Irradiated ground beef patties have entered the fast-food market. In a test that's expected to be watched closely by other U.S. fast-food chains, Minneapolis-based Dairy Queen is test-marketing the ground beef in a handful of its outlets in central Minnesota. If the tests go well, Dairy Queen says it will expand the program by July 4 to Minneapolis and St. Paul.

It's another first for Minnesota, which in May 2000 was the site of the first retail availability of irradiated ground beef. It was the culmination of several years of cooperative efforts by the Minnesota Beef Council, Huisken Meats of Chandler, MN, and the state's public health network.

If you're a stocker operator interested in stocker profitability don't miss the 2002 Beef Stocker Profitability Conference. Hosted by Kansas State University Sept. 20 in Manhattan, the conference offers practical and proactive information and management tips to help producers optimize their stocker operations and prepare for an uncertain future. For more information, contact Lois Schreiner at 785/532-1267 or, or check out the full program at for details. Lodging should be reserved by Aug. 19 by calling 785/539-5311.

Farmland Industries Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 31. That same day, a $10 million payment was due on a $500 million loan the cooperative received in February.

Farmland National Beef Packing Co. LP, the nation's fourth largest beef packer, in which Farmland holds an ownership position, is not included in the bankruptcy action.

Kansas City-based Farmland made the decision after buyout talks failed with Smithfield Foods, which was looking to buy all or part of Farmland to help the nation's largest farmer-owned cooperative cover the loan payment. Earlier, the Wall Street Journal estimated that Farmland's pork and beef operations could be worth between $1 billion to $1.2 billion.

Farmland lost $90 million in its last fiscal year, and $29 million the year before that. A $49 million loss was reported for its second quarter, which ended in February.

To the Maasai, no gift is more precious than cattle. Living in isolated villages with no electricity, telephones or paved roads, the Maasai tribes of Kenya are an impoverished people who rely totally on cattle for their diet of blood, meat and milk.

In a generous show of sympathy for U.S. losses suffered in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, these tribes people from Kenya paid the highest gesture of regard and sympathy. Several hundred Maasai were in attendance in early June when elders presented 15 head of cattle to acting U.S. Ambassador William Brencick.

Because of the difficulty in shipping the cattle to the U.S., Brencick says the embassy will sell the animals to raise funds to buy beadwork made in the village. The beadwork will be displayed at a Sept. 11 memorial in New York.

Genetically modified foods pose no greater health risk than conventional foods. That's the word from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress's investigative arm.

The study concluded that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had adequately tested the safety of new biotech foods before allowing them to be sold. However, the GAO pointed out that FDA should validate more frequently the accuracy of food safety data provided by food companies.

FDA disagreed with the call for more frequent review saying the risk of criminal penalties for submitting false data was a significant deterrent for biotech companies. An FDA risk assessment for a new biotech product averages between 18-36 months, FDA officials say.

Spring brought good things to the Iowa Quality Beef Supply Network (IQBSN). A division of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, IQBSN is a group of about 1,000 cattle producers whose goal is to create marketing opportunities and capture more value for Iowa cattlemen through individual animal marketing programs.

On May 20, the IQBSN signed an agreement with the Tama, IA, city council to take over its idled processing plant as a location to harvest and process cattle from the Iowa region. And in early June, the IQBSN and the American Foods Group announced the signing of a memo of understanding to form a joint venture at the Tama site.

American Foods Group, Green Bay, WI, is engaged in the slaughter and fabrication of cattle into boxed beef and the sales and marketing of value-added beef and processed pork products. In addition to Green Bay, it has facilities in Mitchell, SD, and Cincinnati, OH.

The memo identifies areas of potential business relationships that include long-term strategic planning, day-to-day management and on-going operational issues at the Tama facility. American Foods Group will also be included in the marketing strategies for product and by-product sales.

IQBSN was to begin an equity drive in June and July after announcing its final business plan.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail