Researchers in the checkoff-funded beef muscle profiling study earned international acclaim in April. Chris Calkins and Steven Jones, both University of Nebraska meat scientists; D. Dwain Johnson, University of Florida meat scientist; and Bucky Gwartney, research and knowledge management director for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA); have been awarded the 2004 International Meat Secretariat Prize for Meat Science and Technology.

The International Meat Secretariat (IMS) is a non-profit association of meat and livestock organizations that represents the meat and livestock industry worldwide. The $10,000 prize is awarded in alternate years to individuals or groups whose recent discoveries or contributions significantly benefit the international meat industry. This is the first time a team from the U.S. has earned the research prize, which will be presented at the 15th IMS World Meat Congress in Winnipeg, Canada, June 14-17.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) says Congress should create a single, independent food safety agency. Such an agency would administer and enforce 30 separate food safety laws that are currently the responsibility of 12 federal agencies.

Lawrence Dyckman, GAO director of natural resources and environment, says the U.S. food supply is generally safe but the threat of bioterrorism and incidence of a disease like BSE call for a more efficient food inspection system.

Seven universities have been tapped for use in expanded federal BSE testing. The designations are part of enhanced surveillance testing to begin in June that could test as many as 268,000 cattle over a 12- to 18-month period.

Selected to develop rapid-testing labs are Colorado State, Cornell, Texas A&M and Washington State universities, and the universities of California-Davis, Georgia and Wisconsin. Cost of the testing program is expected to be $70 million.

As of April 12, USDA has approved four BSE quick tests — Abbott Labs' Enfer test, the Prionics±-Check WESTERN test, Bio-Rad Labs' TeSeE± test, and IDEXX Labs' HerdChek± BSE Antigen Test Kit.

Burger chains are going to branding to capture more burger business. In early April, Carl's Jr. restaurant chain introduced Angus burgers, joining the Hardee's, Krystal and Back Yards Burgers restaurant chains, which went to Angus earlier. Burger King plans to offer an Angus burger this spring.

Though such burgers cost more, sales for these more expensive burgers are growing at a rate double that of commodity burger sales. Little wonder, given that an April USA Today consumer poll found burger buyers prefer the term “Black Angus” beef to ground beef by a margin of 11-to-1.

Learn the how-to of cattle composting at The Iowa State University (ISU) Web site reports on ongoing research that shows composting may be a viable way to dispose of large animal carcasses.

The Web site is organized for use at three levels. The executive summary page is for those with a casual interest. Researchers, environmental officials, veterinarians and others seeking more in-depth information should use the “Project in Detail” section. Meanwhile, producers and others who just want to learn “how to do it” can go to “Draft Guidelines for Emergency Cattle Mortality Composting.”

Cattle liquidation could continue for another 7-10 years, says Olathe, KS, economist Bill Helming. Here's why:

  • Calf, feeder cattle and milk prices aren't high enough to encourage building the beef and dairy cow inventory.

  • Cattle feeders' bids for beef heifers will entice ranchers to continue to take the money.

  • Ongoing drought and poor pasture conditions in key areas of the U.S.

  • Fewer beef and dairy cows are needed due to productivity gains. Helming says total beef and dairy cattle numbers have dropped 28% since 1976, yet the U.S. produced a record 27.1 billion lbs. of beef in 2002.

  • Beef and dairy cow owners are getting older and less inclined to expand their herds.

  • Federal and state tax laws help dissuade many beef and dairy operators from expanding their cattle inventories.

  • Population growth, particularly in the Southeast, more lucrative uses for land than cattle, and government programs and environmental group pressures in the West.

A California graduate student with alleged ties to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) was indicted for terrorism. William Cottrell was indicted on nine counts of arson and conspiracy in a spree last August that caused $2.3 million in damage at California car dealerships.

The FBI tracked down Cottrell via e-mails sent to the LA Times claiming responsibility. ELF boasts of having caused more than $100 million in damage the past six years through arson at ski resorts and on luxury homes across the U.S.