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Articles from 2014 In October


Proof of concept: Feed can carry PEDV

Proof of concept: Feed can carry PEDV

Last year had been a pretty good year — as far as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus goes — for the Pipestone System, with only two sow farms testing positive for the disease. Scott Dee, veterinarian with Pipestone (Minn.) Veterinary Services, and director of research, was cautiously optimistic heading into 2014. He credits fellow Pipestone veterinarian Joel Nerem, also director of health and biosecurity for Pipestone Systems, with designing and implementing a porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus-based, system-wide biosecurity protocol using risk factors for PRRS virus, “and it seemed to be working nicely.”

But then the hangover from New Year’s quickly wore off. “Within one week several farms became infected,” Dee says. With tight biosecurity in place, the veterinarian team was busy looking for answers as to what caused the rapid infection in their system. An investigation of many of the infected sites pointed to a common thread: Each of the three breeding herds had an unexpected feed outage that required an “emergency” delivery.

Feed had been deposited into a designated external bin on the site, which then provided feed for a specific portion of the herd. Clinical signs of PEDV started to appear one to two days after the emergency delivery, and only in the animals that had consumed feed from that specific bin.

“This started to make us think about what is the role of feed in the spread,” Dee says. “We didn’t have a biosecurity plan for feed in our system.”

The veterinarians had a summit, and “our leadership told us to use the resources that you have to figure it out and figure it out fast,” Dee says. “This was a new paradigm. With no background information or data relative to PEDV transmission through feed, we had to start from ground zero.” There was no literature or references to learn from, as well as a lack of sampling methods and a lack of infectivity assays.

So, the Pipestone Applied Research team went to the acutely infected farms to see what they could learn, knowing that animal byproducts had already been pulled out of the feed supply in 2013. They started studying the environmental risks on the farm. “Maybe there’s potential for contamination of the feed through the risk of the environmental contamination,” Dee says.

Samples were taken throughout the environment, and PEDV RNA was detected in the dust particles from exhaust fans, the ground directly below the exhaust fans, external concrete pads at critical access points, farm personnel, and in vehicle cabs and tires. Adam Schelkopf, another Pipestone veterinarian, even went to the feed mill and started studying what happens when the truck comes into the feed mill. He swabbed the truck driveway entrance to the feed mill, as well as the exterior of the trucks as they came into the feed mill.

“The most compelling [finding] was when we went into the now-empty suspect feed bins,” Dee says. “We started collecting the feed material that had collected on the inside wall of the bin. We thought this would be a controlled way to sample feed versus a free-catch sample … also a much better way to reduce contamination just from the environment.”

Dee says the PEDV Cycle threshold (Ct) measures were “very strong” from the samples taken from within the suspect bins: 20.25, 22.60 and 19.50, respectively. A Ct less than 38 is considered PEDV-positive.

After seeing these results, the Pipestone veterinary team got together again to propose a cycle of environmental contamination: farm becomes infected; the premises surrounding the buildings become contaminated via virus in exhaust air dust; exterior critical access points become contaminated; delivery vehicle (feed truck) and personnel access farm premises and become contaminated; vehicle travels back to mill carrying virus on tires, undercarriage and cab; truck enters mill and contaminates the floor; droppings from truck and spilled feed are swept into the pit; batches of feed are contaminated and delivered to the farm; the cycle repeats and the environmental load grows.

“This was our hypothesis; based on the diagnostic data and the temporal relationship between delivery and clinical signs, we propose this as a means that feed can become contaminated,” he says.

To determine infectivity of the feed bin samples, Pipestone Applied Research and South Dakota State University (SDSU) collaborated to “not look for blame,” as Dee puts it, but to find answers. “We have to have factual evidence,” Dee says. “We’re not out to target or blame the feed industry. Our only stake in the game is to keep our farms [PEDV-] negative. That’s all we care about.”

The study, conducted at the SDSU Animal Resource Wing Biosafety Level rooms, consisted of three groups of 3-week-old, PEDV-naive pigs.

Treatment group: Pigs consumed feed containing polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-positive samples from the aforementioned three feed bins.

Positive control group: Pigs consumed feed spiked with stock virus.

Negative control group: Pigs consumed feed containing saline placebo.

The pigs were allowed to consume treated feed via natural eating behavior over the duration of this seven-day study. Each day, rectal swabs were collected and clinical signs were observed.

Pigs in the treatment group started to show clinical signs of diarrhea on the fourth day after ingestion of the PCR-positive feed. On that day, the rectal Ct of those pigs was 34.09, while the Ct of the diarrhea was 18.94. Pigs in the positive control group, those consuming the spiked feed, showed clinical signs on Day 2 after ingestion, with a rectal Ct of 26.63 and 32.21 in the vomit samples. Pigs in the negative control group stayed negative throughout the duration of the trial, and Dee expected the positive control group to exhibit clinical signs before those receiving the PCR-positive feed samples. “There’s probably more infectious virus in the lab sample than in the bin samples that were collected in the field,” he says.

Dee says what this study has proven is that PEDV transmission can occur through contaminated feed. “The risk of feed as a vehicle for PEDV introduction into a farm is real,” Dee says. “Both mechanisms — contaminated ingredients and environmental contamination — must be recognized and managed, and we can’t forget all the other risk factors. Can’t focus entirely on feed; we can’t forget about the air, the trucks, the people.”

Dee also says there needs to be a unified effort to combat PEDV on hog farms: “The feed industry is our partner. We need to work together.”     

In Spite of PEDV Risks, Pigs Still Need to Be Fed

In Spite of PEDV Risks, Pigs Still Need to Be Fed

When it comes to the risk of infecting a herd with porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) via feed, there is a lot that is still unknown, says Mike Tokach, a member of the Kansas State University (KSU) Applied Swine Nutrition Team. When speaking to a sizable audience at the recent Allen D. Leman Swine Veterinary Conference in St. Paul, MN, Tokach notes, “We can break things down to three areas: the things we think we know about feed and PEDV, things we still need to understand to manage feed risks, and what options producers are really left with at the end of the day.”

Canadian Experience

The link between PEDV and feed ingredients was initially suspected based on observations made in Canada during PEDV outbreaks in early 2014, explains Pedro Urriola, research assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Minnesota. “In Canada there were outbreaks of PEDV in multiple nursery farms that sourced weaning pigs from multiple [PEDV]-negative sow farms, thus indicating a PEDV source other than vertical transmission,” he says. “All these farms shared the same source of pre-starter and starter diets, and that sparked a recall of feed.”

The feed company and farm veterinarians involved with the Canadian farms performed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on 55 truck deliveries, with negative test results. These results ruled out PEDV transmission from contaminated trucks. Urriola says the investigation continued with testing of 76 samples of nursery-pig diets and six samples of spray-dried porcine plasma (SDPP). Samples of feed (three out of 76 samples) and SDPP (five of six samples), tested positive by PCR. The PCR test confirms presence of the virus, but not whether or not the virus is capable of infecting a susceptible host.

“Therefore, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency [CFIA] tested virus infectivity by feeding susceptible pigs with the diets and SDPP under investigation,” Urriola says. The study demonstrated that the porcine blood plasma in question contained PEDV capable of causing disease in pigs. However, the study could not demonstrate that the feed pellets containing the blood plasma were capable of causing disease.

Urriola says the Canadian experiences led to questions about testing feed ingredients. The University of Minnesota is currently conducting three National Pork Board-sponsored research projects to measure virus inactivation conditions, develop feed-specific assays and investigate the risk of PEDV transmission in porcine feed ingredients.

U.S. Feed Suspicions

Tokach says epidemiological evidence in the United States has also suggested that some PEDV breaks were associated with feed as the route of entry for the disease. Several farms sourcing weaned pigs from different [PEDV]-negative sow farms also broke with PEDV without explanation or any other obvious route of transmission. Investigations by veterinarians and testing of samples led to suspicions that contaminated feed may have been the culprit. Recent research has demonstrated that putting PEDV into feed can cause an outbreak of the disease. This level of infectivity is different than that seen with many other viruses that have plagued the pork industry in the past. “We have a much different situation with this virus than what we have dealt with with other viruses over time,” Tokach explains. He notes that neither pseudorabies or the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus were capable of being spread in feed.

Measuring PEDV Infectivity in Feed

Tokach says research has shown that feed can have a high Cycle threshold (Ct) count and still infect pigs with PEDV. Many laboratories currently use a Ct of 37 as the cutoff for declaring a sample PEDV-negative. “We have found the infective minimum Ct can be above the cutoff point for some labs; for example, some researchers have discovered that a Ct count of 37 can actually be infectious,” Tokach says. “That is very troubling, and a big concern for us going forward. That is one of the things we need to better understand.” (For an explanation about Ct counts and PEDV testing terminology, see sidebar on page 34).

Tokach says that almost all U.S. porcine ingredients have a positive PCR test for PEDV, but points out that a positive PCR does not always mean that the virus is infectious. The difficulty is that the only way to verify whether feed or a feed ingredient with a positive PCR is infectious or not is by conducting a bioassay study in which the suspect sample is fed to live pigs. “We need to develop a low-cost test for infectivity so we can test as many samples as possible, and test feed before it goes to a production site, instead of having to find out after we have fed it,” he says.

He points out that if the PED virus is placed into a feed mixer, it can become evenly distributed, much like a feed ingredient. “It is possible to spread PEDV throughout the whole feed mix during normal processing procedures,” he says.

While additional work is being done to research ingredients as possible disease vectors, and on prevention strategies such as feed-mill audits, Tokach says some basic biosecurity steps can also help when it comes to the feed manufacturing and delivery process. Traffic going from and coming to feed mills is a major concern when it comes to spreading PEDV, especially in hog-dense regions of the country. “Traffic coming back from finishing or other pork production sites just has to be considered positive,” he says. “A transport vehicle that has been to a positive site can test positive for PEDV. We are going to have to move toward managing feed mills like a food plant, with a one-way flow. We are going to have to think about how we organize every step, from ingredient receiving and storage to outgoing flows in feed-mill setups.”

Pork checkoff-funded research is currently underway to evaluate the heat and temperature conditions at which PEDV is inactivated in feed. Feed-mill contamination and ingredient handling to minimize PEDV risk are also areas in which research is currently being conducted.

In the meantime, Tokach says pork producer-response and management approaches to prevent possible PEDV infection in their herds via feed can be divided into four main areas: the “ostrich approach,” purposeful use, “not in my feed,” and a “not here, not there, not anywhere” strategy.

Ostrich Approach

Tokach deems the riskiest approach to PEDV the “ostrich approach,” meaning that some producers and feed mills are saying they don’t believe that feed is a possible source of PEDV infection. Instead of trying to be proactive, people taking this approach go on like nothing has changed. “This approach may have the lowest up-front cost,” Tokach says. “And I say up-front cost because if you are a mill that starts infecting farms, or if your farm becomes infected, it does become a high-cost approach.”

Purposeful Use

Tokach says many production systems are choosing to continue to use porcine products in their operations in a controlled and purposeful manner. These farms may take the products out of the diet on sow farms, or out of their multiplier nurseries, but still use the products in order to take advantage of benefits in the commercial nursery or in the finishers. “These farms go through a process of auditing suppliers and limiting the sources of ingredients,” he says. “A good example of how this auditing process works would be with meat and bonemeal. We know that renderers in the U.S. have done a great job of improving their processes — but even within those suppliers, some are much better than others.”

For the purposeful-use approach, Tokach suggests producers would visit the sites where they are obtaining porcine byproducts to help determine what plants might be the best candidates for providing those ingredients. “Determine which products are highest and lowest risks, and put together a list of approved suppliers after you have conducted the audits. Be aware that this can be a big challenge, and it may be difficult to truly assess risk.” Tokach emphasizes that producers have to make their own decisions about the type of risk they are willing to incur. The purposeful-use approach may or may not require that products test PCR-negative. This is considered a low-cost option that does provide some level of protection.

Not in My Feed

Some producers are choosing to continue to source their feed ingredients from mills that handle porcine products, but are asking that the products are not used in the farm’s specific feed ingredients. “Taking this approach requires attention to sequencing of mixing, load-out and delivery processes,” Tokach says.

Not Here, Not There, Not Anywhere

Some producers are choosing to source feed from mills that handle no porcine products. Tokach says this may not be an option for producers who live in areas with fewer mills to choose from. “The ingredient risk may be reduced, but we are seeing some poultry meals and bakery meals coming back as positive for PEDV. Sometimes this is due to cross-contamination, and sometimes ingredients may not all be what we are expecting them to be,” he says.

In reality, all four approaches to sourcing feed and ingredients may exist within the same production system, Tokach says. “Producers must determine their level of risk aversion to determine the best feeding strategy for their production system. Our knowledge has increased greatly in the last nine months since we first saw feed as a possible vector for this disease, but we still have a lot to learn. At the end of the day, we still need to feed the pigs.”     

Opportunities for Managing Risk Related to Animal Protein Use in Swine Diets

Animal protein is used in nursery swine diets as a source of digestible protein. In addition, animal proteins have been shown to help pigs combat health challenges and provide benefits such as increased feed intake, which in turn can help boost gain.

However, at times, certain animal protein ingredients either may not be readily available or are not cost-effective. As the pork industry battles porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and potentially other diseases, some pork producers have raised biosecurity questions related to a variety of swine diet ingredients.

Laura Greiner, swine nutritionist with Carthage Veterinary Services in Carthage, IL, shared some tips for understanding risk and management issues when using or removing animal proteins as part of a presentation at the recent Carthage Swine Health and Production Conference. “So can we start nursery pigs without animal proteins? The answer is, ‘Yes, we can do it.’ It is an option, and sometimes it is an economical option,” Greiner explains. “We don’t want to change nursery diets to have a large amount of soybean meal due to the antigenic issues associated with soybean meal in newly weaned pigs, but there are options available to reduce/remove animal proteins from nursery diets. We can utilize a soy isolate product that is not a full soybean meal. We can also look at products like yeast cells, corn syrup solids, molasses, maltodextrins, dextrose, and in the last year we have been able to economically include amino acids, such as valine and tryptophan, in formulations.”

Based on a literature review of existing research, Greiner offers the following suggestions and comments related to a list of commonly used animal proteins for nursery diets.

Milk Products

“The data is somewhat limited in the literature on milk replacement, particularly complete replacement. We know there are a lot of products out there today that give us lactose equivalents or some type of milk evaluation equivalent. Those are partial replacements, and they do provide good gain and feed conversion. You can remove all of the lactose or milk from the diet of the nursery pig; however, this is not recommended, as you will struggle with some feed-intake issues initially when you do that,” she says.

Risks and value considerations related to milk products:

  • Audit manufacturing facilities. “Producers will want to know where the milk products are manufactured to ensure that the same facility is not handling other animal-derived products if this is a concern,” Greiner says.
  • Pellet quality. “Understand that the replacement of lactose with other simple sugars may impact pellet quality. You may actually have to go to lower pelleting temperatures or a different type of pelleting that may not be an option in your particular feed mill.”
  • Potential for diarrhea. “If you are going to take lactose out and replace it with other simple sugars, it may trigger a diarrhea in piglets,” she says.

Plasma Products

“In the last year there has been a lot of discussion about what might happen if plasma is taken out of the diet. Data from a proprietary research trial showed a significant difference in gain, with plasma providing value early and average daily gain being significantly improved when using plasma. Average daily feed intake was trending the same way. But when we look at the entire nursery period in that particular trial, we see that the significance disappears; so by the time pigs are done with the nursery phase, there is no additional value to plasma. If we look at the mortality differences, there is no difference between plasma or no plasma, and there is also no difference in full-value pigs over the entire nursery period,” Greiner says.

“There is other literature available that supports the idea that we can feed diets without plasma in them. It does not mean that you do not need plasma at all. I am still a firm believer that when we have health challenges or early-weaned pigs, there is value in using plasma in the diets to help pigs overcome those issues.”

Risk and value considerations related to plasma products:

  • Species source availability. “We know that plasma can be purchased as mixed plasma, porcine plasma and bovine plasma. If you can no longer feed a specific source, for whatever reason, there are options. There are some sources that are 100% bovine-based and are not being manufactured in a facility that is manufacturing other porcine products.”
  • Bovine plasma benefits. “We know that porcine plasma provides cross-protection. With porcine plasma, the pigs may have the opportunity to benefit from antibodies that maybe another pig has experienced that can be transferred to get cross-protection. However, there is still value in bovine plasma for health-challenged pigs, but the cross-protection aspect will be potentially limited,” she says.
  • Feed intake. “Data has shown that there is a potential reduction in feed intake when plasma is not used in early nursery diets. Here again, you have to weigh the benefits and advantages, and your feeling of the risk of cost and control related to biosecurity concerns.”

Fat Source

“Fat is not necessarily an animal protein, but it did come up on our list of items to look at when talking about biosecurity and animal product control. We know we can replace choice white grease with vegetable oil, and in our system today, we use corn oil. We feel very comfortable that our performance has not been impacted, whether it is grow-finish or on the sow farms during the last year. In evaluating historical growth and feed conversion data from our research barns, we did not see any differences from when we fed choice white grease or corn oil,” says Greiner.

“We can use the general rule of thumb that every 1% increase in fat generally improves feed conversion 2%. So we know if we take fat out of the diet altogether we can lose feed conversion, and that is an economic consideration for us in grow-finish. But looking at it on the sow side, recent North Carolina State University research [Rosero, et al., 2013] has demonstrated that in periods of high ambient temperatures, we can get improved feed efficiency when feeding choice white grease to sows compared to an animal-vegetable blend. But both the choice white grease and animal-vegetable blend products improved reproductive performance and subsequent total born as the inclusion rates increased. We are continuing to learn that there can be some differences between choice white grease and vegetable oil during different phases of the animal’s growth period.”

Risks and value considerations related to fat source:

  • Choice white grease is a rendered product.
  • Heating of choice white grease should allow for potential pathogen control.
  • Biosecurity of transport vehicles. “The big question is related to the biosecurity of your vendor truck. Understand where the vendor truck has been, and have a clear outline of what is expected from a biosecurity standpoint of the truck. Verify the truck is clean when it comes to your farm, or if it has been somewhere that could potentially put you at risk of PRRS [porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome], PEDV or other pathogens.”
  • Vegetable fat and oxidation. “When we look at vegetable fat, we know that it oxidizes relatively quickly; so if you are going to use a vegetable fat, you may need to add an antioxidant to your fat tank to help maintain that fat. You may also need to increase Vitamin E in the diet to help with oxidative stress that may occur.”

Cost Implications

Everyone’s model is different for the types of costs and risks they are comfortable with when it comes to a production system.

“Producers need to look at what species the ingredient may be coming from, where the ingredient is being manufactured and what other products may be manufactured in the facility where the ingredient originates,” she explains. 

Greiner urges producers to contact the product suppliers for the ingredients they may be using. “Suppliers can be a great resource to tell you where the product is coming from, how it is being handled, and what they are doing to help you out.”    

Arkansas Imposes Moratorium on Hog Farm Permits

A moratorium on permits for hog farms in Arkansas gives that state’s legislature time to review future livestock operations. This is a second moratorium that has been issued on new permits for large or medium hog farms in the Buffalo River Watershed.

This moratorium may remain in force up to 180 days and it stems from a permit issued by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for the C&H Hog Farm near Mount Judea, AR. The moratorium was enacted to allow for the initiation and potential adoption of rule changes that would prohibit future medium- and large-confined animal operations, as well as concentrated animal feeding operations for swine.

According to Administrative Law Judge Charles Moulton, of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission (APCEC), the moratorium extends the previous one put in place on May 6. That moratorium was set to expire Oct. 22.

Moulton said the moratorium deals with reviews of APCEC regulations that deal with liquid animal waste and control systems, and animal feeding operations.

Jerry Masters, executive vice president of the Arkansas Pork Producers Association, says that Minnetonka, Minn.-based Cargill — which holds the contract on the C&H Hog Farm — had put its own moratorium on more facilities in the Buffalo River Watershed within the last six weeks.

The delay is to give the amendments to the regulation — intended to prevent future large-scale hog farms from opening in the watershed — time to go through review. The review would be done jointly by the Arkansas Legislature and House Agriculture and Health Committee, which currently is scheduled for Dec. 5. After that, the changes would go to the rules committee.

Masters says the C&H Hog Farm is well above permit standards, adding the Environmental Protection Agency has visited the site recently and found no violations.

Moulton says the joint committee meeting on the amendments takes place after the rules committee, set for the last meeting before the Legislature ends regular session for the year, and in order for the joint committee to review the rules before the end of the regular session, there would probably have to be a special meeting called of the state Legislature. After those two reviews, third parties would be asked for input.

C&H Hog Farm is situated about 6 miles from the Buffalo National River in Newton County. The farm was designed for a capacity of 2,500 sows and not more than 6,500 swine — a combination of sows and piglets — under roof at one time.

Lois Britt Memorial Scholarship Program Supports Students Pursuing Pork Industry Careers

The Lois Britt Memorial Scholarship Program is conducted by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and sponsored by the CME Group to assist young adults in agriculture. Four $2,500 scholarships are offered to students who intend to pursue a career in the pork industry. 

Scholarships are focused on undergraduate students in a two-year swine program or a four-year college of agriculture.  

Winners will be announced at the Pork Industry Forum in San Antonio, TX, March 5-7. Additional details about the scholarship are posted at the NPPC website www.nppc.org/programs/scholarships. Contact Craig Boelling for more information at (515) 278-8012.

Research Proposals Sought to Target Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus

Zoetis is seeking proposals for well-defined studies that focus on optimizing the immune response of sows and gilts for the control of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). The studies should provide insights into new methods that can help control PEDV in breeding and farrowing herds.

A total of $125,000 will be awarded by Zoetis to a study or studies under its PEDV immune response research grant program. University researchers or practicing veterinarians are invited to submit research proposals for consideration.

Research proposals must be received by Dec. 5. The research must be conducted in the United States. To receive a copy of the abstract template or to submit questions, e-mail PEDVResearch@zoetis.com. A committee will review the proposals, and an announcement of the successful applications will be made in January.

For more information, visit www.zoetisUS.com.

Opportunity Remains for Pork to Capture Market Share

Opportunity Remains for Pork to Capture Market Share

With meat and poultry prices at or near record highs, it should be no surprise that freezer inventories remain low. But did the low stocks cause the high prices or did the high prices encourage stock holders to sell when the selling is good? The answer in typical economist-ese is “Both!” As with many things in economics, the causal factors are not easy to separate. Many variables are determined simultaneously with complex feedback loops in the marketplace, only a few of which may be observed by individual agents.

Figure 1, though, shows that freezer stocks have been low by historic standards all year. We refer to “historic” in a bit of a short-term manner there as we are judging today’s numbers against just the past five years. While the time period is short, note that last year’s freezer inventories set the highs for that time period so the reductions this year are large. Total freezer stocks of the four major species have been down more than 10%, year-on-year, in six months so far in 2014 with the largest such decline being 17.6% in April. Four-species stocks stood at 2.23 billion pounds on Sept. 30, 9.6% lower than one year ago.

The 2009-13 time period is, in my opinion, much more relevant than more distant history because so many factors have changed. Total output levels increased steadily through 2008 suggesting that cold storage stocks probably should have increased along with them. Figure 2 shows that, except for a chicken-driven surge in 2002, these stocks peaked in 2008 and have declined since.

The fact that turkey drives the seasonal increases in the four-species number is clear but the peak for turkey stocks is behind us and the 2014 peak will be the lowest on record. Profits in the turkey sector will almost certainly drive expansion but I expect that expansion to be in the more seasonally steady processed turkey and turkey parts sectors and not in the whole bird sector which usually drives these seasonal increases.

Pork inventories on Sept. 30 amounted to 546 million pounds, down 4% from last year but 3.1% higher than the five-year average. After two months near the top of that range, September’s figure strikes me as pretty normal for this time of year. Pork inventories so far this year had been dominated by bellies, whose stocks were more than double 2013 levels at the ends of July and August. See Figure 4. Bellies stocks remain large (plus-44%) relative to last year but are less than half their huge levels of January through July and are now back in the five-year range. Those early year stocks, of course, were driven by processors’ recollections of basically running out of bellies during the summer of 2013.

The species with the tightest frozen inventory situation as of Sept. 30, though, was beef. Lower fed cattle slaughter (down 4.7% year-to-date versus 2013) and extremely low cow slaughter totals (just 102,000 head the week of Oct. 14, 14.1% lower than last year with the year-to-date total also down 14.1%) have left beef stocks very tight. The 373.3 million pounds in freezers on Sept. 30 was 16% less than one year ago. As recently as April 2013, U.S. cold storage facilities held over 510 million pounds of beef, 37% more than in September.

The tight beef supply – whether fresh or frozen – situation will not change any time soon. Much-improved pasture conditions and record profits are driving beef cow herd expansion that will keep cows and heifers at home that, in more normal times, would have been moving to feed yards or slaughter plants. Burgers are going to remain pricey. Steaks, too. The opportunity for pork, even well-priced pork, to capture market share remains.

Agriculture, Environmental, and Trade Groups Urge Appeal of WTO Decision

The National Farmers Union (NFU), U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), Food and Water Watch, and Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch are calling on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to appeal the recent World Trade Organization decision on country-of-origin labeling (COOL). The groups said it was premature for talk of legislative action while the administration still has various options.

NFU President Roger Johnson said, “The ruling gives USDA and USTR the opportunity to redefine the rule without the need for Congress to get involved. There may well be a more clear way to define ‘born, raised, slaughtered’ such that it cleans up the confusion which was in the decision.” The USCA said, “Repeal is a blunt instrument for a process that is not even near close to being finished.” The NFU and USCA have been strong proponents of COOL for a number of years. 

Business Coalition Says Ensure Compliance on COOL

A broad coalition of U.S. industries is calling on Congress to immediately direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rescind elements of country of origin labeling (COOL) that have been determined by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to be noncompliant with international trade obligations. The coalition members are concerned that Canada and Mexico will “retaliate against U.S. goods resulting in lost sales in the billions and put thousands of jobs at risk.” Mexico and Canada have both consistently stated that they would retaliate if the WTO ruled in their favor. After the recent WTO decision, Canadian Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz said, “We don’t want to go the retaliatory route, but we certainly will should it be forced upon us.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “Canada and Mexico are the two largest markets for U.S. exports. The disruption of these trade ties by WTO noncompliance and the resulting retaliation by our North American neighbors will have a devastating economic impact on U.S. industries including food production, agriculture and manufacturing.” The COOL Reform Coalition is co-chaired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Canada Moves Toward Retaliation after COOL Decision

Canada will begin preparing for retaliation now that the World Trade Organization has ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico on country of origin labeling. Canadian Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz said that Canada will “start the work toward retaliation during the same window of opportunity for U.S. corrective action. If they don’t take advantage to correct this, then we will use that same window of opportunity to get that retaliatory list in place.” Canada released a preliminary list earlier this year that covered both agriculture and non-agriculture products that would be considered for tariffs at approximately $1 billion. Mexico will release its list of products for retaliation at later date.