Japan announced Sept. 10 that a Holstein dairy cow tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an area near Tokyo. If confirmed, it would the first case of BSE in Asia.

The Kyodo News reported that Japan's Ministry of Health says the five-year-old animal may have contracted the brain-wasting disease by consuming animal protein. Japan, which now imports the bulk of its feed from the U.S., Canada and Australia — all of which are BSE-free — had imported feed from the European Union until earlier this year.

Japan only began testing suspicious animals in April and has been considered at high risk for BSE by the EU, which ranks Japan a 3 (4 being the highest). In contrast, the EU considers the U.S. and Australia to be free of risk.

A group of 971 Iowa cattle producers moved a step closer to their goal of landing a new packing plant. The group called the Iowa Quality Beef Supply Network (IQBSN) announced Sept. 6 that it successfully negotiated an option agreement with Tama Beef Packing (TBP) Inc. of Tama, IA.

The agreement with the city of Tama regarding the 30-year-old beef cow kill facility moves the IQBSN closer to realizing the joint venture with Excel that it has planned for the past two years.

Wythe Willey, IQBSN project manager, says the Tama facility offers “excellent location, quality cattle supplies, adequate labor, facility infrastructure and strong community support.” However, more study will have to be done before the option is exercised, he adds.

The plant was previously owned by IBP, who operated it as a 1,450/head/day slaughter facility before donating it to the city of Tama two years ago. Tama then leased the facility to an individual who used it as a cow kill facility before closing in mid-August.

Genetically altered corn poses little risk to monarch butterfly larvae. That's the result from the latest study contradicting a 1999 Cornell University study that claimed pollen from bio-engineered corn poisoned butterfly larvae.

The new study performed by the University of Guelph in Canada found that the larvae can't eat enough of it to harm them. The earlier Cornell study rallied environmentalists worldwide to call for limits to bio-engineered crops.

“It's a negligible risk at best. They must consume considerable amounts of pollen to show an effect, and that amount of pollen rarely exists in nature,” said Mark K. Sears, chairman of the Department of Environmental Biology.

Wendy's has joined McDonald's and Burger King in instituting tougher supplier requirements. The new Wendy's protocols require suppliers to:

  • Give egg-laying hens a minimum of 72 sq. in. of cage space.

  • Consider modifying chicken slaughter methods by increasing the stun gun voltage.

  • Conduct unannounced inspections of slaughterhouses and take action against those that fail.

Wendy's had been dogged by a highly visible, two-month campaign by an animal rights group, which claimed responsibility for the Wendy's announcement. A Wendy's spokesman, however, said the policy moves were already underway.

Consumers clearly prefer tenderness, and many are willing to pay for it. That's the result of a Kansas State University (KSU) study of 313 customers at three Midwest grocery stores.

Divided into two groups, one group was allowed to see tenderness claims on the labels of steak cuts. The second group was not. Of consumers with access to the tenderness labels, 84% chose tender beef. Of the group that couldn't see the label, 69% chose tender beef.

What's more, 51% of the first group said they'd pay a premium for tender beef, an average of as much as $1.84/lb. Meanwhile, 36% of the group without access to the tenderness label said they would pay an average premium of $1.23.

KSU economist and co-author Ted Schroeder says that once they determine the premium consumers are willing to pay for a guaranteed tender steak, then firms will have an idea of how much additional cost they can put into processing and marketing branded, assured tender, beef products.

BEEF recently collected a total of 15 editorial awards in national competition. In American Agricultural Editors Association competition, BEEF won a total of four awards. Topping the list was a coveted Oscar in Agriculture earned by former Managing Editor Kindra Gordon for a series of stories on range management that appeared in BEEF last year.

Meanwhile, in editorial writing and design competition of the Livestock Publications Council, an association of 117 U.S. and Canadian livestock publications, BEEF claimed a total of 11 awards. This included three first places, three seconds and five honorable mentions in categories that included writing, design, photography and general excellence.

The UK recorded its 2,000th case of foot-and-mouth disease in early September. Government scientists now say the outbreak could last at least until January 2002. Critics of the current policy of slaughtering all infected and suspect animals are calling for the initiation of a vaccination program as either a part or a total replacement. To date, 3.8 million had of livestock have been destroyed with another 19,000 awaiting euthanasia.

The government has resisted vaccination due to concerns about effectiveness and trade restrictions.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail jroybal@primediabusiness.com.