Two senators from the Plains filed a resolution on Monday to overturn USDA approval of imports of chilled or frozen deboned beef from Paraguay. Sens. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, and Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican, said they were worried about the possible transmission of foot and mouth disease.
Despite market prices that could reach record highs, the cattle industry is unlikely to expand herd numbers for the next year or two, said analysts, pointing to high feed costs, lingering drought, and a limited labor supply. As a result, Americans are forecast to consume nearly 3 percent less beef per person this year than in 2023.
Since bird flu outbreaks began nearly two years ago, the USDA has spent slightly more than $1 billion to compensate farmers for lost flocks and to suppress the spread of the viral disease, said a spokesperson for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Monday. The largest outlay was $715 million to producers, growers, and integrators in indemnities for depopulated birds and eggs.
Six years after voters approved it in a landslide, California's Proposition 12 animal welfare law, which requires farmers to provide more room for egg-laying hens, veal calves, and breeding sows, is fully in effect with the start of 2024. A USDA regulation setting welfare standards for livestock on organic farms will take effect on Jan. 12, creating a rare convergence of starting dates for significant livestock regulations.
Ending a five-month hiatus, highly pathogenic avian influenza was confirmed in commercial flocks in two states — turkey farms in Utah and South Dakota — said the Agriculture Department. Some 58.97 million birds, mostly egg-laying chickens and turkeys being raised for human consumption, have died in bird flu outbreaks that began in February 2022.
The campaign by farm-state lawmakers for a federal override of California's Proposition 12 animal welfare law, derided as a "bacon ban," has run into back-home opposition. Activist farm groups say the override, known as the EATS Act, imperils small farmers and must be kept out of the farm bill.
Sales of plant-based alternatives to red meat, poultry, and seafood are down 20 percent from their peak in 2020 and the industry "faces something of a tipping point," said a report by agricultural lender CoBank on Monday. "Consumers remain interested in the concept of plant-based meats, but concerns about highly processed products and higher prices have put off many prospective regular consumers," wrote CoBank senior economist Billy Roberts.
In stern terms, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told his Brazilian counterpart that beef trade between the nations hinges on prompt reporting of cattle diseases, especially mad cow disease. Earlier this year, Brazil reported two cases of atypical mad cow disease two months after they occurred, while most nations report the findings within days.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law legislation banning sow crates and veal-calf stalls that severely restrict the movements of the animals in New Jersey, saying it would ensure humane farming practices. New Jersey is the 15th state to ban sow crates, veal stalls, or "battery" cages for egg-laying hens, said the Humane Society of the United States, which fought for the legislation for years.
With a lawsuit still unresolved, Massachusetts officials agreed in court to wait until Aug. 23 to enforce a state law that requires farmers to provide enough room for veal calves, breeding sows, and egg-laying hens to stand up, lie down, turn around or fully extend their limbs.
Chicken breasts and pork chops cost less at the supermarket than a year ago, and that will slightly bring down the price of a summer cookout, said the largest U.S. farm group on Tuesday. Still, the price tag for the groceries needed to feed 10 people lemonade, ice cream, burgers, potato salad, and other cookout fare would be the second-highest in the 11 years of the unofficial survey conducted ahead of Independence Day.
Beginning this week, livestock owners will need a prescription from a veterinarian before they can buy medically important antibiotics for use on their animals, announced the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. The new restriction is part of a multiyear campaign to preserve the efficacy of the antimicrobials in treating disease in humans.
Closing a loophole, the Agriculture Department proposed on Monday to allow packages to carry the "Made in the USA" or "Product of USA" label only if the meat, poultry and eggs in them were born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States. Consumer and activist farm groups applauded the proposal while the meat industry said it may violate trade rules.
The new farm bill should reflect "Americans' concerns and compassion for animals and the environment" with steps that include a ban on new factory farms and encourage more attention to animal welfare, said the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "Public dollars should not support a cruel, polluting factory farm systems that harms animals, the environment, workers, farmers and rural communities alike."
The supermarket tally for an Independence Day cookout is a first-hand look at inflation — up by 17 percent from last summer, with the skyrocketing price of meat a leading reason. The American Farm Bureau Federation said on Monday that data from its volunteer price checkers nationwide indicated the groceries to feed 10 people at a cookout would cost $69.68, almost $10 more than last year.
In April 2020, when outbreaks of Covid-19 among slaughterhouse workers slowed U.S. meat production, the chairman of Tyson Foods said in full-page advertisements, "The supply chain is breaking." Two days later, President Trump signed an executive order to keep processing plants open during the pandemic. In retrospect, the meat supply chain was strained, but not broken, and production recovered quickly, said a team of economists in the journal Meat Science.
Rural counties dominated by meatpacking plants endured their second surge in coronavirus cases during this winter but the latest wave "does not appear to be driven by new outbreaks in the meatpacking industry," said the USDA. "Meatpacking-dependent counties have maintained an almost identical pattern to other rural counties for the last seven months."
Plant-based meats, an alternative to beef, pork and chicken, have only a toehold in the meat market but U.S. farmers expect their market share will grow rapidly. Half of the farmers surveyed by Purdue University said plant-based proteins could hold up to 10 percent of the meat market in five years and some expected the share to be much larger.
Creating cell-based meat that tastes and feels like muscle cuts from livestock has been one of the challenges of the young industry. Now, a team of researchers at Harvard's engineering school said they have grown rabbit and bovine muscle cells on edible gelatin 'scaffolds' that mimic the texture and consistency of naturally produced meat.