Mexico overtook Japan in 2002 to become the number-one volume destination for U.S. beef and variety meat exports. Mexico's assumption is attributed to U.S. beef marketing efforts, as well as a drop in Japanese beef consumption following the September 2001 discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Japan's domestic herd in.

U.S. beef exports to Mexico set a record for the sixth successive year as a total of 349,900 mt of U.S. beef and beef variety meats moved from the U.S. to its southern neighbor. The 2002 figure represents a 12% jump in volume over 2001 and a total value of $854.3 million.

Still, Japan remains the largest market for the U.S. beef industry in value terms and is expected to reclaim its top U.S. beef export position in 2003.

Worldwide, the U.S. beef industry exported 1,233,497 mt of beef and beef variety meats in 2002, a volume only previously exceeded in 2000 and 2001.

A major U.S. food service distributor has inked a pact with irradiation technology company SureBeam. The deal makes Performance Food Group (PFG) of Richmond, VA, the first major food service distributor to market a strategic brand of irradiated ground beef products to food service operators on the East Coast and in the Southwest and Midwest.

Initially, PFG will launch a line of 10 products under its West Creek brand with the Smart Shield Assurance stamp of approval. The line will include 100% pure ground beef patties, 100% USDA Black Angus ground beef patties and 100% pure bulk ground beef.

PFG markets and distributes more than 61,000 national and private label food and food-related products to 46,000 customers in the hotel, restaurant and institutional trade.

Western sage grouse doesn't get listing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) denied a petition to list the Western sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). FWS found the petition lacked sufficient evidence to show the Western population of sage grouse is a valid subspecies or a distinct population segment.

The Institute for Wildlife Protection, Eugene, OR, petitioned FWS for listing of the bird in northern California, Oregon and Washington and parts of Idaho. Currently, several sub-species of sage grouse can be found in 11 states.

Listing opponents maintained that most Western states, through their respective wildlife agencies, are already developing or have sage grouse management plans. Thus, they say, adequate protection is already being provided without inhibiting or restricting current land use activities.

Sage grouse depend on sagebrush most of the year for roosting cover and food, relying on it almost entirely for food in the winter.

USDA Livestock Compensation Program (LCP) signup began April 1. It's scheduled to end in June.

Information is available at local Farm Service Agency offices, as well as a USDA Web site — The site provides one location for program details, questions and answers, and allows for comments and suggestions on program implementation, as well as other information on USDA assistance.

To be eligible for LCP assistance, a producer's livestock operation headquarters must be physically located in a county with a qualifying disaster designation. Eligible livestock are cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo and catfish. Counties named as contiguous counties are not eligible for the program. LCP payments will be based on losses per head or number of eligible livestock and catfish.

The beef industry is on pace to meet its 2004 beef demand goal. Halfway into its 2001-2004 long-range plan, the beef industry is slightly more than halfway to its goal of raising beef demand by 6%. Dee Lacey, a California beef producer and chairman of the Cattlemen's Beef Board, says the +3% performance is particularly impressive in that it coincides with a time of record-high beef supplies, a struggling domestic economy and a weaker export market.

Lacey says demand for beef, a measure that accounts for both per-capita consumption and consumer spending for beef, has increased more than 3% since 2000, and nearly 10% since its low in 1998.

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef (CFPB) LLC has a new head. Bill Fielding, a 24-year meat industry veteran, has joined the Louisville, KY,-based, privately held producer and marketer of Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef as executive vice president and COO. Previously, Fielding has served in executive positions with Farmland Industries, the American Meat Institute, ConAgra, Cargill and Excel.

In January, Creekstone Farms purchased the former facilities of Future Beef Operations in Arkansas City, AR. In purchasing the $100-million processing plant, CFPB said it planned to significantly expand its value-added products business over the coming 18 months with deli and innovative entree products.

CFPB's fresh beef products are distributed throughout the U.S. and in Asia. Customers of fresh and fully cooked products include regional and national restaurant chain accounts, regional and national retail grocery chains, food service purveyors and distributors, convenience stores, club stores and retail distributors.