Beef Central news briefs

James Nason, 03/03/2017

US beef sales to China may be bargaining chip, analyst says

Newly appointed US ambassador to China, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, says he will work to increase US beef shipments to the huge market. At the same time, an industry expert has warned that US beef exports to China could become a casualty if US President Donald Trump launches a trade war against the country. “Mad cow disease is long since gone in (the U.S.), and there is no reason why the Chinese should continue to restrict American beef,” Ambassador Branstad, who was chosen by Mr Trump, told US media. China lifted a decade-plus ban on some beef from the US in September 2016. Australia, India, Brazil and US were the top four sources of imported beef in China in 2015, according to the US Meat Export Federation. A lot of US beef has been smuggled into the Chinese mainland through Hong Kong and Vietnam. A senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant, Ma Wenfeng, told the Global Times, that once China lowered barriers to the US, it will become a strong rival for countries like Australia and India. If the US put more tariffs on some Chinese products, China’s growing beef market could be a bargaining chip in any trade talks,” Ma said. President Trump claimed during the election campaign that he would impose punitive tariffs of up to 45 percent on Chinese-made goods. However, he has not taken any action yet. More details here


US Coalition launches sustainable beef pilot project

McDonald’s USA, Tyson Foods, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Beef Marketing Group (BMG) and Golden State Foods this week announced a two-year pilot research project that will seek methods to improve sustainability across the entire beef value chain, test metrics established by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) and explore scalable solutions that could be applicable to beef production across the country. Each of the five organizations involved in the project represent a different step in the beef production chain. Environmental, social and economic sustainability is a long-held objective of the United States beef industry and the focus of the new, national research project. The Noble Foundation, the largest, independent agricultural research organization in the United States, will coordinate and provide project management services for the overall project. “McDonald’s is synonymous with burgers, which is why we believe we have a responsibility to help evolve our industry to produce beef in a more sustainable way,” said Rickette Collins, McDonald’s senior director of global supply chain. “We see this program as another step forward on the journey toward a more sustainable beef supply and, through collaboration, will help develop a more sustainable and efficient beef supply chain that benefits the environment, producers and, ultimately, our customers.”


Scientists raise concerns about Aust’s carp eradication plan

Scientists in Britain have raised concerns about Australia’s A$15 million plan to release a herpes virus in the nation’s largest river system to eradicate carp, saying it poses a serious risk to global food security, could cause “catastrophic ecosystem crashes” in Australia, and is unlikely to control carp numbers long term. Critics describe it as an “irreversible high-risk proposal” that could have “serious ecological, environmental, and economic ramifications”. The decision to release herpes followed extensive research by the CSIRO, which conducted seven years of tests to ensure that native fish, birds, amphibians, and other species in the river system could not contract the virus. However University of East Anglia warn cross-infection is a possibility, and say the virus will have “an enormous evolutionary potential” once released in the wild, and could evolve to attack other species. They also say that releasing a notifiable disease that attacks the most commonly-farmed fish in the world could impact the global food supply, and that the oxygen loss caused by millions of tonnes of rotting carp killed by the virus in the Murray Darling Basin could “lead to catastrophic ecosystem crashes”.  More detail here.


Fearing for the wurst: German ministry under fire for meat-free buffets

The German Environment Ministry has become the first government agency in the country to take meat and fish off the menu at official functions, citing a need to lead by example when it comes to environmentally sustainable consumption and the “consequences of consuming meat. In a country where meat is often an emotive matter and your preferred choice of sausage can be more revealing of your origins than your accent, it was nothing less than a quiet revolution. Christian Schmidt, Germany’s food minister, immediately hit back at the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks “With us there won’t be a veggie day through the back door. Instead of paternalism and ideology I stand for variety and freedom of choice.” Before the last German elections in 2013, the Green party had proposed a weekly “veggie day” on which canteens across the country would not be serving meat — a policy proposal that backfired spectacularly and was blamed by many for the party gaining only 8.5% at the election. Out of the 14 other ministries that make up the German government, 12, including Angela Merkel’s chancellery and other departments run by Hendricks’s Social Democrats, confirmed to the Guardian on Friday that they were not planning on cutting meat and fish from their menu. Only the country’s development ministry stated that it had asked its catering team to “significantly reduce the amount of meat and fish in their menus”.


DNA Tests Find Subway Chicken Only 50 Percent Meat, Canadian News Program Reports

A media investigation into chicken sandwiches in Canada hase concluded that Subway chicken was only half meat, with the other half soy. Canada’s CBC Marketplace program said it made the finding after conducting DNA analysis of several fast-food chicken sandwiches in a forensic laboratory. The show, which last Friday, said dishes from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, A&W and Tim Horton’s restaurants in Canada came in at 80 percent and 90 percent chicken DNA. (The meat was tested without any sauce or condiment, but seasoning and marinating would keep any chicken down from a pure 100 percent result, the CBC notes.) The results have not been independently confirmed.  Subway has emphatically rejected the claim, saying that chicken strips and roasted chicken at Subway contain “contain 1pc or less of soy protein … to help stabilize the texture and moisture.”  “The accusations made by CBC Marketplace about the content of our chicken are absolutely false and misleading,” Subway said in a statement. “Our chicken is 100% white meat with seasonings, marinated and delivered to our stores as a finished, cooked product.” Subway is insisting on a full retraction. CBC’s Marketplace, meanwhile, says it “stands by its report” — as does the lab that did the testing — and the show has released “additional detail about the methodology and investigation.” More details here



Quad safety rebates pass $1 million in Victoria

The Victorian Farmers Federation has handed out more than $1 million in quad bike safety rebates since October. The $6 million Victorian Government Quad Bike Safety Rebate Scheme program, which is being jointly managed by VFF and WorkSafe Victoria, opened five months ago and aims to improve farm safety by offering a rebate to primary producers who fit operator protection devices (OPDs) to their quad bikes. All rebates will be available for a period of two years or until the funds are exhausted. Rebates will also be allocated on a first-in first-served basis to eligible applicants with complete applications. Farmers can tap into the VFF’s www.bequadsafe.com.au website to claim up to $1200 (GST exempt) in rebates on OPDs, side-by-side (SSV) and other alternate vehicles.


Boost for Qld farm loans schemes welcomed

AgForce has welcomed the announcement of additional funding for concessional loans for Queensland primary producers to expand their existing businesses and invest in new opportunities for growth. AgForce CEO Charles Burke said the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority’s concessional loans had proven extremely popular and the additional $50 million facility being provided by the State Government was strongly supported. The First Start Loans increase the opportunity for new entrants to purchase property or expand or upgrade existing holdings to ensure the future profitability of their business. Sustainability Loans support capital works like exclusion fencing to lift farm productivity and environmental sustainability, as well as water storage improvements which can improve resilience to future droughts. “It is important to remember these are loans from Government, not grants or gifts, and have to be repaid in a relatively short period of time,” Mr Burke said. “There is no doubt this is an example of what can be achieved when the right, positive, proactive policy settings are put in place to give primary producers the tools they need to grow and thrive.”


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