Weekly global protein digest - Current avian influenza outbreak is ‘greatest threat’ to the domestic egg industry, Iowa detects first case of H5N1 in dairy cattle

Livestock analyst Jim Wyckoff reports on global protein news
calendar icon 9 June 2024
clock icon 11 minute read

Iowa detects first case of H5N1 in dairy cattle

A case of H5N1 virus was detected in a dairy herd in O’Brien Co., Iowa, according to the state’s agriculture department. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has previously confirmed over 80 dairy cases of H5N1 in South Dakota, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, Idaho, New Mexico and Colorado. Iowa’s ag department also said that genomic sequencing of the virus found at a Sioux County mega flock of layer hens was “consistent with the variant identified in affected dairies in other states.” Genomic sequencing on the virus strain at a Cherokee Co. turkey flock or the O’Brien Co. dairy herd has not yet been completed.

Human dies from HPAI in Mexico

The World Health Organization (WHO) said a human death was caused by the first laboratory-confirmed case of infection with a subtype (H5N2) of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The 59-year-old resident of Mexico died on April 24 after developing symptoms associated with the virus. The victim had no history of exposure to poultry or other animals, WHO said. The person had chronic kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, and had been bedridden for three weeks prior to the onset of acute symptoms, WHO said. The H5N2 strain involved in this case is different from the H5N1 strain currently affecting dairy herds in the United States.

Germany confirms case of ASF

A case of African swine fever (ASF) has been confirmed on a pig breeding farm in Greifswald in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the state’s ag ministry said. China and other countries banned imports of German pork in 2020 after an ASF outbreak in the country. China’s import ban remains in place.

USDA’s strategy against bird flu in dairy cattle

The strategy involves identifying infected herds and allowing the virus to die out naturally within them, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack stated. Confident in their understanding of the virus and its transmission, USDA aims to contain the virus within infected herds until it dissipates.

The H5N1 avian flu virus was first confirmed in dairy cattle in the Texas panhandle on March 25 and spread to eight other states by April 25, with no new states reporting outbreaks since. There have been three cases of cattle-to-human infections among dairy farmworkers, with one case in Michigan involving respiratory symptoms. The CDC confirmed that H5N1 remains an avian virus with low risk to the general public, but advised protective measures for those in contact with infected animals.

USDA requires testing of lactating cows for bird flu before interstate shipping and offers financial incentives to dairy farms for improved biosecurity. A voluntary program for weekly testing of milk samples from bulk storage tanks on dairy farms is also being launched to gather more data. To date, H5N1 has been confirmed in 80 herds across nine states, with Michigan having the most infected herds at 23.

Over the weekend, the Iowa state Agriculture Department said highly pathogenic avian influenza was discovered on a turkey farm in Cherokee County in northwest Iowa. It was the second outbreak in a week in Iowa. The other was an egg farm with 4.2 million hens. Bird flu has killed 96.6 million birds, mostly hens and turkeys, in U.S. domestic flocks since outbreaks began in February 2022, according to a USDA database.

USDA proposed a rule on Monday to prohibit poultry processors from making deductions from the base prices listed in contracts with growers. This move, reported on Monday on Profarmer.com, is aimed at addressing abuses in the "tournament system," which determines farmers' revenue and imposes demands for additional investments in their facilities.

Andy Green, USDA competition adviser, emphasized that the rule is intended to ensure fairness for poultry growers and consumers. It aims to provide a clear base price in contracts, ensure fair comparisons in the tournament system, and prevent coercive investment demands on growers. Under the proposal, processors could still award bonuses to top-performing growers but could not make deductions from the base price. They would also be required to conduct fair comparisons of growers.

The Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform praised the proposal as a step toward fairness in poultry contracting practices.

The National Chicken Council opposed the rule, calling it "anti-business" and warning it would increase costs and stifle innovation.

The proposal will undergo a 60-day comment period after its publication in the Federal Register within the next seven to 10 days.

Additionally, USDA introduced a new data visualization tool, the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Live Cattle Data Dashboard, which aims to provide an easy-to-understand view of cattle market information.

Despite restrictions, strong demand for U.S. beef in Colombia

Colombia is the only trading partner to impose restrictions on imports of U.S. beef as a result of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) being detected in some lactating dairy cows. Homero Recio ), U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Latin America representative, explains that Colombia currently will not accept beef from any of the nine states impacted by HPAI. However, Recio reports that the U.S. industry is doing its best to overcome this trade barrier and meet the needs of Colombian customers by sourcing beef from eligible states. He adds that despite Colombia’s restrictions, the business climate for U.S. red meat remains favorable, with strong demand from the retail and foodservice sectors.

Current avian influenza outbreak is ‘greatest threat’ to the domestic egg industry

The threat follows virus detections in massive flocks, according to United Egg Producers President and CEO Chad Gregory. “On-farm biosecurity is at its most stringent levels, and despite these robust precautionary measures, the egg industry has lost flocks to [bird flu] in recent weeks,” Gregory told Politico in a statement. “This is a sad and difficult time for affected farmers, who must act swiftly to prevent the spread of the disease and go through an extensive recovery process.” A massive flock of over 4.2 million egg-laying chickens in Iowa was detected to have bird flu last week.

Beyond Meat, which experienced a meteoric rise when it went public in 2019, now facing significant challenges

There are sales declines and concerns about the healthfulness and cost of plant-based meats are growing, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. Despite initial success and widespread adoption, industry sales have fallen, with Beyond Meat's net revenue dropping by over 25% to $343 million in 2023 and continuing to decline into 2024.

Beyond Meat founder and CEO Ethan Brown acknowledged the difficulties, stating, "The trough has been a difficult place to be the last couple of years." To combat these challenges, the company has introduced a new burger formulation with reduced saturated fat and sodium, aiming to improve both taste and nutritional profile. This new product has received endorsements from the American Diabetes Association and Good Housekeeping, which will feature on its labeling.

John Baumgartner, an analyst at Mizuho Securities, noted, "I give credit where it’s due. I think they’ve made some clear improvements in the ingredients and nutritional profile, so there’s clear progress there." Despite these advancements, Beyond Meat faces stiff competition from Impossible Foods and skepticism from consumers about the health benefits of plant-based meats.

Sales of plant-based meats and seafood fell 12% in 2023, and Beyond Meat's stock has plummeted over 90% from its peak in 2019. The company's financial struggles have led to concerns about its cash position, prompting discussions about raising funds through debt or equity.

Critics, including nutritionists and industry-funded campaigns, have highlighted the highly processed nature of plant-based meats. James Bowers, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, stated, "Consumers have seen past the marketing spin and realized that these products are just ultraprocessed goop that costs more and isn’t healthier than real meat."

In response, Brown emphasized the importance of changing the perception of plant-based meats, saying, "Once that narrative became complicated for people because of misinformation or whatever, it became harder to grow the business. We have addressed that thoroughly in this product." Despite the challenges, Beyond Meat remains committed to improving its products and maintaining its presence in the market.

The company is hopeful that its new burger, which includes healthier ingredients like avocado oil and a mix of peas, red lentils, faba beans, and brown rice, will help turn its fortunes around. However, it has also raised the price of its new burgers to $6.99 for an eight-ounce pack, a move Baumgartner questioned given the previous price cuts during inflationary periods.

Bottom line: Beyond Meat's efforts to regain its market position come amid a broader industry downturn and growing competition, both domestically and internationally. The company continues to innovate and adapt, betting that improved products and strategic adjustments will help it reclaim its sizzle in the plant-based meat market.

USDA proposed rule on poultry payment systems clears OMB

USDA's proposed rule on Poultry Grower Payment Systems and Capital Improvement Systems was cleared by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) after several months of review. The rule, submitted to OMB on Dec. 18, 2023, aims to address issues such as payment disparities, reductions unrelated to flock performance, and transparency in capital investments in poultry production. During the review, meetings were held with the National Chicken Council and the Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform. It is uncertain whether the USDA will announce this rule immediately or wait for the completion of the OMB review of another proposed rule concerning unfair practices under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

China blocks beef shipments from two U.S. facilities

This news comes from USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The affected facilities are Swift Beef Company in Greeley, Colorado, and Cool Port Oakland in Oakland, California. The delisting, effective May 27, is reportedly due to traces of ractopamine found in beef from the Greeley plant, as stated by JBS. JBS, the world's largest meat processor, said it is cooperating with U.S. and Chinese authorities to resolve the issue. No other JBS beef plants in the U.S. have been affected. Ractopamine is a controversial feed additive used to promote lean muscle growth in animals, but it is banned in many countries including China due to food safety concerns.

In conjunction with the JBS suspension, USDA also reported that meat and poultry products originating from Cool Port Oakland, a cold storage facility in Oakland, California, were barred from export to China effective May 27. Cool Port Oakland is a major hub for storing and shipping perishable goods like meat and pharmaceuticals.

China lifts ban on more Aussie beef exporters, allows some Russian beef imports

China lifted bans on imports from five major Australian beef processing facilities, the Australian government said. China has removed restrictions for eight Australian beef plants, while two are still banned from making shipments. China was Australia’s second biggest beef export market last year, receiving 240,000 MT worth around $1.6 billion, according to Australian trade data. China will also allow imports of Russian beef from cattle under 30 months of age, while permitting shipments of by-products including frozen beef tendons and hoofs, stomach and cartilage.

Reuters: USDA is proposing to allow bulk testing of milk, rather than testing milk from individual cows, before approving shipments

This proposal follows a requirement from late April that lactating cows test negative for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) before being transported across state lines. A pilot program for bulk testing could start in June, with officials in six states reviewing the plan.

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) supports the initiative, stating it could help reduce the threat of H5N1 in dairy herds, protect farm workers, and secure the milk supply. Farmers favor bulk testing as it is more efficient for large herds.

To participate, bulk tanks must have three consecutive weeks of negative tests. Once approved, farms would then need to continue weekly bulk tank testing to maintain eligibility for interstate movement without individual animal testing.

However, some question whether three weeks of testing is sufficient before allowing bulk testing instead of individual animal testing. There are also concerns about the logistics of implementing the bulk testing program, such as how samples will be collected, shipped, and tested at approved laboratories.

USDA US beef, pork export sales

Beef: Net sales of 14,500 MT for 2024 were down 8 percent from the previous week and 11 percent from the prior 4-week average. Increases were primarily for South Korea (6,000 MT, including decreases of 400 MT), Japan (3,400 MT, including decreases of 500 MT), Mexico (1,400 MT, including decreases of 100 MT), Canada (1,000 MT, including decreases of 100 MT), and Taiwan (900 MT, including decreases of 200 MT). Exports of 15,300 MT were down 5 percent from the previous week and 6 percent from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were primarily to Japan (4,300 MT), South Korea (3,200 MT), China (2,300 MT), Taiwan (1,500 MT), and Canada (1,300 MT).

Pork: Net sales of 29,900 MT for 2024 were down 33 percent from the previous week, but up 3 percent from the prior 4-week average. Increases primarily for China (8,900 MT, including decreases of 100 MT), Mexico (8,300 MT, including decreases of 300 MT), Japan (3,400 MT, including decreases of 300 MT), South Korea (2,800 MT, including decreases of 500 MT), and Canada (1,800 MT, including decreases of 600 MT), were offset by reductions for Taiwan (200 MT). Exports of 34,400 MT were down 1 percent from the previous week, but unchanged from the prior 4-week average. The destinations were primarily to Mexico (16,100 MT), Japan (5,100 MT), South Korea (3,600 MT), China (3,000 MT), and Canada (1,400 MT).

© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.