Excel plans to install electronic pasteurization (EP) equipment in two beef processing plants. Plants in Schuyler, NE, and Plainview, TX, will have SureBeam EP capability to eliminate harmful food-borne bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7 without affecting quality. Excel is North America's second largest meat processor and processes approximately 7.5 billion lbs. of beef/year.

Similar to a microwave oven, the SureBeam technology uses electricity to pasteurize food after processing and packaging. The SureBeam Corporation will charge the processor on a per-pound basis.

In addition, SureBeam announced construction of a regional electronic pasteurizing center in Los Angeles. Scheduled to open in late 2001, its production, along with that of a similar Surebeam facility to be built near Chicago, will triple the company's national processing capacity.

After 113 years of operation, the San Antonio Stockyards closed April 18. The leading U.S. market in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, only 82,000 head of cattle went through the facility in 2000, compared to more than 1 million livestock in 1950.

Uruguay intends to vaccinate its entire 10.4-million-head cattle herd for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) after 14 cases were found. The May 4 announcement came 10 days after FMD was found and efforts to contain the virus failed. Uruguay has been forced to suspend all meat exports and will likely lose its FMD-free status.

Meanwhile, Brazil, which has diagnosed 11 FMD cases near its Uruguayan border, began vaccinating cattle on its southern border with Uruguay to create a buffer zone with Uruguay and Argentina, which isolated more than 300 FMD areas in April. Brazil has banned movement of live animals from that border area.

About 30% of all fresh ground beef will be sold as case-ready in 2001. That's up from 7.5% in 1999 and 15% last year.

At least half of all such products will be sold case-ready by 2003, reports Steve Kay of Cattle Buyers Weekly. Sales of case-ready beef cuts are expected to be slower.

Wal-Mart's April 2000 decision to offer case-ready meats accelerated the transition, Kay says. Case-ready delivers quality at low prices, streamlines distribution, increases quality control and improves product appearance, says Lee Scott, former CEO of Wal-Mart.

French anxiety over FMD and BSE is fueling a feeding frenzy in horsemeat. Horsemeat sales in France jumped 30.7% the first quarter of 2001 compared to the same period last year. During that same time, beef sales fell 22% and lamb sales dropped 3%. France imports most of its horsemeat from North America and Poland. The increase began last fall as a result of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) concerns and escalated when FMD hit this winter.

A dozen consumer, faith-based, farm, animal welfare, labor and environmental groups have banded into the Global Safe Food Alliance (GSFA). The group's mission is to mobilize a grassroots movement to advocate a food supply that is safe, wholesome and humanely produced in a sustainable manner. GSFA's first official act was to petition the federal government to do more to address BSE. Apparently, they're unaware that BSE doesn't exist in the U.S.

A Kansas cattle trader must pay $136,000 in checkoff assessments, late fees and civil penalties. The federal appeals court ruling against Jerry Goetz, Park, KS, who failed to make checkoff payments from 1986 to 1993, upheld an earlier district ruling that Goetz was liable for $66,913 in assessments and late charges, and $69,804 in civil penalties.

Folks at risk of kidney stones don't have to become vegetarians. New research reported in the March Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that beef fits into the balanced diets that can help reduce kidney stone risk.

About 10% of Americans have calcium kidney stones or a genetic disposition to them. Conducted by researchers at Washington State University, the checkoff-funded study offers more flexibility in diets traditionally restricted from beef and other animal protein sources.

The study, using people with a history of calcium kidney stone, compared diets with beef as a protein source and diets with plant protein. The same amount of total protein was consumed in both diets. The researchers say the kind of protein ingested — animal or plant — doesn't matter. Keeping the amount of dietary protein at moderate levels in a sensible diet is what's important.

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