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USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hosted a joint public meeting in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 23-24. 

The topic of both days concerned lab-grown meat and all issues associated with it, including production hazards, labeling and marketing claims. Attendees included cattle industry representatives, scientists and lab-grown meat manufacturers. 

Lab-grown meat has been a hot-button issue since it was first developed. Now, with plans in place to introduce the product to consumers by the end of this year, cattle industry groups are more eager than ever to set natural beef apart from lab-grown products. 

During the meeting, beef advocates emphasized the importance of fair and equal oversight – along with their preference for USDA involvement as opposed to that of the FDA, as well as the accurate, fact-based labeling of lab-grown meat products.

NCBA comments

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) came up to bat for the USDA. 

NCBA, in short, highlighted the importance of holding lab-grown meat manufacturers to the same standards – in terms of both safety and labeling – as natural beef processors. NCBA President-elect Jennifer Houston spoke regarding the effectiveness of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). 

“FSIS is perfectly capable of applying its existing expertise to the production of cell-cultured meat products and is far better suited to ensure the safety of these products throughout the lab to fork continuum,” said Houston. 

She added FSIS regulation would be instrumental in creating fair and, most importantly, safe competition between lab-grown meat manufacturers and beef producers. 

Inspections

NCBA also stressed the importance of regular inspection of lab-grown meat facilities. Inspection is something that, historically, FDA does sporadically while USDA does every day. Representatives of natural beef consider regular inspection of facilities in both industries crucial, especially considering that certain claims involving the cleanliness and sterility of “clean” meat production have been proven to be false. 

Labeling

More importantly, perhaps, is the role the USDA and FDA will play in ensuring truthful, science-based labeling on lab-grown meat products. Again, beef industry advocates were emphatic in stating that lab-grown products should receive the same treatment as natural beef. 

Their reasoning, in the case of labeling, is two-fold – to ensure fair competition between the two industries and to protect consumers from misleading, non-factual marketing.

“Lab-grown fake meat labels should be held to the same standards as other meat labels,” said NCBA President Kevin Kester. “Given that the goal of these products is to compete directly with real meat, only USDA oversight can adequately ensure the outcome.”

Kester said, “USDA can be trusted to enforce truthful, transparent labeling of products under its jurisdiction. Product labels and marketing must be based on sound science, not the misleading claims of anti-animal agriculture activists.” 

Kester added that USDA oversight when applied to the labeling of lab-grown meat products will protect consumers against false and misleading marketing claims. 

It is up to USDA and FDA, as the governmental bodies in charge of food safety and information, to ensure that food production industries are treated fairly no matter how their product is sourced, processed or prepared. More importantly, both are obligated to protect the consumer by providing guidelines for accurate, fact-based labeling on all food products. 

Kim Cress is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A new USDA study shows handwashing before meals is a major contributor for cross-contamination of food and foodborne illness. Research shows consumers fail to properly wash their hands 97 percent of the time, which makes people sick. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates nearly 48 million Americans are sickened as a result of foodborne illness every year. Nearly 3,000 people die from foodborne illnesses, and over 128,000 are hospitalized. 

“Children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk,” USDA comments, also noting several easy steps can be taken to help prevent foodborne illnesses.

Handwashing

“As a mother of three young children, I am very familiar with the mad dash families go through to put dinner on the table,” says Carmen Rottenberg, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA. “By simply washing our hands properly, we can protect our family and prevent that bacteria from contaminating our food and key areas in our kitchen.”

A great place to start combatting foodborne illness is for consumers to properly wash their hands while cooking and before eating.

“Most consumers fail to wash their hands for the necessary 20 seconds, and numerous participants did not dry their hands with a clean towel,” Rottenberg comments. “Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw meat, poultry or eggs, in particular.” 

Cooking

The study also showed that only 34 percent of Americans used a food thermometer to ensure burgers are properly cooked, and of those who did use a food thermometer, nearly half still did not cook burgers to the safe minimal internal temperature.

“With grilling season upon us, USDA reminds consumers to use a food thermometer and cook meat and poultry products to the recommended safe internal temperatures,” Rottenberg says.

To properly determine the temperature of meat, Rottenberg says a thermometer should be inserted through the side of the patty until it reaches the center. Beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit; ground meat should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, and poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees. 

Cross contamination

A third culprit of foodborne illness comes in cross-contamination of raw poultry onto other surfaces. 

USDA’s study utilized a test kitchen, where participants spread bacteria through spice containers, refrigerator handles and tainted salads.

Contaminated spice containers that are handled while preparing burgers spread bacteria 48 percent of the time, and 11 percent of the time participants spread bacteria to refrigerator handles. 

Taking these simple steps can reduce the incidence of illness because, Rottenberg says, “We can’t see, smell or feel bacteria.”

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from USDA resources. Send comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Although a rule allowing interstate shipment of state-inspected meat has passed the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Dean Finkenbinder of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s Consumer Health Services Division says Wyoming will not be a part of the program.
By participating in the voluntary, cooperative interstate shipment program, select establishments would have the option to ship meat and poultry products, bearing an official USDA mark of inspection, across state lines. Until now, only federally inspected meat and poultry was allowed into interstate commerce.
“Wyoming hasn’t applied for the program, and, to my knowledge, only four states have,” says Finkenbinder. “Wyoming doesn’t plan to apply, mainly because the plant would have to be a federal plant, and we’d have to purchase computers and all the equipment from USDA to make the inspection in that plant, and then there would be a federal employee to oversee all the training and to evaluate the program, and there would also be a federal stamp that would have to be used on the meat product, so it would no longer look like it was coming from a state meat plant.”
To become part of the program, the state would have to apply with the USDA for the interstate meat shipment program, then any interested plant would have to apply through the state, and the state would go to the district office for the region. The state inspector in that plant would then have to go through training for federal enforcement of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, and the plant would then have to meet all the federal standards, and be “the same as,” instead of “at least equal to,” which is the current standard for state meat plants.
“When they say ‘same as,’ that means we have to follow the rules and regulations according to how the feds do it. With the state program the way it is, we have a little leeway. As long as we maintain food safety we don’t have to follow the particular requirement specifically the way it’s stated. With the interstate meat shipment, we wouldn’t be able to do that,” he explains.
Finkenbinder says it’s that cost, equipment and federal oversight that will keep Wyoming out of the program.
“While we do have federal oversight now, it’s not direct, and there isn’t a federal person in our state meat plants,” he explains. “If one went to the federal program, we’d also have to have a separate accounting system for that particular program.”
“Our state inspected meat plants do a really good job, and I think if they would have allowed the state plants to ship interstate as they are now, they would have had a lot more participation in the program,” adds Finkenbinder.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Arlington, Va. – “Our theme this year is ‘Roots of Prosperity,’” USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson said during his 2018 Agricultural Economic and Foreign Trade Outlook presentation at the 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum. “We are heading back out to farmers and see what their roots are in the countryside.” 

The annual Ag Outlook Forum provides a venue for USDA to discuss their challenges but also look at opportunities for the future. 

“For the U.S., we know producers have many producers looking forward to the 2018 crop year,” Johansson commented, listing the farm bill, budgets, trade and more as of concern for producers. “We can see that consumers, business, home builders and bankers all indicate similar feelings of optimism regarding the future economy as compared to last year.”

“Farmers are a little bit more reflective,” he added. 

Farm income

Overall, for 2018, farm income is expected to fall, mirroring declining commodity prices. 

“Productivity is outpacing population growth and food demand, which has resulted in falling real food prices for the past half century,” Johansson explained. “Since 1960, soybean production has increased more than 1,000 percent, while real soybean prices have fallen by 47 percent.”

Corn production has grown by more than 400 percent, and prices have fallen by more than 60 percent. 

For farmers and ranchers, today’s ag economy is also different from when the last farm bill was debated. 

“We can see real net farm income falling in real terms, and it’s likely to remain below its 2013 peak for a while. Looking forward, we expect it to remain flat,” Johansson said. “There are several things that might change this outlook, but a few weeks ago, USDA’s Economic Research Service estimated 2018 would be a little bit lower, with net farm income falling to $59.5 billion.” 

Complicating factors

While incomes are projected to drop, Johansson also noted several factors might stimulate income potential for farms. 

“We know cheaper food benefits global population demand but also benefits income for farmers,” he explained. “There are some things, of course, that can change that. First, improved global economic growth will mean more middle class families, which will improve demand.” 

Johansson also cited improve trade agreements that open markets and increase demand for U.S. product as positive impacts on potential earnings for U.S. farmers and ranchers. 

“Weather conditions will also impact crops and could either pick up or pull down prices,” Johansson said. “Farm policies in some countries could affect prices. The new farm bill could look to remedy income gaps through its programs.”

Demand

“The prospects look good for increased demand,” Johansson said, noted IMF’s forecasts were sharply increased in January, which means the purchasing power of countries around the world has expanded by $325 billion, compared to December estimates. 

Growth in demand comes from developing countries, where middle class income is projected to continue to grow over the next 10 years, particularly in livestock and dairy products and those products associated with feeding livestock and dairy animals.

“Stronger growth overseas means increased stability for other countries, which makes them a more stable investment,” Johansson explained. 

As other countries become more stable, they also are capable of purchasing more U.S. goods, further increasing demand. 

The dollar has also depreciated as compared to other countries around the world, also leading to favorable conditions for U.S. exports. At the same time, other countries’ currencies have appreciated.

“Increase in ag trade remains a key component in the global economic economy,” Johansson said. “In general, improved global economic condition and a slight weakening of the U.S. dollar resulted in a $10.9 billion increase in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 increase compared to FY 2016.”

He continued, “FY 2018 exports are predicted narrow just slightly.”

Free trade agreements have become “increasingly important,” according to Johansson.

Livestock outlook

“The outlook for livestock and dairy is for continued increases in livestock and dairy production going forward,” Johansson summarized. 

Continued low feed costs support continued increases, and total meat and poultry production is expected to hit nearly 104 billion pounds in 2018, with increases in all three major categories. 

Beef production is projected to jump 5.9 percent, pork production, 5.1 percent and broiler production by 21 percent. Milk production is also expected to increase 1.5 percent to a record 218.7 billion pounds in 2018, as the result of modern herd expansion, as well as an increase in milk produced per cow.

“Beef production is expected to grow rapidly in the near-term, as balanced growth is seen between supplies and demand,” Johansson said, noting production exceeds previous years. “However, while supplies of cattle have increased rapidly, we’ve seen increasing drought across the Southern Plains, which increases concern for timing of placement in feedlots as well as breeding decisions in the coming months.” 

Johansson added, however, that drought conditions are far less severe than the harsh drought experienced in  2012.

USDA forecasted steer prices in 2018 to decline by 1.9 percent to $119.25 per hundredweight. Hog prices and poultry prices are expected to take 4.9 and 2.9 percent hits, respectively while milk production is forecasted to take a nine percent blow. 

“Foreign markets are increasingly important for beef, pork and poultry, and they will continue to be important to offset increased production and support prices,” Johansson commented. 

Farm economy

Currently, Johansson said the farm economy is likely to remain flat, but policy and regulatory changes improves the overall outlook for the farm economy. 

Debt to asset ratios continue to be low, as the result of steady asset value, continuing firm land values and more. 

“The debt to asset ratio has been slightly rising, but it’s unlikely to near the level seen in 1985,” Johansson explained, but the more concerning factor is working capital’s decline of 65 percent since 2012. “Producers are more vulnerable to continued low commodity prices.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..