S. and the EU. following the 2015 outbreaks of HPAI in the Midwest and various nations in Europe. The epornitic did not affect the U.S. broiler industry or broiler breeder farms and the embargo imposed by China ignores the OIE principles of both regionalization and compartmentalization.


Yisheng has continuously received Grand Parent Stock from Hubbard since the early 1990’s and the currently announced extension to the higher generation represents a necessary step towards self-sufficiency.

The loss of control over brands and genetics is inherent to the supply of GGP-level stock which allows a recipient to continue replication over a number of years. Reproducing predetermined numbers of parent-generation birds is possible although genetic improvement is limited without supply of additional birds which would upgrade genotype at the commercial level.


JBS SA acquires GNP

Nov 30, 2016


In a November 29th press release JBS SA, the holding company of Pilgrim’s Pride announced acquisition of the GNP Company in a $350 million transaction.

Bill Lovette CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation stated "the Pilgrim’s team is excited to combine the collective strengths of Pilgrim’s Pride and GNP Company.”

He added, “GNP Company boasts outstanding state-of-the-art assets in geographic areas where Pilgrim’s is not currently present, providing Pilgrim’s the opportunity to expand our production and customer bases, while maintaining our high standards for quality, service and great-tasting products.”


Bill Lovette

The attraction of GNP lies in advanced technology directed to the upper end of the broiler market In addition, GNP applies gas stunning, air-scalding, mist chilling and automated deboning as used in the EU. This will provide Pilgrim’s Pride with experience to adapt these technologies to existing operations.  

There are obvious marketing benefits accruing to Pilgrim’s Pride from the range of Just BARE® Certified Organic and Natural/American Humane CertifiedTM/No-Antibiotics-Ever (NAE) product lines.

According to the release “The acquisition is expected to generate synergy by complementing Pilgrim’s existing business both in geography and differentiated branded products, presenting an opportunity to immediately strengthen the company’s position in fast-growing and higher-margin branded retail product categories, such as natural and organic”.

The GNP Company operates two complexes in Cold Spring and Luverne, MN. supplied by 400 contractors and the integration employs 1,700. The Company is 19th ranked among U.S. broiler producers with a throughput of close to 2 million birds per week. This will complement 2nd ranked Pilgrim’s Pride with 30 million birds per week in the U.S. and Mexico.


Astral Foods in South Africa Posts Decline in Net profit for Fiscal 2016.

Nov 30, 2016


Recently released financial results for Fiscal 2016 by Astral Foods a large integrated broiler producer in the Republic of South Africa indicates the low profit generated by the Company compared to Fiscal 2015.

This is due principally to the high cost of feed associated with the recent drought, high labor costs, competition from imports from the EU and Latin America and restraints imposed by inherent deficiencies in infrastructure and the prevailing politico-economic situation.


Financial values in the following table are US$ million applying a conversion of SAR14=US$1


Fiscal 2016

Fiscal 2015

Difference (%)

Net Revenue




Gross Income




Operating Income

$  39,203

$  78,606


Net Income

$  26,586

$  53,051






Gross Margin




Operating Margin




Profit margin








Total Assets











Nov 30, 2016


Following gross mismanagement of the economy, the Government of Egypt has abandoned a peg of approximately nine Egyptian Pounds to one U.S. Dollar resulting in a significant reduction in value of the national currency.  A consequential effect of the devaluation required for an infusion of capital by the International Monetary Fund, has resulted in a shortage of imported pharmaceutical products.


Critical medications including insulin, vaccines and drugs for cancer therapy are in short supply and prohibitively expensive for many citizens.

Cynically it may be that the shortage of antibiotics will reduce the traditional over-use of drugs in poultry production with an indirect benefit to consumer health.



Nov 30, 2016


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require 15 billion gallons of ethanol to be added to the domestic fuel supply in 2017.  This is a physical impossibility given the relatively low demand for gasoline and the ten percent blend ceiling.  The 200 million gallon increase will obviously be exported since it is surplus to domestic requirements.

According to the Energy Information Administration exports of ethanol have averaged 420 million gallons per year for the past two years and with the revised mandate will be higher during 2016.


In a statement responding to the announcement, Mike Brown, President of the National Chicken Council stated, “Ethanol exports have nothing to do with U.S. energy security and the RFS is not being administered in keeping with Congressional intent”.  Brown added, “The RFS bureaucracy has taken on a life of its own and it is time for Congress to stop this runaway train”. 

The NCC estimates that the RFS has cost the chicken industry $59 billion more in feed costs as a result of the RFS. Diversion of 40 percent of the corn crop to ethanol creates an artificial restraint on supply, raising prices of corn to the livestock industry. processors and ultimately consumers.

It is however a reality that with an excess supply of corn, the commodity would be exported at prevailing international prices.  Effectively we are exporting corn in the form of ethanol just as we export broiler meat and beef surplus to domestic needs.

It was the intention of Congress that the biofuels program would create a situation of energy security. Since inception, advances in petroleum extraction technology have created quantitative independence with respect to both natural gas and oil. 

The environmental justification for the corn-to-biofuels program has been largely discounted since there is no net reduction in carbon dioxide emission arising from diluting gasoline with a fuel containing a lower energy content per unit volume.  Fermentation of corn to produce ethanol requires considerable volumes of water and generates carbon dioxide. If the gas produced is not sequestered in soil or alternatively captured and used for commercial applications it is released into the atmosphere contrary to the intent of the program.

Unfortunately the RFS enjoys bipartisan support. The incoming Administration owes the electoral victory to Midweste




Nov 30, 2016


In a November 22nd release by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, data from sampled cucumbers and hot peppers disclosed a low level of contamination.

The FDA has under taken proactive sampling of produce which is usually eaten raw to determine the risk of contracting salmonellosis and colibacilosis.  From 1996 to 2014 five major outbreaks of Salmonella infection occurred as a result of consuming cucumbers. 


One incident lead to 296 diagnosed illnesses and 40 hospitalizations and a second in which Salmonella Poona contaminated sliced cucumbers, resulted in 907 diagnosed cases from mid-2015 to early 2016.

In 2008 hot peppers were associated with a Salmonella outbreak resulting in 1,500 illnesses, 308 hospitalizations and two deaths.  Eight product recalls have occurred since 2010 as a result of contaminated peppers. 

Preliminary results showed nine Salmonella isolates from 283 domestic cucumbers and six isolates from 252 imported cucumber samples.  One Salmonella was isolated among 228 samples of domestic peppers and 34 Salmonella isolates from 867 imported peppers.



Nov 30, 2016


The Minneapolis StarTribune reported on November 21st that Hormel Foods will sell three farms located in California, Arizona and Wyoming together with Farmer John and Saag’s meat brands.  The transaction should not involve regulatory restraints and Smithfield Foods will pay $145 million in cash for the package.


In commenting on the transaction Jim Snee, CEO of Hormel noted, “While these businesses have performed well they no longer align with our company’s growth strategy”.  During 2016 Hormel purchased Justin’s an organic snack company for $286 million and last year Hormel purchased Applegate Farms, an organic meat company for $775million. The combined sales of both companies is estimated at $500 million annually



Nov 30, 2016


The American Humane Association which introduced and operates the American Humane Certified™ Program has announced that Case Farms in North Carolina and Gold’n Plump in Minnesota have been awarded Humane Certification allowing them to place an HA certified Seal of Approval on packaging.

Fair Oaks an Indiana Agritourist Program was also awarded Humane Certification.

In a related matter, the President and CEO of American Humane, Dr. Robin Ganzert was a keynote speaker at the World Dairy Summit held in The Netherlands were she described the current status and future vision for the American Humane Certified™ Program.


Robein Ganzert


Sweden and Russia Report H5 Avian Influenza

Nov 30, 2016


A November 24th posting on ProMED confirms that officials in Sweden and Russia have reported isolation of H5 avian influenza.  In the case of Sweden, H5N8 was identified in a dead goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) in Skana-Lan County on November 14th

In the case of the report from Russia to the World Animal Health information Database, a serotype H5 virus was isolated from each of two backyard farms in the Republic of Kalmykia.


The H5 virus was identified as belonging to lineage A/Guangdong/1/96, clade

Sweden is now the ninth nation in Europe to report H5N8 avian influenza as of November 23rd with following outbreaks confirmed in commercial poultry and free living birds respectively:

  • Austria – 1/1
  • Croatia – 0/1
  • Denmark – 0/10
  • Germany - 0/9
  • Hungary - 14/1
  • Netherlands - 0/8
  • Poland - 0/3
  • Switzerland - 0/62

Epidemiologists consider that there are two potential migration routes for wild bird infected with H5N8.  The Northern Baltic route includes Poland, Northern Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. The Central European route encompasses Croatia, Hungary, Southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  At the present time, migratory birds are moving from the Baltic into northwest Europe and the UK. 

The commentary accompanying the report on ProMED suggest that the geographic extent and the species of waterfowl affected indicate changes in the pathogenicity of the virus and or host specificity.  Although the rate, mortality and spread of cases in free-living birds shares some features with H5N1infection in late 2005 and early 2006, it is still too early to define the host-pathogen relationships in this emerging situation.


Salmonellosis Outbreak in Alabama Attributed to SE

Nov 30, 2016


A Monday November 21st posting on ProMED confirmed a severe outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis affecting 99 attendees at a wedding reception in Colbert County, AL. 

The case required hospitalization of 22 patients to date, most of whom were treated and discharged.  Since 150 attended the event, the high attack rate suggests extensive contamination of the chicken dish served. 


The catering company involved, Indelible Catering of Moulton (or should it be Inedible Catering?) was previously cited for an outbreak of foodborne infection in 2014.  It is presumed that the chicken dish was improperly handled and was insufficiently cooked.


Direct Action Everywhere Video on Jaindl Turkey Farm

Nov 30, 2016


During the past week, Direct Action Everywhere targeted Jaindl Turkey Farms in Orefield, PA., supplier of the 2016 traditional Thanksgiving turkey to the White House.

According to David Jaindl president of the Company, the agents acting for Direct Action Everywhere broke into a barn which housed birds undergoing treatment for injuries.  The video which was circulated purported to show suboptimal standards of management at Jaindl Farms creating a deceptive impression of both the Company and the industry, which was probably the intent.


Jaindl would be well advised to evaluate how agents of an animal rights organization gained entry to a barn and also how they knew which barn to use for the videos.  This information will be useful to prevent a reoccurrence and would benefit the entire industry.


Hybrid Turkeys Webinar on Biosecurity

Nov 30, 2016


Subscribers are again reminded of the Webinar on the Biosecurity requirements adopted by the NPIP featuring Dr. Helen Wojcinsky as the presenter. The program will be aired on Friday, December 9th at 10H00 EST.

To register for the Webinar access:-

Helen is an experienced turkey health practitioner closely involved in practical commercial production and will convey the important aspects of preparing for a potential introduction of HPAI.

This will contribute to enhanced protection with the objective of avoiding losses as occurred in 2015. Given outbreaks of H5N8 HPAI in Europe and H5N6 in Asia this will be a timely topic.hy


Helen Wojcinsky



Nov 30, 2016


Whole Foods Market have entered into an arrangement with Mendocino Farms to open a dining area in a new location in Tustin, CA.  The facility will seat 140 and will include a bar with craft beer and wine. 

Arrangements with restaurant operators include Chego and Roy Kogi in Southern California and the CheU Noodle Bar in Philadelphia.  Whole Foods has taken a minority investment in Mendocino Farms.




Nov 30, 2016


Denmark has reported the first case of H5N8 avian influenza on a duck farm.  Last week Danish Authorities following the lead of other Western European departments of agriculture recommended that flocks be held in barns based on isolation of H5N8 virus from migratory waterfowl and other free-living birds.

The last case of avian influenza in Denmark was diagnosed in 2006 and resulted in extensive losses through depletion and a ban on exports. 


Reuters reported H5N8 avian influenza on farms in the vicinity of Tehran last week.  Apparently a quarter of a million broilers have been depleted following efforts to eradicate the disease.

The Iranian Ministry of Agriculture noted, “An outbreak investigation is underway to trace the source of infection, to detect the probable spread and circulation of the subtype”. 

These reports follow cases in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, India, and Israel. Korea and Japan have isolated H5N6 AI from migratory birds and poultry in a pattern reminiscent of previous Fall outbreaks in recent years.

There are as yet no reports concerning the homogeneity of the strains among various nations or the correspondence of the H5N8 strains isolated from domestic poultry and migratory birds but it is understood that genomic analysis is in progress.  The rate of spread and the geographic distribution suggest wide-scale dissemination of H5N8 virus by numerous species of waterfowl and other birds.



Nov 30, 2016


In 2011 the USDA awarded a competitive research grant valued at $40 million to the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance to develop biofuels from forest waste referred to as “harvest residuals”.  The Alliance included Washington State University and other technical institutions in the region.  The demonstration flight used approximately 1,000 gallons of fuel comprising 20 percent ethanol blended with jet fuel.


The trans-continental Alaska Airlines flight AS4 from Seattle, WA. to Washington Reagan National Airport. Alaska Airlines, a partner in the project, projects that if 20 percent of the entire fuel supply used at the Sea-Tac Airport was derived from discarded wood products, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 142 thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to the emission from 30,000 passenger automobiles.


Alltech Webinar on Blackhead in Turkeys

Nov 30, 2016


Dr. Dennis Wages, Professor in the Department of Population Medicine at the North Carolina State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, recently reviewed current epidemiology and control of histomoniasis (“Blackhead”) in turkey flocks in a Webinar sponsored by Alltech.

The disease has become a serious problem following the withdrawal of nitarsone for prevention and the nitroimidazoles for treatment of the condition.

Dr. Wages stressed the need for high levels of biosecurity to prevent introduction of the caual organism Histomonas meleagridis carried in the ova of the cecal roundworm (Heterakis gallinarum).


Dennis Wages

During the 1960’s, research on histomoniasis was motivated by the prevalence and economic impact of the infection. It was demonstrated at this time that the flora of the intestinal tract was a significant factor in modulating the severity of infection.  It is understood that Clostridium spp. and other genera in the flora of the lower digestive tract are synergistic with histomonads in producing lesions of the cecal mucosa.

Accordingly, combination products which modify the intestinal flora including essential oils, probiotics and bioplexed minerals have a beneficial effect.  Dr. Wages presented field data to show that a large turkey integrator in North Carolina benefited from supplementing diets with a commercial product Natustat® over a nine-month period in 2016.  Natustat® comprises a purified component of the cell wall of Saccharomyces yeast, yucca extract, essential oils including oregano, saponins and bioplexed minerals, including zinc and copper which promote the integrity of the mucosa.  The additive was included at two pounds per ton in the starter diet and three pounds per ton during the 5 to 12- week growing period.  Following removal of Natustat® from diets, cases of blackhead were recorded in flocks and on three farms mortality exceeded 20 percent.

Alternative approaches to prevention of histomoniasis which may become a reality in the future include administration of live attenuated vaccines which have been proven to be protective under laboratory conditions. 

Due to the excellent suppression of histomoniasis using previously available arsenical drugs, there was little justification for expenditure on research and for the development and registration of vaccines.  Given the present situation, work conducted in Austria at the University of Vienna will be reevaluated. It is possible that effective vaccines will become available in the future given the commercial need from the Industry. In the interim the Industry will have to depend on approved feed additives, biosecurity and measures to suppress the intermediate host, the cecal roundworm and earthworms which function as transport hosts.

Duffy CF et al.(2005) Evaluation of dietary Natustat for control of Histomonas meleagridis in male turkeys on infected litter. Avian Dis. 49:423-425.


Turkey being Pardoned

Nov 24, 2016

Photo by an official White House photographer


Shane Commentary


“Slow Growing” Broiler Emerging as an Issue

Nov 30, 2016


Opponents of intensive livestock production frequently use the concept of “welfare” to disguise an undercurrent of veganism. Initiated in Europe opponents of livestock production are agitating to revert to 1960s vintage strains, displacing conventional broilers selected over generations to show inherent efficiency and sustainability.

There is no scientific justification for this replacement.  Dr. John Glisson, Vice-president for Research at USPOULTRY commented at the 2016 USPOULTRY Sustainable Agriculture Summit that “slow growing broilers are the one issue that makes the least sense from a sustainability standpoint.”  He added “it is not based on facts, logic or reason.”


In some sense slow-growing meat chickens represent a marketing ploy to create product differentiation from conventional broilers and to appeal to the affluent “foodie” and welfare-oriented demographic. If it remains a niche market, so be it. Unfortunately as with cage-free eggs, the activists have learned that placing pressure on the most vulnerable retailers and food service companies can create a groundswell to achieve their objectives.

“Slow-growing” broiler production is an issue that will not simply go away as a fad.  The industry must become proactive and make maximum use of social media in addition to conventional channels to expose the fallacy in the initiative.  Dr. Christine Daugherty, vice president of Sustainable Food Production for Tyson Foods, addressing the Summit noted that “consumers want to know what you’re doing in a language they can understand.” 

Sustainability is an important issue and the Industry must emphasize that retrograde production practices run counter to an important precept of converting resources to economically priced food.  It will be important to demonstrate that the behavior of heavy broilers, which is different to birds with a lower-live weight, does not necessarily indicate a deviation from acceptable welfare. As previously noted on CHICK-CITE broilers start off as ballerinas and end up as sumo wrestlers.

On this important issue of growth rate, our Industry should not allow mendacity, ignorance and sentiment to wield the megaphone.


Value of Plastic Packaging

Nov 29, 2016


An article entitled “The Cost of Plastic Packaging” by Alexander H. Tullo appeared in the October 17, 2016 edition of the American Chemical Society periodical Chemical & Engineering News.  Tullo makes the case that although disposal of plastics presents an environmental challenge, the benefits in relation to prolonging shelf-life and preserving quality, outweigh the costs and disadvantages of the various packaging materials which vary in their biodegradability.


Extremists have demonized all plastics based on inappropriate or deficient methods of collection or disposal but have clearly ignored the obvious advantages which relate to sustainability, efficiency and reduction in food waste.

In the article, Tullo quotes from “A New Plastics Economy-Rethinking the Future of Plastic” compiled and circulated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.  This document calculated that 78 million metric tons of plastic packaging material is produced annually. Effectively 98 percent of this quantity is derived from virgin feed-stock.  Of the total plastic packaging produced each year, 40 percent is disposed of in landfills adding to volume and creating a problem of persistence due to extended time required for degradation.  It is also estimated that 32 percent of plastic packaging material is lost through “leakage” ending up in waterways and oceans.  Incineration or energy recovery is responsible for disposing of 14 percent of plastics produced and only 14 percent is collected for recycling.  Of this small proportion, approximately 3 percent is subject to closed-loop recycling into new packaging material. The remainder, comprising 11 percent of annual production is subjected to “cascaded” recycling which involves downgrading the value of the plastic to lower-value products. Half of the quantity submitted for re-processing is apparently lost.

It is evident that greater efforts should be made to divert plastic packaging material from landfills and leakage.  In large measure this depends on financial incentives to collect and recycle material, both of which incur cost.  Giving the declining price of fossil fuels including natural gas, incineration with appropriate controls to prevent elaboration of toxic particulates can be prohibitively expensive.

On the benefit side, specifically-designed plastic packaging is beneficial to the food industry.  It is estimated that worldwide, 1.3 billion metric tons of food products representing a third of all food items are wasted each year.  The cost is estimated to amount to $165 billion annually for the U.S.

Sophisticated flexible multi-layered packaging can extend shelf-life of both produce and protein foods.  Polyethylene shrink wrap extends the palatability and appearance of cucumbers from 3 days to 14.  Polyvinyl chloride film over polystyrene foam trays extend the life of steaks from 4 days to as much as a month if vacuumed-packed with an ethylene vinyl alcohol barrier against oxygen.

Studies have shown that polystyrene foam egg cartons protect the contents during transit more effectively than alternative packaging.  A single leaker in a 12 or 18-egg pack frequently results in complete loss of the sales-unit or requires labor to salvage unaffected eggs.  This is in addition to the inevitable yolk-staining of undamaged packages in a case, increasing the cost further.  This is especially the case with specialty eggs which are produced at a higher cost and carry a higher shelf price.

Flexible multi-layered packaging represents considerable research and development costs to achieve the objective of prolonging shelf life.  A flexible multi-layered package for a processed protein food may contain up to six layers each with a specific function:-

  • The outer coating of film protects the appearance of the package including the underlying printed material and is usually constructed of a specialty polymer.
  • The outer layer consisting of polyethylene or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is suitable for printing, indicating brand, nutrient composition, ingredients and directions for food preparation.
  • The middle structural layer provides protection for the product and is usually composed of polyethylene or PET.
  • The tie-layer composed of either nylon or polyethylene or specialized polyolefins provides structural integrity.
  • The barrier layer composed of ethylene-vinyl alcohol or nylon is used to block oxygen and is critical to preservation of expensive products or where extended shelf-life is required. Frequently a coating of aluminum is deposited on the polymer.
  • A low-melting point polymer such as polyethylene which is inert and does not interact with food is used for the inner layer.

Due to the diversity of the components of flexible multilayered packaging, biodegradation is extended and recycling often involves downgrading to a lower-value product.

The MacArthur Foundation review places the onus of disposal on the plastics industry, urging simplification of materials used in packaging and emphasizing the need to develop polymers with high functionality but with the capacity to be recycled.  The industry is approaching the limits to reduce thickness of films and existing and projected technology including biaxial orientation of polypropylene has practical limitations.

Using high-performance films to shrink-wrap beverage six-packs reduces thickness and hence amount of wastage. This presentation is still 70 percent more efficient in reducing greenhouse gas emissions than cardboard, contrary to public perception.

Plastics offer considerable savings through avoiding wastage of both produce and meats but sustainability requires more aggressive approaches to collection and productive recycling to be acceptable to consumers and regulators.

Visit our Companion Website
Dr. Simon M. Shane
Simon M. Shane
Contact     C. V.

Industry Prices: Fri Dec 2
 Corn3.43 $/bu
 Soybeans10.30 $/bu
 Soybean Meal315.60 $/ton
 Eggs, Producer36  ¢/doz
 Eggs, Warehouse 44-47  ¢/doz 

Copyright 2016 Simon M. Shane