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Editorial


Sustainability as a Marketing Imperative

The report on sustainability in food retailing produced by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America was reviewed at the Executive Conference of the National Grocers Association on September 18th.  This report stressed the extent of consumer concern over aspects of sustainability in relation to product packaging, processing and the role of participants in the food chain from production through to retail.

 

Sustainability means different things to diverse demographics. In essence sustainability as a concept represents the satisfaction of needs without damage to the environment and with special concern for future generations.

 

  • Sustainability incorporates social, human, economic and environmental components representing ‘Four Pillars’ that are in effectively interrelated in production.

     

    • Human sustainability concerns health, education, providing services and the development of skills for the wellbeing of communities.
    • Social sustainability relates to maintaining services and balance within communities including the rule of law and dissemination of accurate information.
    • Economic sustainability is necessary to preserve capital and contribute to an acceptable standard of living.  Businesses must apply assets to generate profit over the long-term.
    • Environmental sustainability protects land, air, water and other resources. Both enterprises and individuals can either contribute to environmental degradation or through specific actions they can reduce wastage, conserve water, lower greenhouse gas emissions and prevent pollution through appropriate disposal of packaging and unwanted items.

 

In the context of a business concern, it is necessary to integrate the four pillars of sustainability with appropriate compromises and trade-offs to achieve an optimal outcome.

 

The sustainability and food retailing study demonstrated that sixty percent of consumers believe supermarkets and retailers should cooperate with their local communities to advance sustainability.  The study indicated that most consumers would be willing to pay marginally more for food items and would preferentially patronize stores that demonstrate positive polices contributing to sustainability.

 

Examples of sustainability in the egg industry that exemplify the four pillars include:

  • Evidence that workers are well remunerated and are protected against of COVID.
  • Consumers need to be assured that eggs are produced in a sustainable manner.  This will be the responsibility of the Roundtable on Sustainable Poultry and Egg Production to develop quantitative levels of greenhouse gas emission, land and water use per unit of production as incorporated in a comprehensive life cycle assessment.  The broiler industry has already completed their evaluation and a corresponding egg study will be forthcoming.

 

In the context of egg production, packaging constitutes the most important aspect of concern for environmentally conscious consumers.  It is apparent that fiber is regarded as biodegradable as opposed to polystyrene foam and PET.  If polystyrene is used, in-store collection of empty containers is considered essential to obviate the negative impression that packaging remains on waste dumps in perpetuity or is destined for an ocean gyre.

 

Consumers indicate that they favor biodegradable bags for produce and are requesting a range of product sizes to prevent waste. 

 

The concept of ‘local’ production is favored by consumers. From the standpoint of sustainability remote but concentrated central cultivation of produce or production of protein, including eggs may require fewer resources than inefficient small-scale production and packaging.  In terms of USDA labeling, ‘local’ can extend over 400 miles.

 

With a greater emphasis on climate change policy and attendant publicity following a change in Administration, consumers, especially those under thirty years of age are concerned over environmental issues. Recent climatic events including hurricanes, wild fires, flooding and polar vortices have increased awareness of the impact of energy generation from fossil fuels on the environment.

 

The egg industry is fortunate in that feed conversion is favorable and that conservation of water, power and energy contribute to a small environmental footprint for the product, compared to other animal protein sources.  The challenge for the egg industry will be to develop and confirm quantitative data relating to sustainability and then to spread the message to consumers.  If opponents of intensive livestock production can use social media to deprecate intensive production then with commensurate effort it will be possible for the industry to present a more positive picture.  The activities at the American Egg Board with respect to social media are commendable and obviously will have to be expanded. 

 

Those who oppose our industry are losing welfare as an issue with progression in the transition to cage-free housing.  Salmonella as a secondary talking point is now of minimal importance since there has not been a SE outbreak attributed to eggs from a commercial complex since 2010.

 

The creation of the Roundtable, changes in packaging and inherent efficiency in conversion of resources to food place egg production in a favorable position with regard to sustainability.  We can be justifiably proud of our achievements but must build on this foundation with both innovation and enhanced messaging.


 

Egg Industry News


Egg Week

USDA Weekly Egg Price and Inventory Report, September 23rd 2021.

  • Shell inventory was up by 0.4 percent, following a sharp rise of 5.0 percent during the past week reflecting increasing oversupply relative to demand, consistent with addition of 0.3 million hens to the producing flock this week and 3.6 million over five weeks. Increased consumer activity prior to the Labor Day Weekend and more intense buying before Hurricane Ida moved stock from shelves but predictably prices are now falling. Midwest prices for generics are still above breakeven taking into account the combined costs of nest-run, grading, packaging and delivery. Chains spread their purchases and preempted anticipated price rises before the Labor Day weekend following a trend. It is possible that with a large National flock this strategy will suppress traditional pre-Christmas increases. Industry observers and participants expect buyers to adjust purchases only in response to retail demand and will hold down inventories in their DCs and stores. Since the beginning of 2021 generic eggs have been consistently priced, with a few exceptions, at levels to maximize margins. This strategy has depressed the volume of sales to the disadvantage of the industry. Market data suggests that chains have selected shelf prices for generic white eggs in response to prevailing demand and are not featuring generic Large or Extra large.

 

  • Currently inventory comprises close to five days of production. Price movement over the past eight months defies conventional supply to demand relationships and indicates extraneous factors affecting price. Wholesale Midwest prices for Extra- large and Large were down this past week after sequential declines. This suggests that prices have plateaued and will decline into October. The commercial shell-egg price discovery system is obviously used by buyers to negotiate lower prices, serving as a self-fulfilling prophecy and a de facto instrument of potential indirect, but not necessarily intentional, collusion. The current relationship between producers and chain buyers based on a single price discovery system constitutes an impediment to a free market. The benchmark price amplifies both downward and upward swings and functions to the detriment of the industry. A CME quotation based on Midwest Large, responding to demand relative to supply would be more equitable.

 

  • The U.S. flock in production was up 0.1 percent (0.3 million hens) from the week of September 15th to 316.2 million despite seasonal depletions, with about 3.0 million molted hens having resumed production during the past month. The Industry previously demonstrated beneficial restraint in flock placement with continued depletions and non-restocking of some complexes or houses. The trend going forward is for a larger flock. Margins will continue to decline for commodity eggs unless matched with increased demand as predicated by prevailing seasonal wholesale price over the past four weeks.

 

  • The USDA average Midwest benchmark prices for generic Extra Large and Large were down 14.0 and 14.2 percent respectively over the past week to 110.5 and 108.5 cents per dozen. Mediums were down 9.9 percent to 72.5 cents per dozen. Second quarter prices reflected static demand, offset by decreases in the U.S. flock in production. The trajectory of prices through the third week of September suggests a decline moving through the remainder of the month into October. Margins going forward will be shaved despite stability in feed price but with higher labor and fuel costs especially as unit revenue erodes.

 

  • There is some prospect of a return of the food service sector with both frozen and dried-egg prices marginally higher. The economy is reopening despite a rise in COVID incidence rates and hospitalizations in many regions. There is some optimism over the rate of deployment and acceptance of the three vaccines especially in rural areas and inner city zones. Reopening of the economy and schools in areas with low population immunity has resulted in a surge in the incidence rate of COVID. This is especially the case following the introduction and dissemination of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus that is more infectious and possibly with higher pathogenicity than the original strain especially among the non-immunized proportion of the population that represent an overwhelming majority of those hospitalized.

 

  • The Midwest price for breaking stock was down 6.6 percent to an average of 63.5 cents per dozen. Checks in the Midwest were unchanged at an average of 57.5 cents per dozen. It is anticipated that these prices will fluctuate in response to market trends and gradual recovery of the breaking sector.

 

OVERVIEW

Prices

According to the USDA Egg Market News Reports released on September 20th, the Midwest wholesale prices for Extra-large were lower by 14.0 percent to an average of 110.5 cents per dozen; Large were down 14.2 percent to 108.5 cents per dozen; Mediums were 9.9 percent lower to 72.5 cents per dozen as delivered to DCs. Prices should be compared with the USDA benchmark average 6-Region blended nest-run, (excluding provisions for packing, packaging materials and transport) cost of 69.7 cents per dozen in August 2021. The progression of prices during 2021 to date is depicted in the USDA chart reflecting three years of data, updated weekly.

 

The September 20th 2021 edition of the USDA Egg Market News Report (Vol. 68: No. 38) documented a USDA Combined Region value rounded to the nearest cent, of $1.37 per dozen delivered to warehouses for the week ending September 13th 2021. This average price lags current Midwest weekly values by one week. The USDA Combined range for Large in the Midwest was $1.27 per dozen. At the high end of the range, price in the South Central Region attained $1.45 per dozen. The USDA Combined Price last week was 50 cents per dozen above the 3-year average. This past week Midwest Large was approximately 54 cents above the corresponding week in 2020.


 

Crop Progress

Status of 2021 Corn and Soybean Crops

The USDA Crop Progress Report released on September 20th documented corn and soybean crop conditions to September 19 th compared to 5-year averages. This past week 93 percent of corn was at the dent stage. Fifty seven percent of the corn crop was mature, 10 percent ahead of the 5-year average and the same as in 2020. For soybeans 58 percent of the crop was dropping leaves consistent with the 5-year average and 6 percent has been harvested.

 

Surface moisture levels were relatively lower on average during the past week over the corn-belt attaining an average of 35.2 percent for areas classified in the two lowest categories of “Short” and “Very short”. The severe drought in Western states and the Dakotas continues with extensive wildfires in the Northwest. Topsoil moisture in Iowa was down this past week at 40 percent compared to 35 percent last week in the two lowest moisture categories. Despite the variable levels of topsoil moisture among states, 59 percent of the corn crop was classified under the “Good” and “Excellent” categories by the USDA, higher by one percent from last week. The corresponding figure for soybeans was 58 percent, also up 1 percent from last week.

 

The ProFarmer Crop Tour completed three weeks ago, estimated corn yield to range from 175.2 to 178.8 bushels per acre with a mean value of 177.0 bushels per acre compared to the September WASDE value of 176.3 bushels per acre. This corresponded to a projected range for the 2021 corn harvest of 14.965 to 15.265 billion bushels with a mean value of 15.116 billion bushels compared to the September WASDE value of 14.996 billion bushels.

 

The ProFarmer Crop Tour estimated the soybean yield to range from 50.2 to 52.2 bushels per acre with a mean value of 51.2 bushels per acre compared to the September WASDE value of 50.6 bushels per acre. This corresponded to a projected range in the 2021 soybean harvest of 4.347 to 4.525 billion bushels with a mean value of 4.525 billion bushels compared to the September WASDE value of 4.374 billion bushels.

 

CHICK-NEWS and EGG-NEWS will report on the progress of the two major crops as monitored by the USDA through the end of the 2021 harvest in November.

 

Reference is made to the September 10th WASDE Report #616 and the Acreage Report retrievable under the STATS tab for projected 2021 acreage and yields. This data will be updated when WASDE #617 is released on Friday October 8th with a firmer projection of yields and ending stocks.

 

 

WEEK ENDING

 

Crop

September 12th

September 19th

5-Year Average

Corn Dough (%)

Corn Dented (%)

Corn Mature (%)

Corn Harvested (%)

100

87

37

4

100

93

57

10

100

89

47

9

Soybeans setting pods (%)

Soybeans Dropping leaves (%)

Soybeans Harvested (%)

100

35

-

100

58

6

100

48

6

Crop Condition

18 States

V. Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

Corn 2021 (%)

Corn 2020 (%) 1

1. Late planting

5

5

10

9

26

25

45

47

14

14

Soybeans 2021 (%)

Soybeans 2020 (%)1

1. Late planting

4

3

10

7

28

27

47

51

11

12

Parameter 48 States

V. Short

Short

Adequate

Surplus

Topsoil moisture %: Past Week*

18

32

47

3

Past Year

14

28

54

4

Subsoil moisture %: Past Week

21

31

46

2

Past Year

15

28

53

4

 

 

For topsoil moisture the major corn and soybean-producing states had an average of 35.2 percent in the “Very Short” and “Short” categories (last week 33 percent) with a range of 6 percent for PA to 51 percent for IN.

 

  • Iowa 40% (was 35%)
  • Illinois 38% (was 33%)
  • Indiana 51% (was 47%)
  • Kansas 49% (was 45%)
  • Kentucky 18% (was 22%)
  • Michigan 22% (was 38%)
  • Missouri 43% (was 33%)
  • Ohio 50% (was 40%)
  • Pennsylvania 6% (was 4%)

 

COMMODITY REPORT

WEEKLY COMMODITY REPORT: SEPTEMBER 23rd 2021.

 

  • Commodity prices were less than one percent down over the past week despite inter-day fluctuations. Factors influencing prices in either direction included:-
    • Part restoration of operation of shipments from lower Mississippi export terminals following Hurricane Ida. Some installations have been repaired and now with power are unloading barges and preparing to load bulk carriers. (moderate upward pressure)
    • Delay in post-Ida cleanup caused by heavy precipitation from Hurricane Nicholas along the Gulf. (mild downward pressure)
    • Release of the September 10th WASDE (limited downward pressure);
    • Results of the ProFarmer crop review (limited downward pressure)
    • Lower than anticipated export sales, especially to China (downward pressure);
    • Moderation of drought in many counties in the corn belt with enhanced yields and especially in Iowa (moderate downward pressure);
    • Drought in Brazil causing a low Safrinha (second) crop (upward pressure);
    • Restoration of shipments from Argentina albeit at lower than normal volume (moderate downward pressure);
    • Central government of China attempting to stabilize prices of pork and corn (downward pressure).

Projected harvests and ending stocks in the U.S. were updated in the September 10th WASDE especially since there is greater clarity on acreage and the effects of weather and trade to date on ending stocks. Annual field assessment of crop conditions by ProFarmer scouts was released three weeks ago with yield projections similar to the September WASDE. The USDA is conducting evaluation of crop conditions to refine estimates for the October edition of the WASDE.

 

  • U.S producers are now receiving and conversely livestock producers in the Midwest will pay above $5.30 per bushel for corn and crushers will pay $12.85 per bushel for soybeans plus transport and basis in late September. Corn was down 0.2 percent this past week and soybeans were down 0.8 percent for November delivery. Soybean meal was down 0.9 percent for December delivery compared to last week reflecting the decline in the price of soybeans and transitory suspension of exports from lower Mississippi terminals following Hurricane Ida.

     

  • The FAS Export Report released on September 23rd for the week ending September 16th reflecting market year 2021-2022, confirmed that outstanding export orders for corn for the new market year amounted to 24.1 million metric tons (950 million bushels) with 0.49 million metric tons (19.3 million bushels) actually shipped. During the past week orders for the 2021-2022 market year amounted to 0.38 million metric tons (15.0 million bushels). For market year 2022-2023 outstanding sales amounted to 0.33 million metric tons (13 million bushels) with no sales recorded this past week.

     

  • The FAS Export Report released on September 23rd for the week ending September 16th reflecting market year 2021-2022 recorded outstanding export orders for soybeans amounting to 22.7 million metric tons (833 million bushels) with 0.27 million metric tons (9.9 million bushels) actually shipped. Weekly soybean orders attained 0.9 million metric tons (33.0 million bushels)

     

  • During the week ending September 16th 45,000 metric tons of soybean meal and cake were ordered for the market year 2021-2022, down 53 percent from the previous week. The quantity shipped, presumably from recently repaired Gulf terminals and unaffected but congested West coast facilities amounted to 245,000 metric tons up 329 percent from the previous week.

 

he following quotations for delivery in the months as indicated were posted by the CME at 13H00 on September 23rd 2021, compared with values posted at close of trading on September 16th 2021 (in parentheses):-

COMMODITY

 

Corn (cents per bushel)

Dec. 529 (530)

March ‘22. 536 (538)

Soybeans (cents per bushel)

Nov. 1,284 (1,294)

March ’22. 1,297 (1,306)

Soybean meal ($ per ton)

Dec. 340 (343)

March ’22. 346 (348)

Changes in the price of corn, soybeans and soybean meal over five trading days this past week were:-

 

COMMODITY CHANGE FROM PAST WEEK FOR MONTH OF DELIVERY AS INDICATED

Corn: Dec. quotation down 1 cent per bushel (-0.2 percent)

Soybeans: Nov. quotation down 10 cents per bushel (-0.8 percent)

Soybean Meal: Dec. quotation down $3 per ton (-0.9 percent )

 

The USDA weekly wholesale feedstuffs prices expressed per short ton posted on September 21st (with previous week in parentheses) were:-

  • Corn: $174 ($175), Chicago
  • Soybean Meal: $346 ($343), Central Illinois
  • Meat and Bone Meal: $380 ($385), Central Midwest
  • DDGS: $200 ($198), Eastern corn belt
  • For each $1 per ton (2.5 cents/bushel) change in corn:-
    • The cost of egg production would change by 0.011 cent per dozen
    • The cost of broiler production would change by 0.06 cent per pound live weight
  • For each $10 per ton change in the price of soybean meal:-
    • The cost of egg production would change by 0.44 cent per dozen
    • The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight

 

The changes in the prices of corn and soybean meal for September 23 rd compared with September 16th USDA weekly quotations would increase nest-run production cost for eggs by 0.39 cents per dozen and for broilers 0.22 cents per live pound extending the decrease from the previous week .

Year-to-date, escalation in the prices of major ingredients has added 3.5* cents per dozen eggs and 1.9* cents per live-weight lb. to broiler production cost

*(rounded to 0.1cent)


 

Updated August 2021 USDA Projection for U.S. Egg Production

The USDA Economic Research Service issued an updated forecast of egg production on September 16th 2021 revising the previous August 18th 2021 report. The September projection of production for 2021 was increased by 0.2 percent from 2020 to 8,073 million dozen with a per capita consumption of shell eggs and liquids combined of 284.1 down 1.4 percent compared to 2020. The average 2021 benchmark New York bulk unit price was raised to 117.8 cents per dozen taking into account higher prices during the first quarter and in August. The USDA provided a long-term forecast for 2022 of 8,175 million dozen produced, with a consumption of 287.4 per capita. Subsequent USDA forecasts will provide greater clarity on reopening of the economy that is still depressed with moderate unemployment attributed to COVID restrictions.

 

September 2021 data is shown in the table below:-

 

Parameter

2018

(actual)

2019

(actual)

2020

(actual)

2021

(forecast)

2022

(projection)

% Difference

2020-2021

 

           

Production (m. dozen)

8,042

8,265

8,058

8,073

8,175

+0.2

Consumption (eggs per capita)

287.8

293.6

286.5

284.1

287.4

-0.8

New York price (c/doz.)

138

94

112

118

117

+4.5

 

Source: Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook

released September 16th 2021

 

Subscribers to EGG-NEWS are referred to the postings depicting weekly prices, volumes and trends and the monthly review of prices and related industry statistics.


 

Minnesota Sues Sparboe Farms Over COVID-period Pricing

On September 3rd the Attorney General of the state of Minnesota filed a complaint against Sparboe Farms alleging excessive pricing during April 2020.  The case arises from the unprecedented transitory increase in the wholesale prices of eggs. The lawsuit is based on an executive order issued by Governor Tim Walz on March 20th 2020 prohibiting “unconscionably excessive increases in the prices of essential items during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.”

 

During late March and April, prices charged by Sparboe were greater than the 20 percent cap specified in the Minnesota Executive Order.  Reference to USDA data confirmed that the USDA Combined Regional Large Egg Weekly average price increased from approximately 85 cents per dozen in mid-March to a peak of $2.85 per dozen in mid-April with a sharp decline thereafter to previous levels by mid-May.

 

The Minnesota Attorney General presented evidence that retail and wholesale customers requested Sparboe to lower prices.  Sparboe apparently countered that the price was based on contracts linked to a widely used industry price discovery benchmark to justify price increases rather than any quantifiable increase in production costs. The Attorney General has discovered internal company documents and memorandums relating to the price increase.

 

Previously the Minnesota Attorney General settled an investigation into alleged ‘price gouging’ by Forsman Farms.  Under an assurance of a discontinuance document, Forsman Farms agreed on April 28th 2020 to limit prices to no more than 20 percent over pre-emergency values and to abide by existing contracts if they dictated a price lower than the ceiling.  In commenting on the settlement, Attorney General Keith Ellison stated, “I was encouraged to see Forsman Farms cooperate fully with my office’s investigation and I am pleased that the mutual resolution protects Minnesotans against excessive increases in egg prices during the emergency.”

 

This case also illustrates the distorting effect of the prevailing price discovery benchmark that amplifies both upward and downward swings in price. This occurs since fewer chain buyers represent a larger proportion of the market, all reacting to the published price for a perishable product with limited shelf life.


 

Egg-Free Mayonnaise Using Chickpea Isolate

ChickP of Israel had isolated a protein from chickpeas to be added to plant-based mayonnaise. The product obviates the need to add hydrocolloids and stabilizers to achieve emulsification.  The manufactures claim retention of high solubility, heat stability and foaming despite extended shelf life.

 

Ron Klein, CEO of ChickP stated, "based on work with Aquafaba, the development has been a culinary game changer for many vegans".  He added, "the downside is that it still does not present a viable egg substitute in nutritional terms as it contains only a fraction of the protein of an egg".

 

The same can be said of all plant-based mayonnaise substitutes prepared without eggs.  Irrespective of the nutritional inferiority, the ChickP product appears to offer advantages over other ersatz mayonnaise products developed and marketed in the U.S.


 

Sam’s Club to Increase Starting Wage

Faced with competition for available labor, Sam’s Club CEO, Kath McLay has announced that the minimum wage for workers would be raised from $11 to $15 effective September 25th.  Currently 95 percent of workers receive at least $15 per hour but the increase would also be reflected in higher wage rates for workers with experience and seniority.  In a memo to employees Ms. McLay stated, “We want you to be competitively paid, whether you have found your destination job or you’re starting out and are eager to climb the ladder.”  The new wage rate will affect one-third of hourly workers including forklift drivers, personal shoppers and team leaders. 

 

Costco raised their starting wage to $16 per hour during the second quarter but the company offers a wide range of fringe benefits and opportunities.


 

Ford and Walmart to Test Delivery of Groceries Using Autonomous Vehicles

Ford Motor and affiliate Argo AI will initiate trials of home delivery of groceries from Walmart using autonomous vehicles.  Tests will be conducted in Miami, Washington DC and Austin TX in limited areas.

 

Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of Argo AI stated, “Our focus is on the testing and development of self-driving technology that operates in urban areas where customer demand is high”

 

Argo AI has evaluated 150 autonomous vehicles in six cities over the past six months and has established an alliance with Lyft to offer rides in self-driving cars.


 

GM Label Declaration Will be Unnecessary for Eggs

In accordance with the proposed rules requiring labeling of products containing GM ingredients, eggs from flocks fed conventional diets will not fall under the mandate. In the U.S. hens are invariably fed diets containing GM corn and soybean meal processed from GM soybeans with the exception of eggs produced under the USDA Certified Organic or non-GMO verified programs.

 

It is widely acknowledged that there is no risk or deleterious effect from consuming foods containing GM ingredients.  In 2016 the National Academy of Sciences conducted an extensive review involving more than one thousand studies that demonstrated no harmful effect from GM products.  The World Health Organization, the American Association for Advancement of Science and the E.U. Commission have all confirmed that GM foods are innocuous.


 

Immigrant Status Cannot Be Bundled with "Social Infrastructure" Package

Elizabeth MacDonough, the non-partisan Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that legislation to extend a path to citizenship for the DACA cohort  of 800,000 and approximately 11 million workers currently in the U.S. illegally cannot be included in the proposed $3.5 trillion Social Infrastructure and Climate Enhancement Bill. Accordingly the affected demographic will not receive approval for either permanent status or a path to citizenship.

 

Ms. MacDonough ruled that under current Senate procedures bundling legislative provisions are not allowed in bills if they are "merely incidental" to the overall policy intent. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated, "we are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in a budget reconciliation continues".  He added, "Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and we will be holding additional meetings with the Senate Parliamentarian in the coming days".

 

Immigration has become a highly charged political issue. Most agricultural and animal production associations are pressing the Administration to grant unlimited H-2A visas to qualified applicants to allow year-round employment.


 

FDA to Initiate Study of Pathogen Contamination in Cantaloupe

The FDA will collect and assay 240 samples of cut cantaloupe to determine the possible presence of Listeria and Salmonella.  The initiative follows the 2011 Listeria outbreak responsible for 147 diagnosed cases with 143 hospitalizations and 33 fatalities.  Since this time, cantaloupe has been associated with isolated cases of salmonellosis and listeriosis.

 

Samples will be obtained from precut and packaged cantaloupe as delivered to schools, hospitals, and supermarkets.  It is presumed that surface contamination is introduced into the flesh of melons during processing as with meat and fish products.  Sampling melons at point of delivery will indicate the level of contamination.

 

A more comprehensive study from field through harvesting, washing, packaging, and also further processing is required if the FDA is to fully understand the dynamics of infection.  Determining rates of contamination would simply be used as a justification for standards or regulations.  What is required is a set of proven effective measures to reduce infection including a positive kill-step. 


 

Kroger Masks Up

The Kroger Company has implemented mandatory masking for all employees and contractors effective September 10th.  The Company does not intend to require masks in stores, but will abide by local and state mandates where applicable.  The requirement for masking will include all Kroger banners and may affect as many as 450,000 workers.

 

In announcing the policy, the Company stated “We are now requiring all associates and contractors to wear a mask when in our stores, offices, and other facilities regardless of vaccination status.  We continue to strongly encourage customers to wear masks to protect themselves and others and to curb the spread of COVID-19.”


 

CDC Investigating two Salmonella Outbreaks

According to a preliminary posting an ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Oranienburg has been diagnosed in 126 patients.  Concurrently a Salmonella Thompson outbreak is responsible for 76 cases.  No specific vehicle of infection has been identified and as of September 15th, there are no details as to states affected or the ages of those infected.


 

Quat. Disinfectants and Antibiotic Resistance

Recent studies have demonstrated that under laboratory conditions, exposure of organisms to quaternary ammonium disinfectants may develop resistance to antibiotics. Potential pathogens frequently found in water treatment plants such as Pseudomonas aeroginosa exposed to alkyl-dimethylbenzyl-ammonium chloride develop resistance to penicillin, tetracycline and ciprofloxacin.   Exposure can alter sensitivity to antibiotics as illustrated by an isolate of Pseudomonas derived from a mid-western lake that became resistant to ciprofloxacin but more susceptible to streptomycin following exposure.

 

It is important for scientists working in the field of environmental bacteriology to determine the actual levels of quaternary ammonium disinfectants in the waters they study and relate these to concentrations used in food production and medical facilities to ascertain whether laboratory results are relevant to the real world.

 

Resistance of pathogens to Quaternary ammonium compounds is instinctively of significance in hatcheries and egg-packing plants if a single class of disinfectant is used for extended periods without appropriate microbiologic monitoring.


 

USAPEEC and AEB to Present “Huevinars” During September and October

The USAPEEC Mexico office in conjunction with the American Egg Board presented a virtual “Huevinar” promotional event on September 21st to be repeated on October 7th.  The online seminars in Spanish provide information on U.S. eggs, functionality, quality and application in bakery, food processing and food service.  Previous Huevinars have met with considerable interest with a large number of registrants and attendees.

 

For the first seven months of 2021 Mexico imported 34.6 million dozen shell eggs valued at $27.3 million and 3,771 tons of egg products  worth $8.0 million supplementing domestic production.

 

Additional information can be obtained from Liliana Solis lsolis@usapeec.org.mx


 

De Anda Predicts Egg Exports by Mexicoto Increase

Prominent poultry producer and international personality Cesar De Anda predicts Mexico could become a major international egg supplier providing producers can meet accepted quality standards.  Quoted in the September 20th edition of the USAPEEC MondayLine, De Anda noted high domestic consumption and expansion of production facilities in Mexico. 

 

During the first seven months of 2021, Mexico imported 34.6 million dozen shell eggs and  3,771 metric tons of egg liquid and related products from the U.S.


 

Cracker Barrel Reports on Q4 and Fiscal 2021

On September 21st Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. (CBRL) posted results for Q4 and fiscal 2021 ending July 30th. For the quarter, revenue increased by 78 percent to $784.41 million.  Net earnings attained $36.36 million a 45 percent increase over Q4 of FY 2020 with EPS higher by 46 percent to $1.53. 

 

For the fiscal year, revenue increased by 12 percent to $2.82 billion with a substantial increase in net earnings to $254.51 million compared to a loss of $32.48 million in Q4 of FY 2020.  EPS increased from a loss of $1.36 to $10.71 for the most recent quarter.  Comparable restaurant sales compared with Q4 2019 were down 6.8 percent, but retail sales were up by 18.2 percent.  Comparing sales against Q4 of 2020, restaurant revenue increased by 18.2 percent and retail by 74.8 percent.

 

In commenting on performance, Sandra B. Cochran, CEO stated "despite the well-known headwinds the industry continues to face with respect to staffing, commodity and wage inflation and the resurgence of the pandemic, we are pleased that our fourth quarter profitability continues to trend positively from the third quarter and that our off-premise sales, retail business and Maple Street Biscuit Company concept continue to outperform".  She added, "I am confident that these and other initiatives position is well for 2022 despite the uncertain environment".

 

Cracker Barrel has a market capitalization of $3.18 billion with assets of $2.39 billion and long- term debt and lease obligations of $1.16 billion.  CBRL has traded over the past 52 weeks in a range of $106.92 to $178.82 with a 50-day moving average of $137.99.  As of August 31st, 9.2 percent of the float was short.  For the trailing twelve months, operating margin was 2.6 percent and profit margin 9.6 percent.  The company generated a return on assets of 1.7 percent and 46.8 percent on equity.


 

Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act Introduced

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) Chairperson of the House Appropriations Committee has introduced the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act.  The intent of this proposed legislation is to enhance the ability of the USDA to purchase and distribute fresh fruit and vegetables.  DeLauro commented, "Last year the COVID-19 pandemic created the greatest economic and public health crisis in a generation".  She added, "As the economic crisis worsened hunger skyrocketed particularly among families with children and the pandemic has exploited our country's nutrition crisis disproportionately affecting Americans with chronic diet-related conditions including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart failure".

 

DeLauro praised the Farmers to Families Box Program introduced by the previous Administration under the direction of then Secretary of Agriculture, Dr. Sonny Perdue. The proposed Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act will enable USDA to work with growers, distributors and food hubs to supply fruit and vegetables to local pantries and food banks.

 

Fruit and vegetables appear to have gained prominence in initiatives to improve nutrition dating back to the efforts of then First Lady Michelle Obama who championed balanced nutrition and worked against food deserts in inner cities of major metro regions.

 

It would certainly be of benefit to the egg industry if a Congressional champion for the nutritional value of eggs could be motivated.  Perhaps even Representative DeLauro with her knowledge of nutrition and public health could be persuaded as to the benefits of a low-calorie food with an ideal amino acid composition.


 

Commentary


FACT Sues Wendy's Company Over Cage-Free Claim

In 2016, Wendy's along with most restaurants and QSRs were coerced by HSUS into announcing that eggs and egg products served in their restaurants would be derived from non-cage hens by 2020.

 

On September 9th Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) sued the Wendy's company in the D.C. Superior Court claiming misrepresentation by the company that claims is alleged to derive only five percent of eggs from other than conventional cages.  The plaintiff FACT is demanding that Wendy's conform to the Consumer Protection Procedures Act with respect to DC consumers.  In the complaint, FACT represented by Richman Law and Policy, claimed that Salmonella rates are higher in caged facilities compared to other housing systems.  The scientific justification for this assertion is questioned and relates to prw-2010 data before introduction of the FDA Final Rule on Prevention of Salmonella and effective EQAPs.  Regrettably epidemiologic data is skewed by the single outbreak perpetuated by Jack DeCoster. The 2010 recall involving eggs derived from his Iowa operation may be regarded as an aberration and not representative of the U.S. egg industry.

 

Harry Rhodes, Executive Director of FACT stated, "by representing its animal welfare program is ‘industry-leading’ and claiming its egg suppliers provide space and opportunities for animals to interact with their environment, Wendy's deceives the majority of consumers who care about animal welfare". 

 

Irrespective of claims relating to consumer policies and safety, FACT is promoting a vegan agenda and uses the legal system to generate funding and to oppose all forms of intensive livestock production. Irrespective of the outcome of the case animal rights activists and vegan organizations will continue to misuse the legal system to threaten the food industry with reputational disparagement to achieve their objectives.


 

Sponsored Announcements


Sanovo Offers Automatic Cleaning of Egg Tray

Sanovo has introduced an in-line tray washing system. Designed for compact setups in grading stations and processing plants.

 

Options are available for either manual loading with off-line systems STW-2 and 3.

 

Combinations of manual and automatic loading are possible.


 

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Dr. Simon M. Shane
Simon M. Shane
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