Food Prices Edge Up
Since January, the price of food has been increasing, according to the United Nations food agency. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food price index has increased from a seven-year low in January. High production prospects for basic foods mean any future price rises will be muted, but uncertainty caused by the U.S. election impeded predictions of changes in dollar terms, explains Abdolreza Abbassian, FAO senior economist.
HSUS Lays Off 10%
Amid a rumored $20 million funding shortfall, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has laid off 55 employees, about 10% of its staff, according to the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). Layoffs will be followed by the closing of the organization’s Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Mass., also due to the funding shortfall. The facility costs HSUS approximately $750,000 annually to operate, according to CCF.
Back to Butcher Shops
Although neighborhood butcher shops in the U.S. have gone by the wayside in recent years, specialty shops are making a comeback. Consumers’ renewed interest in where their food comes from and how it’s produced is helping butcher shops find a foothold in cities across the U.S. Some shops, such as Fleishers of New York City, focus on educating customers about various cuts. New programs also include partnerships with local livestock producers.
Cattle Markets Could Drop to $80
Excess meat could mean a major drop for cattle markets in 2018—to as low as $80, says Alan Brugler, analyst with Brugler Marketing. Long term, the cattle cycle is still expanding numbers, he says, but producers should be prepared for the dip. Brugler warns producers to look hard at their operations, especially on the cow-calf side, before deciding to decrease or expand their herds.
Oklahoma on ‘Right to Farm’ Loss
Voters throughout Oklahoma made the decision to strike down State Question 777, or the “Right to Farm” measure. The proposal would have allowed courts to rule on state and local laws passed in 2015 and 2016 that regulate ag activities. It was intended to help farmers defend themselves in the face of laws they consider unjust. SQ777 received strong support from rural voters, but 60.3% of voting Oklahomans voted “no” on the measure.
Agriculture and Antibiotic Resistance
Animal activist groups regularly speak out against the use of antibiotics in animal care. However, physician Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization’s assistant director-general for health, security and the environment, recently reiterated the importance of antibiotics in animal production. He says if there’s no ability to give animals antibiotics when necessary to fight disease, their faltering health will hurt our ability to have adequate food supplies.
Meat Processing Robots
New Zealand-based Scott Technology is using meat processing robots equipped with artificial intelligence to scan and specifically cut each individual carcass. The automated machine is positioned to minimize waste and improve efficiency. Meat packing company JBS purchased a 50.1% stake in Scott Technology this past year.
Tyson Foods Invests in Fake Meat
As vegetarian and vegan diets become more popular, livestock producers are watching to see how the shift will affect the meat industry. Tyson Foods recently purchased a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, a meat substitute company, citing an interest in this growing sector of the protein market. While producers shouldn’t expect meat substitutes to take over the center of the plate soon, they are becoming a more prominent part of U.S. consumers’ diets.
Aussie Cattle Sunk By Frozen Buffalo
Indonesia’s appetite for red meat is continually growing. With a population of more than 250 million people, the country was being sustained by imports from its Australian neighbors. But the legalization of India’s frozen buffalo meat has sent sales of Aussie meat lower in Indonesia. Currently, Indonesia buys more than half of Australia’s live cattle exports to meet consumers’ beef demand.
Crates, Cages Banned
Massachusetts voters have banned the sale of products from animals raised in some types of confinement systems. The law prohibits farmers from raising laying hens, breeding hogs or veal calves in confinement that prevents them from lying down, standing up, extending limbs or turning. The bill will be fully implemented in 2022.
Average Daily Gain Can Make a Difference
Finding the right average daily gain rate can be tricky. Overly fleshy calves can have a poor feedyard performance but underweight calves might not yield as high. Based on the results of a study by the Carrington Research Extension Center, Karl Hoppe, North Dakota State University Extension’s livestock systems specialist, recommends 2.5 lb. of gain per day. The study tracked steer calves weighing 679 lb., which were backgrounded until they weighed 878 lb. The steers were divided into three groups based on rate of gain goals: 3 lb. per day for 63 days; 2.5 lb. per day for 79 days; or 2 lb. per day for 93 days. The study found hot carcass weights were heavier in calves backgrounded at a lower average daily gain. Hoppe says when calves are backgrounded at lower rates of gain, they are set up to gain faster and go to heavier slaughter weights.
Rural Vets Get Help
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded more than $4 million to 48 veterinarians to help repay a portion of their school loans this year. In exchange for the funding, these vets will serve rural areas that are critical to America’s food safety and food security but lacking in sufficient veterinary resources. The awards will help fill shortages in 27 states.