In conjunction with the January 21 announcement by the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service ( FSIS) regarding a proposed 15.4 percent standard for Salmonella prevalence in raw poultry parts, poultry producer Foster Farms has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining Salmonella prevalence levels below 5 percent.
Foster Farms has maintained an average Salmonella prevalence level of two percent for the last nine consecutive months, the company stated. This performance record is the result of a $75 million food safety program launched in 2013 after a Salmonella outbreak was traced to Foster Farms products and caused more than 600 people in the United States and Puerto Rico to become sick.
"We support the USDA in taking this critical step to advance food safety across the poultry industry," said Foster Farms President and CEO Ron Foster. "Foster Farms has made a tremendous investment to ensure that our practices represent the very best in the industry. We stand by our commitment to lead the industry with Salmonella prevalence levels of less than 5 percent. We remain dedicated to continuous food safety advances."
Prior to the FSIS announcement, there was no established regulatory standard for raw poultry parts, though the most recent 2011-2012 reported industry average was 25 percent. Foster Farms has worked closely with the USDA, CDC, poultry industry and retailers to share its learnings in controlling Salmonella in the interest of creating a safer food supply system nationwide. The company continues to draw on the best food safety advice in and outside of the poultry industry through its Food Safety Advisory Board.
In 2013, Foster Farms implemented a $75 million food safety program that effectively reduced Salmonella system-wide from the breeder level, to the farms where the birds are raised and to the plants where the chicken is processed and packaged. This included improvements to equipment and processes, the implementation of a continuous testing program and food safety education.
Foster Farms' multi-hurdle program has been credited by the CDC and the USDA for its consistent control of Salmonella in raw chicken. The company has also been recognized for its leadership in controlling Salmonella by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a champion of improved food safety. Based on the program's success, Foster Farms is actively sharing data and insights with other poultry and meat producers. As part of this collaboration, Dr. Robert O'Connor, Foster Farms senior vice president for technical services, leads a National Chicken Council committee on Salmonella reduction at the parts level and has informed retailers in their development of vendor protocols.
Perdue Foodservice has launched seven no-antibiotics-ever chicken products for school lunch programs, including favorites such as a nugget, sandwich patty, chicken rings and chicken popcorn. Perdue Foodservice has also committed to converting additional school lunch products, sold under the Kings Delight, Clux Delux and Perdue labels, to no-antibiotics-ever meat over the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year.
The products meet the School Food FOCUS – The Pew Charitable Trust Standard to Minimize the Use of Antibiotics in Poultry, as well as the standards of the Urban School Food Alliance. Together, these purchasing initiatives include many of the largest school districts in the U.S., serving more than 4 million students.
“We’ve been providing consumers with the option for no-antibiotics-ever products since Perdue launched the Harvestland brand in 2007,” said Jennifer Armstrong, Director of Sales, K-12 for Perdue Foodservice. “As a leader in no-antibiotics-ever production, it made sense for us to bring the same choice to school lunch programs. These include the kinds of chicken products most popular with students, and we’re now making them from chicken raised with absolutely no antibiotics ever.”
“We were the first chicken company to give consumers the added assurance of USDA Process Verified Programs,” said Armstrong. “Now, school lunch programs carrying our no-antibiotics-ever USDA Process Verified products can offer these important attributes to their students, while at the same time reassuring parents that their kids are eating responsibly-raised chicken.”
The Urban School Food Alliance requirements also include USDA Process Verified Programs to verify the no-antibiotics-ever claim, along with raised on an all-vegetarian-diet with no animal by-products. “We were the first chicken company to give consumers the added assurance of USDA Process Verified Programs,” said Armstrong. “Now, school lunch programs carrying our no-antibiotics-ever, USDA Process Verified products can offer important attributes to their students, and reassurance to their parents.”
For those school districts that are not using no-antibiotics-ever chicken, Perdue follows a minimal use policy for its other products that excludes the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or the continuous of antibiotics used in human medicine.
Perdue Foods, the parent of Perdue Foodservice, received widespread praise from groups concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture for its September 2014 announcement that is has reduced overall use of human antibiotics by 95 percent over a 12-year-period and does not use antibiotics for growth promotion or in its hatcheries. “We recognized that the public was concerned about the potential impact of the use of these drugs on their ability to effectively treat humans,” said Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, Senior Vice president of Food Safety, Quality and Live Operations for Perdue Foods.
As part of Perdue’s animal welfare commitment, should animals become ill – including those raised as no-antibiotics-ever or organic – they will be treated as medically appropriate. However, if antibiotics are used, those animals are not marketed as no-antibiotics-ever or organic.
Meat used in processed food should be labeled by country of origin, an Environment, Public Health and Food Safety European Parliament Committee has said, calling on the European Commission to come up with legislative proposals.
The committee has urged the commission to follow up its 2013 report with legislative proposals making it mandatory to state the country of origin of meat used in processed foods, in order to ensure more transparency throughout the food chain and better inform consumers.
Members of European Parliament (MEPs) also reiterated their concern over the potential impact of food fraud on food safety, consumer confidence and health, the function of the food chain and farm produce prices.
MEPs point out that the European Commission’s own report acknowledges that more than 90 percent of consumer respondents consider it important that meat origin should be labeled on processed food products. This is one of the several factors that may influence consumer behavior and help to restore confidence following the horsemeat scandal, the MEPs say.
In December 2013, the European Commission submitted a report to the European Parliament and the council on the likely consequences of making it mandatory to state the country of origin or place of provenance of meat used as an ingredient. It is thought that, depending on the EU Member State concerned, 30-50 percent of slaughtered meat is processed into meat ingredients for foodstuffs, mostly minced meat, meat preparations, and meat products.
The resolution will be discussed and put to a plenary session vote in February.
With increased avian influenza detections around the world wreaking havoc on global poultry trade, the virus will be among the chief topics of discussion when members of the International Poultry Council (IPC) convene in April in Rome for the organization’s first semester conference.
A top veterinary official with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) will give an in-depth update to IPC members on the most active season in several years for occurrences of highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Much of the discussion at the conference will be on influenza-related import restrictions on poultry trade. Particularly alarming is the impact of these restrictions on the international shipment of breeding stock, which is causing supply shortages in some countries and preventing producers from replenishing their poultry flocks.
Members will also discuss the progress of the concept of compartmentalization, developed by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to limit the impact on trade of influenza restrictions.
From the economics side of the issue, Dr. Nan-Dirk Mulder, associate director for commodities at Rabobank, will give a presentation on the impact of influenza-related trade bans on global poultry meat trade.
Other speakers include Bart Blomme, director of global meat management at the Metro AG, the world’s fifth largest international supermarket chain, whose presentation will cover global poultry retail, with an emphasis on sustainability; and Carlo Prevedini, CEO of the Amadori Group, a leading Italian poultry producer and processor, who will give a report on the Italian industry.
Also, Mark Smith of Leadership Resource Institute, will lead a discussion of the IPC’s strategic plan and the organization’s “road map” for the future.
Hosted by Unaitalia, the Italian meat, poultry and egg association, the meeting will be April 15-17 at the Ambasciatori Palace hotel in Rome, with rooms available at a special IPC rate of EUR199 (US$231) per night. Registration fee is US$600. Participants can register via the IPC website and also can download the room reservation form.
With the second biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving upon us – Super Bowl Sunday – there's no hotter time of year for chicken wings, which have become a staple food on Super Bowl menus.
According to the National Chicken Council's 2015 Wing Report released on January 22, 1.25 billion wings will be eaten during Super Bowl XLIX, as fans watch the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots battle for the Lombardi Trophy, matching the record tied last year when the Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos.
To put that into perspective, if 1.25 billion wing segments were laid end to end, they would stretch back and forth from CenturyLink Field in Seattle to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts… almost 28 times. With the Super Bowl being played in Arizona, 1.25 billion wings would circle the Grand Canyon 120 times. That is enough wings to put 572 wings on every seat in all 32 NFL stadiums, according to the council.
In terms of weight, 1.25 billion wings would weigh 5,955 times more than the weights of the Seahawks and Patriots entire 52-man rosters combined.
"Although the total amount of pounds of chicken produced last year rose by about 1.8 percent, the total number of chickens processed was virtually the same in 2014 as is was in 2013," noted National Chicken Council Vice President of Communications Tom Super. "A chicken only has two wings; therefore, the supply of wings is limited by the total number of chickens produced."
The average price (wholesale, not retail) of whole wings is currently $1.71/lb, up from $1.35/lb at the same time last year, according to the Daily Northeast Broiler/Fryer Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service. This is down significantly from when wing prices hit a record high of $2.11/lb in January, 2013.
Wing prices traditionally go up in the fourth quarter of the year as restaurants and supermarkets stock up for the Super Bowl, and prices usually peak in January during the run-up to the big game.
Wing eating among NFC-AFC championship cities
While Seattle is known for many things, including its coffee, fish tossing and Fortune 500 companies, chicken wings aren't one of them.
Residents of Seattle tend to punt on chicken wings, as they are 17 percent less likely to eat chicken wings in general than the average resident of the top 42 U.S. markets, according to The NPD Group's Local Market CREST Restaurant database;two years ending September 2014. While faring a bit better, but still below average, Patriots fans in Boston are 8 percent less likely to consume wings from a restaurant than the average resident.
But the Seahawks-Patriots matchup was the best possible scenario out of the four remaining NFL playoff teams/cities for wing eating. Here' a look at how the four stack up:
Boston: 8 percent less likely to eat chicken wings in general than the average resident
Seattle: 17 percent less likely to eat wings
Indianapolis: 32 percent less likely to eat wings
Green Bay: 39 percent less likely to eat wings
"The good news is, fans will try more wings if their team gets in the Super Bowl," noted Harry Balzer, The NPD Group's chief industry analyst and vice president. "We know wing consumption increases more than other foods during the Super Bowl. It did in Seattle last year after they won. While the citizens of Seattle still eat wings less often than the average eater, our research indicates that order incidence for wings rose considerably last year in that market."
Added the Chicken Council's Super, "With the Patriots in the game, we're hopeful this trend will continue and we'll see 'inflated' wing consumption this year in New England."
Super Bowl fans choose sides
The data shows that more than four in five U.S. adults (81 percent) eat chicken wings, holding steady from last year.
More than half (56 percent) of U.S. adults who eat chicken wings say they typically like to eat their wings with ranch dressing, according to a new National Chicken Council poll conducted online in January 2015 by Harris Poll*. Ranch is once again the #1 side or sauce typically eaten with wings, up from 51 percent last year but shy of the record of 57 percent two years ago. Only about one-third (36 percent) like to eat their wings with blue cheese dressing. This is up from 32 percent last year. Barbecue sauce even topped blue cheese, coming in at 42 percent.
The survey asked which dipping sauces or snacks chicken wing eaters typically like to eat with their wings. They could choose more than one option.
Northeastern wing eaters are significantly more likely to prefer blue cheese dressing (49 percent) than those in the Midwest (36 percent), South (30 percent) and West (30 percent), while those regions are more likely to prefer ranch dressing.
"I was shocked to see Blue Cheese go down by this margin, again," noted Super. "Although, I'm from the Northeast – for me, putting Ranch on wings is like putting ketchup on a hot dog."
After ranch dressing at the top: 42 percent of wing lovers choose barbecue sauce as a typical snack or dipping sauce; 36 percent said blue cheese; 36 percent hot sauce; 35 percent celery; and 20 percent choose carrots. Ten percent of wing lovers describe themselves as purists who eat nothing with their wings.
Bone-in or boneless?
With the growing popularity of "boneless wings," NCC asked wing eaters if they prefer to eat traditional, bone-in wings or boneless wings. According to the survey, 54 percent of wing eaters prefer traditional, bone-in wings while 46 percent chose their boneless cousin. Boneless wings are typically white, boneless chicken breasts cut into strips, breaded or floured and tossed with Buffalo sauce.
The drumette, flat or whole wing?
The vast majority of wings, especially those destined for restaurants, are disjointed, with the third joint (the thin part known as the wing tip or flapper) being exported to Asian countries and the meatier first and second joints being sold domestically. The wing is usually split into two parts – or segments – known as the "drumette" and the "flat" and sold to restaurants or retail grocery outlets.
According the survey, of those who eat chicken wings, 46 percent prefer the drumette, 25 percent the flat and 10 percent prefer their wings whole. Nineteen percent say they don't have a preference, they like them all.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on January 21 proposed new federal standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products as well as raw chicken breasts, legs and wings. Development of these new standards is a major step in the FSIS Salmonella Action Plan, launched in December 2013 to reduce Salmonella illnesses from meat and poultry products.
"Today, we are taking specific aim at making the poultry items that Americans most often purchase safer to eat," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. "This is a meaningful, targeted step that could prevent tens of thousands of illnesses each year."
"These new standards, as well as improved testing patterns, will have a major impact on public health," said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. "The proposed changes are another way we're working to meet the ever-changing food safety landscape and better protect Americans from foodborne illness."
"Getting more germs out of the chicken and turkey we eat is an important step in protecting people from foodborne illness," said Robert V. Tauxe, MD, deputy director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I look forward to seeing fewer Americans get sick as a result of these proposed changes."
A pathogen reduction performance standard is the measure that FSIS uses to assess the food safety performance of facilities that prepare meat and poultry products. By making the standards for ground poultry tougher to meet, ground poultry products nationwide will have less contamination and therefore result in fewer foodborne illnesses. FSIS implemented performance standards for whole chickens in 1996 but has since learned that Salmonella levels increase as chicken is further processed into parts. Poultry parts like breasts, wings and others represent 80 percent of the chicken available for Americans to purchase. By creating a standard for chicken parts, and by performing regulatory testing at a point closer to the final product, FSIS can greatly reduce consumer exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter.
FSIS' science-based risk assessment estimates that implementation of these standards would lead to an average of 50,000 prevented illnesses annually. FSIS intends to evaluate comments for 60 days and announce final standards and an implementation date this spring. The federal register notice is available on the FSIS website.
For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is proposing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 30 percent reduction in illnesses from Salmonella. For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is proposing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to reduce illness from Campylobacter by at least 19 and as much as 37 percent.
FSIS plans to use routine sampling throughout the year rather than infrequently sampling on consecutive days to assess whether establishments' processes are effectively addressing Salmonella and, where applicable, Campylobacter on poultry carcasses and other products derived from these carcasses.
“Chicken is one of most successful industries in agriculture,” Ennis told the students. Since 1900, the poultry industry has come a long way – increasing bird size, focusing more on genetics and nutrition, and diversifying product offerings.
Largely due to fast-food chicken chains like Chick-fil-A, KFC and Popeye’s, chicken consumption surpassed that of pork on a per-capita basis in 1985 and, in 1992, surpassed beef consumption, making chicken now the most consumed meat.
Through technology that enables healthier, more productive birds and the ability to bring products to market quicker than ever before, “[the industry has] revolutionized the way we eat chicken,” said Ennis.
Ennis emphasized that technology is key to feeding the world’s growing population. “Young people know more about technology than anyone,” he said. So, their knowledge and skills are critical to continued innovation in the poultry industry.
Over the next 10 years, 10,000 qualified poultry people will be needed in the industry. Yet, according to Ennis, the U.S. has just six poultry schools that graduate an average of 30 people per class per year. Therefore, the demand for young professionals in the industry is great; in fact, he believes that there is a 100 percent job placement rate for graduates with a poultry science degree – an unattainable statistic in many other industries. Ennis feels the three largest areas of demand for workers in the industry are currently poultry nutritionists, where young professionals are needed to fulfill jobs vacated by an older generation of people who are now retiring, as well as in feed mills and hatcheries. However, he noted that there are jobs in the poultry industry to fit nearly any interest: accountants, software developers to develop new equipment, poultry product development chefs and pest control, just to name a few.
“Opportunities are endless when it comes to this industry,” Ennis concluded.