Plains Edition July 2003
Ronald's Knee Jerk Reaction
By Michael P. Libbie, Editor
In June of 2003 McDonalds announced a global policy restricting the use of antibiotics in food animal production. No, McDonalds is not asking their restaurants to quit using the antibiotics (we don't think they do) but they are saying they will no longer buy cattle that has had antibiotics used for growth purposes. We think Ronald folded to pressure and has embraced some kind of weird science.
All antibiotics approved by the FDA and the Center for Veterinary Medicine for use in animals have been subjected to years of rigorous testing to assure the fact that they do not pose a threat to animal or human life. We share the stated concern of NCBA when they said, "NCBA's concern about the new McDonalds policy is that it is inconsistent with existing science based FDA rules that assure safe food for consumers and provide regulatory structure for the business environment. These rules are the result of an open, transparent science based process - a process essential to maintaining a healthy business climate for both McDonalds and the beef industry."
Producers know that antibiotic growth promoters are of little to no benefit in raising cattle and groups such as the NCBA call for judicious use of antimicrobials and back that up with condemnation aimed at people who use antibiotics simply for the enhancement of growth. What is lacking in the new missive from McDonalds is the same transparent science based research that, in the first place, gave a green light to using FDA approved products. We fear a decision that may be more in line with a public relations move can have unintended negative consequences for animal health and well-being, as well as human health issues.
We need continued science based research that leads to processes, which can affirm production and sustainable practices that insure safe food for American consumers. We do not need public relations programs aimed at calming irrational fears and placating the agendas of activists.
Informal calls placed to random Pacific Northwest (PNW) McDonald's restaurant managers indicate there's been virtually no impact on hamburger sales due to the Dec. 23, 2003 BSE announcement. The only site of consumer concern appears to have been early on -- the first couple of days after the announcement -- in and around Yakima, WA, apparent "ground zero" of this BSE case. In fact, in some PNW locations, hamburger sales were said to have increased over the long 2003 Christmas holiday weekend due to a double-cheeseburger promotion campaign. In Montana, where some of the beef from the "index cow" was reported to have been shipped, surveyed McDonald's managers say there has been no indication of customer concern over possible BSE contamination. "As one of the largest purchasers of U.S. agricultural products, McDonald's Corporation supports American agriculture and remains confident in the U.S. food supply," says Kim Bayer, Seattle, WA, regional marketing director for McDonald's. "We will continue to work closely with U.S. officials to ensure the safest possible products for all consumers." Bayers' region includes McDonald's outlets in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Alaska and Montana. "The current situation regarding one confirmed cow with BSE in the Northwest has no connection to McDonald's or its suppliers," says Bayer. "The current situation has had no business impact." -- Clint Peck
Processed poultry making an impact
By Chris Hill
The chicken industry views McDonald's recent introduction of its white-meat McNuggets as a positive move, one that perhaps could trigger more breast meat use in convenience foods.
In 2003, Americans ordered chicken nuggets in restaurants an estimated 1.8 billion times, according to the National Chicken Council. This is an increase of about 200 percent in a decade.
In a few more years, says council senior vice president and chief economist Bill Roenigk, nugget consumption at restaurants could rise another 50 percent.
Convenience food items remain the strongest products for growth in the food industry. Some of these foods fall into the further processed category.
Further processing is the conversion of raw poultry into value-added, more convenient-to-use forms including cut portions, pieces which have been battered, breaded and precooked, cold cuts, nuggets, patties, hot dogs, etc.
Items for further processing, fast food and food service accounted for 75 percent of the market for chicken last year, according to the council. In 1995, this total was 56 percent.
Twenty-eight percent of chicken last year was for the fast food and food service markets.
This year the council expects most chicken products to be marketed for further processing, roughly 47.5 percent. In 1994, 34 percent of chicken was marketed for further processing.
A recent chicken product introduction highlights the convenience factor demanded by consumers.
Tyson announced a line called Fast Finish Chicken. Touted as having the "benefits" of fully cooked chicken with the "versatility" of raw chicken, the products are marinated to keep them tender, but fully cooked to cut down on food safety concerns.
Such a product, it would seem, offers consumers the pretense of "cooking from scratch" their chicken dishes, beyond simply re-heating them, without the worry of introducing foodborne pathogens to themselves or their family through mishandling of the food.
With the growing interest in high-protein diets, I expect to see even more new chicken and poultry products this year, particularly ones designed to tap into the snack food market.
Chicken chips anyone?
Chris Hill is publisher and editor of Gainesville-based Poultry Times. He can be reached at (770) 536-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.