People, Places, & ...

Foster Farms to Buy Pilgrim’s Pride Complex with State Aid

Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation has signed a definitive agreement to sell its chicken complex in Farmerville, LA, to Foster Farms for $80 million, $40 million of which Foster Farms will receive from the state of Louisiana to fund a portion of the purchase price. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The court has already approved procedures for the sale of the Farmerville complex assets.

The complex includes a processing facility, cook plant, two hatcheries, a feed mill, and a protein conversion plant.

According to news reports, Louisiana’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee approved $50 million to facilitate the sale that will come from the state’s economic development mega fund. The additional $10 million will go towards improvements to the site. The agreement between the state and Foster Farms requires the Livingston, CA-based company to hire 650 workers in the first year, 1,000 workers in the second year, and 1,100 by the third year, the News-Star of Monroe County, LA, reported. The agreement also requires Foster Farms to get at least 95 percent of its chickens from independent growers, which could save as many as 300 northeast Louisiana farmers.

If Foster Farms closes the facility within its first two years of operation, the company would be required to repay the state $45 million, according to the newspaper.

Montana Now Allows Horse Slaughter

A bill promoting privately-owned horse processing plant development in Montana became law in early May when Governor Brian Schweitzer failed to sign or veto the measure, allowing the bill to lapse into law.

House Bill 418 is a lengthy document with many legal stipulations, but in its most basic form states that no Montana court may stop or delay the construction of an equine processing facility on a challenge or appeal of a permit, license, or certificate under certain specified provisions. Among other things, the law requires inspection of hides before disposal, requires carcasses to be identified with an ink stamp, and requires pre-slaughter and post-slaughter inspection of each animal.

Schweitzer had previously vetoed the bill and sent an amended version back to the legislature, but legislators returned the bill to its original form and sent it back to the governor a second time.

New Techniques Developed for TSE Testing

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist Eric Nicholson and veterinarian Robert Kunkle have found a way to facilitate the diagnosis of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), a deadly group of diseases that can develop in a range of mammals, including humans.

A TSE can only be diagnosed after an animal has died. During the diagnosis, researchers typically check tissues for abnormal proteins called prions using a technique called Western blotting, or with immunohistochemistry. Western blotting is used for fresh or frozen tissues, while tissue that has never been frozen and has been fixed in formalin – a solution used to preserve biological specimens – is tested with immunohistochemistry. Sometimes only formalin-fixed tissues are available for testing.

Nicholson and Kunkle, who both work at the ARS National Animal Disease Center in Ames, IA, found a way to extract and identify abnormal prions in formalin-fixed tissue using a combination of mild detergent, a series of freeze-boil cycles, and enzyme digestion. Initial results indicate that the accuracy of this method begins to decline two years after the tissue is first preserved, and is completely lost after six years.

The two researchers also wanted to see if they could find a way to use Western blotting to test for TSE in tissues that had been fixed in formalin and then preserved in paraffin. They found that their results equaled – and at times even exceeded – the effectiveness of Western blotting analysis for tissues that had only been fixed in formalin.

These combined results add to the tools animal scientists can use to study the development and spread of TSE diseases. Their findings will facilitate the testing of tissue samples by Western blotting that were originally archived for microscopy examination, and simplify the preservation of samples collected in the field.

More on this research is available in the May/June 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine at ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

National Poultry Museum Opens

In early May, the National Poultry Museum opened as part of the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, KS. The museum will highlight the progression of the poultry industry from the 1800s, when raising poultry was a casual, backyard hobby, to today’s professional, big dollar business that has a yearly production value of close to $30 billion.

The museum will showcase all things poultry, such as where chickens come from, the various types of poultry raised, how long it takes a hen to lay an egg, the reasons behind various egg colors, and how many pounds of chicken meat Americans eat per year.

The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame educates society on the historical and present value of American agriculture and became a reality when it was issued a federal charter in 1960. The center is entirely funded by private and corporate donations, and revenue generated by admissions, memberships, special events, and facility rental.

North Dakota Livestock Death Toll Over 90,000

Spring snow storms followed by flooding rains have resulted in the loss of over 90,000 livestock in North Dakota, primarily cattle and calves. According to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, the primary form of disposal has been burial. The loss is almost as devastating as the 120,000 farm animals that died in 1997 from adverse weather.

Officers Elected to Lead AOCS

Ian Purtle, vice president, Cargill, was elected president of the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) for the next year. J. Keith Grime, president, JKG Consulting, was elected vice president and president-elect.

Timothy Kemper, president and chief executive officer, Desmet Ballestra North America, Inc., was elected to a two-year term as treasurer.

Pilgrim’s Pride Closes Georgia Facility

Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation will close its chicken processing plant in Dalton, GA, by mid-June 2009 and consolidate production at the company’s processing plant in Chattanooga, TN.

About 280 employees will be affected. Pilgrim’s Pride will provide transition programs to employees whose positions are eliminated. The closing is part of the company’s efforts to reduce its operating costs under bankruptcy.

XL Foods Closes Saskatchewan Beef Plant

In late April, XL Foods, Inc., abruptly laid off its entire staff of 200 people at its XL Beef plant in Moose Jaw, SK, Canada, as the company temporarily halts production until September. Dwindling cattle supplies is the reason given for the shut-down.

XL says the cattle shortage is unusual and expected to abate in the next five months. In March, XL Foods purchased a beef packing operation in Brooks, AB, Canada, from Tyson

People, Places, &… – June 2009 RENDER | back