People, Places, & ...

Baka Passes Away

Joseph F. “Joe” Baka Jr., a long-time active member of the rendering industry and former president of Mendota Agri-Products, passed away December 5, 2009, at the age of 72.

Baka traveled extensively with Swift and Company early in his career. He was recruited by Nick Buecher and Sons to serve as general manager of its Chicago, IL, operations in the mid-1970s. Baka continued in this position under the ownership of National By-Products. In 1990, he joined Mendota Agri-Products and served as president until his retirement in 2007.

“Joe was a long-term professional manager and an esteemed leader who has devoted his career to the development of people working in the rendering industry,” said John Mahoney, Mendota Agri-Products.

Baka is survived by his wife Marilyn, three sons, one daughter, and numerous grandchildren. The family asks that any memorials be sent to the American Diabetes Association.

Darling Purchases Certain Sanimax Businesses

Darling International, Inc., began the new year by completing its acquisition of certain rendering, grease collection, and trap servicing businesses from Sanimax USA, Inc. The purchase includes businesses in Indiana and Ohio, including facilities located in Kendallville, IN, and Cleveland, OH. In addition, Darling acquired certain Sanimax collection routes in Pennsylvania and the lower part of Michigan.

FDA Opens Mexico City Office

As part of its continuing effort to bolster food and medical product safety in the United States by working with its regulatory partners overseas, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened a Mexico City office, the agency’s third post in Latin America and its tenth internationally in the past 13 months.

“The opening of this office represents an important step as we re-design our product safety strategy,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg. “We, like our partners in the Mexican government, realize that prevention is the key. For example, more than a third of the fresh fruits and vegetables we eat come from Mexico as do a large amount of our medical devices. Having FDA experts located permanently there will be mutually beneficial to both our countries and respective citizens.”

Staff assigned to the FDA’s Mexico City post will work with their counterparts in the Mexican government to harmonize regulations and guidance standards and to work on other collaborative initiatives. These collaborations will include, for example, information-sharing on the respective regulatory systems and joint workshops on the safety of food and medical products. Agencies in both governments also will make efforts to find opportunities for joint training on food-borne illnesses and the oversight of food traded internationally.

FDA staff also will offer collaboration on the use of the latest laboratory techniques, foster other collaborative initiatives to ensure the safety of food and medical products marketed in the two countries, and be a portal to the FDA for counterpart Mexican agencies and the U.S. export industry in Mexico.

To date, FDA has opened 10 international posts, including stations in China, India, Europe, and Latin America. The other offices in Latin America are located in Santiago, Chile, and at the FDA’s Latin America Office headquarters in San José, Costa Rica.

John Morrell to Close Iowa Plant

John Morrell and Company, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., will permanently close its hog processing and fresh meat fabrication plant located in Sioux City, IA, April 20, 2010. The plant processes hogs and produces boneless loins and other fresh pork products. The closure will affect approximately 1,450 hourly and salaried employees.

According to John Morrell President Joseph B. Sebring, the Sioux City plant is one of the oldest, most outdated, and least efficient plants in the Smithfield system.

“The Sioux City plant was constructed in 1959 and would require significant capital expenditures to outfit it with the next generation of pork processing technology,” Sebring said. “In this adverse business environment those capital needs simply cannot be met.” He added that the plant’s refrigeration system is antiquated and inefficient and the facility lacks any significant refrigerated storage space.

The company said that three other Smithfield plants – located in Sioux Falls, SD, Denison, IA, and Crete, NE – have the capacity to partially absorb the number of hogs that are currently being processed at Sioux City and that it will transfer some of the Sioux City production to those plants in the near term. Smithfield added that it has no further plans for plant closures in the foreseeable future.

JBS Finalizes Purchase of Pilgrim’s Pride

In late December, JBS S.A. became a majority owner of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, which emerged with six of its subsidiaries from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection 13 months after filing. Under the terms of the bankruptcy plan approved by the court at the end of 2009, the reorganized Pilgrim’s Pride issued 64 percent of its common stock to JBS USA Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of JBS S.A., in exchange for $800 million. The remaining 36 percent of the common stock was issued to stockholders existing immediately prior to the effective date of the plan. Proceeds from the sale of the stock of the reorganized Pilgrim’s Pride are being used to fund cash distributions to unsecured creditors.

According to a filing at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Wesley Mendonca Batista, chief operating officer of JBS S.A., has replaced 81-year-old Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim as chair of the board of directors of Pilgrim’s Pride. Pilgrim will remain a member of the board, but the filing stated that Lonnie Ken Pilgrim, the company’s vice president, and Richard Cogdill, its chief financial officer, have been removed.

Also as part of its integration with JBS USA, Pilgrim’s Pride has eliminated approximately 230 corporate and administrative positions across the organization. About 160 of the primarily salaried and salaried non-exempt positions being eliminated are based at the company’s headquarters in Pittsburg, TX, or in nearby Mt. Pleasant, TX. The remaining positions are spread over nearly a dozen other sites, including Atlanta, GA, Dallas, TX, and Broadway, VA. The company will provide severance benefits to affected employees. The company stated there is no direct impact on Pilgrim’s Pride’s operations or production.

In addition, the company said it is moving forward with plans to consolidate most corporate functions at JBS USA’s headquarters in Greeley, CO.

New Leader for University Poultry Programs

Michael T. Kidd has been appointed director of the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science and head of the Department of Poultry Science. He previously was head of the poultry science department at Mississippi State University.

The center is a multidisciplinary unit of the statewide University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. As center director, Kidd will provide leadership for multidisciplinary research and extension programs in poultry science and related disciplines. As department head, he will be responsible for academic programs in poultry science within Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food, and Life Sciences on the Fayetteville campus, which offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in poultry science.

A native of El Dorado, AR, Kidd has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas in poultry science. His doctorate is from North Carolina State University, with a major concentration in nutrition and a minor in immunology.

After receiving his doctorate in 1994, Kidd became research manager at Nutri-Quest, Inc., in Chesterfield, MO, later being promoted to research director in 1998. He joined the Mississippi State faculty in 1999 and has led the poultry science department there since 2007. He is recognized as an authority on amino acids in poultry nutrition and has published extensively on the impact of nutrition on immune responses of birds. Kidd has published over 300 scientific articles.

USDA Launches Help Desk for Small Processors

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has opened a new small plant help desk, which will provide operators of small and very small meat, poultry, and processed egg products establishments seeking help with agency requirements with direct access to knowledgeable staff specialists. The help desk also will provide assistance to state and local food regulatory agencies.

The FSIS small plant help desk will serve as a “one-stop shop” for plant owners and operators with questions. More than 90 percent of the 6,000 plants inspected by FSIS are small or very small. FSIS staff will assess callers’ requests and provide information and guidance materials that best meet their needs. In situations where the answer is not readily available, the staff will research the issue and follow-up with the caller. As appropriate, the help desk will provide a portal to other services, such as AskFSIS, FSIS’ existing Internet service offering official agency responses to inquiries on agency policy.

Inquiries can be made to the small plant help desk by toll-free telephone or by e-mail. The help desk is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays, at (877) 374-7435. The help desk is also available by e-mail at

People, Places, & – February 2010 RENDER | back