Monday, March 3


Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of cutthroats: The continued fallout from the Humane Society video, combined with the ongoing incompetence and corruption of meat processors and their supposed overseers, is adding up to significant turbulence for the industry that has for so long been untouchable.

One blow is this Wall Street Journal article, School Lunch at Risk for Years, which looks at USDA audits from the past 5 years showing problems with unsafe meat being delivered to schoolchildren, "suggesting more widespread problems than those that triggered the biggest food recall in U.S. history." Got that? More widespread problems than those in the Chino plant. Or, here, the WSJ will spell it out more clearly for you: "The reports appear to contradict USDA and meat-industry assertions that violations at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. plant in Chino, Calif., which voluntarily recalled 143 million pounds of ground meat Feb. 17, were an 'isolated incident,' as officials said at the time." Read the whole thing for some idea of how pervasive and prevalent this problem has been, of meat producers all over figuring they can game the system and pass of anything they want as edible meat.

Additionally, there's a ripple effect on milk producers who had relied on the lax standards of Hallmark/Westland to pass off the most thoroughly exploited cows imaginable.

    With the slaughterhouse now closed and under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearby dairies are losing the income collected from selling the cows and instead must pay to have them euthanized.

    Diminished competition and long hauling distances have resulted in slaughterhouses paying about 18 percent less than Hallmark had been willing to pay, Bolcao said. That amounts to a loss of about $84 per head.

    Sybrand Vander Dussen, a dairyman and president of the Chino Basin Milk Producers Council, said the change came at a time when many dairies are struggling to stay profitable in the face of increasing feed costs.
So the dairy industry doesn't look like a good one to go into right now unless you're looking for a good way to lose some money. On the other hand, all careers in cattle are looking pretty bleak, according to one industry analyst on the Cattle Network site:

Barry Dunn, Texas A&M Kingsville, put it this way: "The industry is about to face a confluence of economic conditions and policies that, taken separately, would be sobering. The fact that they will happen simultaneously over a very short period of time is almost numbing."

In other words, hard times comin' to your town, cattlemen - more specifically, in the words of the title, The Winds of Change. The rest of the piece tries to turn the crisis into positive suggestions for blunting the impact, but these sound like things anyone who's in the business should already have thought of. Then again, one missing piece of advice is to keep screwing up and relying on your cronies in the USDA to cover for you, so I guess this represents progress.

UPDATE 3/4: USDA Long-Term Projections for Beef, Pork & Poultry Consumption: Per capita beef consumption declines through the projection period AND: Bovine tuberculosis outbreak in Minnesota has "everyone really nervous right now." AND: Livestock Risk Management Workshop scheduled for April 14 in Vernon, Texas

UPDATE 3/4: Dropping milk prices could spell disaster, farmer says

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