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December 29, 2006


Table of Contents
2007 Is A Critical Year Politically
Best Wishes For A Peaceful And Fulfilling 2007
Another South Korea Rejection
Korean Official Calls For "More Rational" Approach
Aussie Beef Wins Top Brand Award In South Korea
CAB Sees Limited Supply, Continued Growth
Indonesia Offers A $110 Burger
Two New Check-Off Funded Web Sites
2007 Looks Better For Feeding, Worse For Cow-Calf
Schering-Plough To Beef Up Cattle Presence
Scientists Remove Prion Infectivity From Animal Blood
Illinois Extension Plans Co-Product Feeding Seminars
FDA Rules Food From Cloned Animals Is Safe
Lawmakers Gear Up For New Immigration Bill
Minnesotans Registering Their Premises At 26% Clip
What's Wrong With Two Beef-Industry Groups?


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Our Perspective
2007 Is A Critical Year Politically
Those in our industry who wage the daily battle know it's an ongoing struggle with increasingly high stakes. I'm always amazed at the efforts of staffers from all the various cattlemen's groups on behalf of keeping our industry viable. They're usually underpaid in relative terms but, like the ranchers they represent, are driven by a passion for this business and all it represents.

Then there are those volunteers who stay active in the process. I'm not talking about the elected leadership -- who garner individual acknowledgement for their effort -- so much as those anonymous folks who attend the committee meetings, endure the endless bureaucratic wrangling, and do the dirty work with little credit. Needless to say, this group isn't only the group that keeps our political influence so strong, but they are the one in shortest supply.

When you make your goals for 2007, becoming more involved in your state and national cattlemen's associations hopefully will move up your list. It's more important than ever that cattlemen become involved, as redistricting likely will result in the most urban-oriented Congress in history, diluting the rural voice even more at a critical time.

In the offing is a new farm bill, while a tight budget situation will force some tough program-funding decisions at the federal level. Also ahead are battles with activists over environmental, animal rights, and diet and health issues. And there are philosophical issues such as country-of-origin labeling, captive supplies, packer ownership, etc., hanging in the balance.

There also are other intra-family battles within ag -- subsidy and support programs that artificially raise demand and limit supply, such as the corn-ethanol issue. Issues like the Conservation Reserve Program reduce tillable acres at a time when $3 corn will be heightening demand for grazing.

While the recent shift in Congressional leadership philosophically appears more liberal, the political orientation of both Houses actually has continued toward the right. More than likely that equates to a whole lot of gridlock and posturing, but also means the level of backroom dealing is likely to increase. With a lot of traditional democratic constituencies looking for a payback for their support, the industry will be much more on the defensive compared to recent years.

The same dynamics will be at work on the state level. Expect anti-meat activists to continue the tactics that brought them success in initiatives on state ballots in the last election cycle.

The bottom line is that if ever there were a time to do more than merely pay your association dues, this is it. Get actively involved.
-- Troy Marshall


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Best Wishes For A Peaceful And Fulfilling 2007
One of the more touching vignettes I've ever read appeared just before Christmas in my hometown paper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In a regularly appearing column entitled "Bulletin Board," in which readers contribute their favorite anecdotes and memories, an anonymous author wrote:

"When I was a very little girl, my mother had health issues that led her to hurt me emotionally and sometimes physically. I would run to our workhorses for comfort. I could not have been more than four years old, and my head would just reach their chests.

"I would wrap my arms around a big horse leg and lean into the mare's chest. She would drop her soft nose to my shoulder, and the gelding would come in close behind me and rest his soft nose on my other shoulder. There they would stand, completely motionless. They encompassed me in a horsy hug until my sobbing stopped and my world righted itself.

"Again and again, I took comfort in the closeness of those horses. What they did was an act of love and compassion. I thought so then -- and 50 years later, I still think so.

"But, you know, maybe I touched their souls, too."

That heart-wrenching piece is compelling on many levels. I ached for the emotionally tortured little girl seeking solace, and teared up at the mental picture of those gentle beasts that sensed her need and provided the vulnerable tot with comfort. Just as powerful, however, was the author's ability to one day understand, empathize and presumably forgive her mother's behavior toward her.

I don't know how long into the author's life it took her to grasp and forgive the frailties of her mother, but that she did must have been tremendously liberating.

She embodies one of the greatest of virtues -- forgiveness -- the one most at the center of peace in any form or forum. "Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me" is a verse from an old hymn I remember as a kid. And it really is true that true and lasting peace begins not in the negotiation chambers between warring factions or governments but in the individual hearts of all men and women.

It begins at home with loved ones, and encompasses friends, acquaintances and strangers. And the simple acts of kindness that forgiveness and peace engender can spread like a virus, from one person to another and to another.

What's so wonderful about the Christmas holiday season is the sense of goodwill it fosters in so many folks as they exchange greetings, smiles and kindnesses -- with strangers and loved ones alike -- in a way they normally might not at other times of the year. From our outfit to yours, here's hoping your 2007 is filled with the peace of the holiday season, health and prosperity.
-- Joe Roybal


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Foreign Trade
Another South Korea Rejection
The previously rejected Dec. 1 shipment of 10.2 tons of U.S. beef to South Korea was yet again found unfavorable by officals due to the discovery of traces of dioxin, a toxic chemical, reports Meatingplace.com.

Last week, South Korea's Ag and Forestry Ministry said it found 6.26 picograms of dioxin in one gram of fat, an amount exceeding Korea's 5-picogram limit. One picogram equals one trillionth of a gram. The World Health Organization's daily limit of the consumption of dioxin is 1-3 picograms.

USDA spokesman Keith Williams says the amount of dioxin inspectors reportedly found in the shipment was unusually high. Assuming results are accurate, the findings would be inconsistent with levels of dioxin found in U.S. beef samples, Williams said. "Let's put it this way: If we found 6.26 picograms of dioxin [in our samples], public health officials would be all over it," he said.

Meanwhile, the Korea Herald reports the contamination was found in a randomly selected package of beef from the 10-ton shipment. Korean quarantine officials said it's necessary to look into how the beef got contaminated with dioxin, adding they believe it could be related to the type of feed.

The article also reports that Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who will become the next chair of a trade subcommittee in the 110th U.S. Congress, says he'll seek to impose tariffs on goods from countries that restrict U.S. beef imports. Dorgan addressed his remarks in a letter to U.S. Trade Rep. Susan Schwab.
-- Alaina Burt


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Korean Official Calls For "More Rational" Approach
Condemning an entire beef shipment due to discovery of a small bone fragment is irrational, says a high-ranking South Korean government official. The Korea Herald quotes Kim Sung-jin, deputy minister for the Finance and Economy Ministry's international affairs division, as saying that, while public health is very important, Korea needs a "more rational and balanced approach of dealing with the issue of U.S. beef."

He's referring to South Korea's Dec. 6 rejection of a third U.S. shipment of beef due to the discovery of bone fragments. The Korean market reopened to boneless U.S. beef this fall under a zero tolerance for bone under an agreement negotiated by Korea's Ag Ministry and the US.

Kim also expressed disapproval of Korean beef prices, criticizing their level at 5-10 times the international average.

"Protecting the income of our livestock farmers is important, but I also think the rights of consumers are also important," Kim said, while pointing out that the market needs to fully open up to U.S. beef.
-- Joe Roybal


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Beef Marketing
Aussie Beef Wins Top Brand Award In South Korea
While the U.S. scraps for access to the South Korean market, Australia's beef brand in Korea, Hoju Chungjung Woo, which means "Clean and Safe Australian Beef," was judged as Korea's leading food brand for the third year in a row.

Part of the "Best Brand Awards" conducted annually by the Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo, a panel of four marketing and retailing experts account for each brand's market share, brand awareness, brand potential and consumer-survey data.

Launched in January 2002, Hoju Chungjung Woo holds a 75% share of total beef imports into Korea, worth $661 million. It appears in Korea's leading department and hypermarket stores and is widely used by top hotels and major restaurant chains.

Korea is Australia's third largest export market for beef, with 121,271 tons in 2005-06, an increase of 33% over the year before. Beef is the second-most consumed meat in Korea, behind pork.
-- Joe Roybal


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CAB Sees Limited Supply, Continued Growth
Despite abundant cattle supplies and a record-high 13.1 million identified Angus cattle, Certified Angus Beef® (CAB) had a record-low 14% acceptance rate in fiscal year (FY) 2006, which ended Sept. 30. The year marked the seventh consecutive year of sales greater than half a billion pounds for the brand. CAB's 13,500 licensees worldwide sold more than 544 million pounds in 56 countries.

The largest outlet of CAB product continues to be retail, representing 52% of CAB total sales or 286 million lbs.

Two divisions saw growth in FY 2006 -- a 3% increase in foodservice, totaling 187 million lbs., and a 10% increase in international sales. Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico increased business, while Vietnam, Guatemala and Singapore offered CAB products for the first time.

Up for 2007 is an effort to enhance brand uniformity and address concerns about increasingly large ribeye steaks. The CAB board voted in September to replace its yield grade specification with more specific limits on carcass weight, ribeye area and fat thickness.

Producers may associate CAB with such items as prime rib and strip steak, but the chuck and round hold the key to higher premiums, says CAB's John Stika.

"The high-quality steak cuts are easy to market because of well-established demand for such products," he explains. "But our licensees must sell more of each carcass as premium quality if producers are to realize most of the dollar value of their cattle. That creates the pull-through demand and rewards for on-target producers."

According to a survey of licensed packers last year, those rewards have piled up to more than $200 million in grid premiums over the last decade.

For more info, visit www.certifiedangusbeef.com.
-- Alaina Burt


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Indonesia Offers A $110 Burger
A luxury hotel in Indonesia is offering the world's most expensive hamburger at $110, and 20 of the pricey burgers have sold since being introduced earlier this month at the Four Seasons Hotel. For perspective, a regular burger and fries in Indonesia's fast-food restaurants runs about $2.

AFP reports the 7-oz. burger is Japanese Kobe beef with wasabi mayonnaise and Italian portobello mushrooms on a homemade onion-wheat bun. It's served with Asian pear, French foie gras, fries and a glass of wine.
-- Joe Roybal


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Beef Promotion
Two New Check-Off Funded Web Sites
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) has launched two new checkoff-funded Web sites: www.beefresearch.org, and a Spanish-language version of its www.BeefItsWhatsForDinner Web site, www.LaCarneDeRes.com.

Beefresearch.org showcases checkoff-funded research in a reader-friendly presentation of fact sheets and summaries, graphics, resource listings and a handy glossary of terms.

LaCarneDeRes.com is aimed at the ever-growing Hispanic population and features recipes, nutrition and cooking info developed for Spanish culture and tastes. The latest census data confirms Hispanic buying power is increasing, and is expected to reach upwards of $863 billion in 2007, compared to $212 billion in 1990.
-- Alaina Burt


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Industry News
2007 Looks Better For Feeding, Worse For Cow-Calf
Red ink was the story for cattle feeders in 2006, Livestock Info Marketing Center (LMIC) analysts say (www.lmic.info/). Meanwhile, many cow-calf operations did rather well in 2006, despite widespread drought, higher production costs and lower cattle prices.

LMIC analysts expect cattle feeders to better the dismal results of 2006, while cow-calf returns in 2007 may be near those of 2006 if corn prices stay under control.

"In 2006, annual average cattle feeding returns based on all production costs and feeding in a commercial Southern Plains feedlot were the worst on record (LMIC estimates go back to 1975). Average monthly losses per steer sold in calendar year 2006 were about $75/head. For the year, only three months had positive returns (January, August and September) and five sale months had losses exceeding $100/steer," LMIC reports.

Meanwhile estimated cow-calf returns over all cash costs of production, plus pasture valued at rental rates, remained positive in 2006, reporters say. But those returns declined significantly from 2005, thanks to higher production costs and lower prices for calves and cull cows. In the Southern Plains, LMIC estimated returns over cash costs plus pasture rent were about $48/cow, the lowest cow-calf return since 2002, and $87 less than 2005. In the LMIC-calculated cow-calf returns, the last negative returns year was 1998, the report says.

To make money in 2007, cattle feeders will need to put a sharp pencil to their cattle-buying decisions, and stay atop feedstuff costs much more than in recent years, LMIC says.

While cow-calf operations will face lower calf prices in the new year, cull cow prices are expected to strengthen.

"With normal weather, cow-calf production costs will at least stabilize in 2007 and could even be a little below 2006's in many regions. Still, cow calf returns will be similar to 2006's and well below the profit levels posted in 2004 and 2005," LMIC reporters say.
-- Joe Roybal


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Schering-Plough To Beef Up Cattle Presence
Schering-Plough Animal Health (SPAH) is expanding its U.S. cattle operation, which includes creation of separate business units for beef and dairy and located in Omaha, NE.

"Our ambition is to grow our U.S. cattle business significantly in the future, through a heightened level of partnership and collaboration with customers in both the beef and dairy segments," says Raul Kohan, SPAH president.

The company believes stronger and more frequent customer contact by the new team will better enable it to more closely align with customer's needs. Newly created positions will include a head of the U.S. cattle business, business unit directors, additional product management, national account managers, feedlot account managers, a ruminant nutritionist and an order buyer/stocker specialist.

The new team will located in a global distribution facility under construction in Omaha, which will open in early 2007. The new team will join nearly 200 SPAH colleagues currently located in Omaha working in research, production and distribution.
-- Schering-Plough Animal Health release


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Scientists Remove Prion Infectivity From Animal Blood
A method of removing prion infectivity from scrapie-infected animal blood proved effective in tests on hamsters, reports HealthCentral.com. The research may help develop a way to prevent the spread of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of BSE, the article says.

Researchers ID'd a molecule called L13 that selectively binds to the prion protein. They passed scrapie-infected hamster blood through devices containing the L13 molecule, and then injected the blood into 96 hamsters. None of them became infected.

The article says scientists also found L13 selectively can bind to the prion protein from human infections of vCJD, which suggests it may be able to remove prion infectivity from human blood.
-- Joe Roybal


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Nutrition
Illinois Extension Plans Co-Product Feeding Seminars
Eight seminars planned by University of Illinois (UI) Extension this winter are designed to help cow-calf producers utilize by-products from ethanol production.

UI Extension's Dave Seibert says corn co-products, mainly corn gluten feed and distillers dry grain solubles, can play a major part in reducing the cost of beef-cattle diets. "However, it is important for producers to have a good understanding of these and other by-products, transportation costs and feeding guidelines," he says. Seminars are planned for:
  • Jan. 16, Pekin, Tazewell County Extension office, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 17, Perry, John Wood Community College, 1-3 p.m.; and in Jerseyville, Super 8 Motel, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 31, Macomb, intersection of IL 67 and 136, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and in Roseville, American Legion Hall, 7-9 p.m.
  • Feb. 2, Lewiston, Fulton County Extension office, 8 a.m.-noon
  • Feb. 12, Hennepin, Steel Workers Hall, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 20, Petersburg, Wankel Pioneer Feed store, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Contact local Extension for more info, or Seibert at 309-694-7501, ext. 224; or dseibert@uiuc.edu.
-- Joe Roybal


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Government
FDA Rules Food From Cloned Animals Is Safe
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in a 700-page "draft risk assessment" released this week, says milk and meat from cloned cows, pigs and goats are safe to eat. Coming after five years of study, the FDA announcement that cloned livestock is "virtually indistinguishable" from conventional livestock could make the U.S. the first country to allow products from cloned livestock to be sold in grocery stores.

The announcement doesn't include meat and milk from genetically modified animals, which involves introducing a new gene. A clone is a genetic twin of the original animal that provides the tissue sample from which a cell line is made. Clones are not genetically modified.

Forbes reports FDA officials believe special labels won't be needed for such food products, though a decision on labeling is pending. Because scientists concluded there's no difference between food from clones and food from other animals, "it would be unlikely that FDA would require labeling in those cases," says Stephen F. Sundlof, director of FDA's Center for Vet Medicine.

Even with formal approval, it is unlikely consumers will regularly find cloned meat at stores. The New York Times reports an estimated 500 or 600 cloned cows in the U.S., out of approximately 44 million beef and dairy cows. Cloned animals are too expensive to use for food products, upwards of $15,000/animal. Instead, livestock producers seek to clone animals for breeding stock.

David Faber, president of Trans Ova Genetics, a 25-year-old Sioux Center, IA-based firm, called the FDA report: "a milestone in the advancement of breeding and developing superior genetics for food production in the U.S. and around the world."

"The use of cloning technology in beef and dairy reproduction will allow breeders to advance the quality, consistency, health and safety of milk and meat by allowing specific propagation of the genetics that lead to this better product," he said in a statement. "By selecting elite animals and applying cloning technology, breeders can choose animals that naturally produce the quality of milk or meat consumers want, or animals that are more resistant to disease threat.

"The most elite, upper-tier of the genetic pyramid will be cloning candidates, allowing the influence of those genetics to improve breeding herds striving to improve milk and meat production," Faber said.

Trans Ova Genetics provides embryo transfer programs, in-vitro fertilization processes, sexed-semen applications, genetic preservation and cloning technologies.

FDA's announcement, however, brought criticism from consumer groups that argue the science backing the decision is shaky, and citing consumer surveys indicating consumer anxiety over animal cloning, let alone eating them.

"Consumers are going to be having a product that has potential safety issues and has a whole load of ethical issues tied to it, without any labeling," Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, told Forbes.

Meanwhile, in the same article, Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America, said FDA ignored research that shows cloning results in more animal suffering. Her group plans to ask food companies and supermarkets to refuse to sell food from clones, she said.

However, the Forbes piece says FDA scientists claim that by the time clones reach 6 to 18 months of age, they are virtually indistinguishable from conventionally bred animals.

Labels should only be used if the health characteristics of a food are significantly altered by how it is produced, said Barb Glenn of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

"The bottom line is, we don't want to misinform consumers with some sort of implied message of difference," Glenn said. "There is no difference. These foods are as safe as foods from animals that are raised conventionally."

Cloning animals has always been legal, but an FDA-requested voluntary moratorium on the sale of cloned animal products has been in place since 2001 in order to study the effects of milk or meat from such animals. The moratorium will stay in place until the new policy is finalized, which may be as early as the end of next year.

The public has 90 days to comment on draft risk assessment.
-- Alaina Burt and Joe Roybal


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Lawmakers Gear Up For New Immigration Bill
Counting on their new majority in Congress, Democratic lawmakers and their Republican allies, are working on measures that could place millions of illegal immigrants on a more direct path to citizenship than a bill passed in the Senate this past year, the New York Times reports.

Lawmakers may abandon a requirement in the Senate bill that would compel several million illegal immigrants to leave the U.S. before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship. Also under consideration is denial of funding for 700 miles of fence along the Mexican border, a law Republicans wrote this year and that passed with significant Democratic support.

Details of the bill, which would be introduced early in 2007, are being drafted. The proposal represents a significant shift since the November elections.

The Senate plans to introduce its immigration bill next month, while the House will consider its version later. President Bush hopes to sign an immigration bill in 2007.

Major lawmakers drafting the legislation include Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ), along with Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Luis Guiterrez (D-IL).
-- Alaina Burt


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Animal ID
Minnesotans Registering Their Premises At 26% Clip
More than 11,300 Minnesota livestock producers have voluntarily enrolled in the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), reports AgriView. That's slightly more than 26% of the state's 44,109 livestock premises, said Ted Radintz, Minnesota's National Animal ID coordinator.

The Minnesota support level is on par with the premises registration effort nationally, which stands at about 24%, says Bruce Knight, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. Based on census data, USDA estimates there are 1,433,582 livestock premises in the U.S.

Radintz says Minnesota beef producers, like their national cattlemen's organizations, tend to favor a voluntary approach to NAIS. The National Pork Producers Council, however, favors a mandatory program.

Animal owners can register their premises online at: animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/premises_id/register.shtml, or by phone, or mail, with their state, tribe, or territorial animal-health authority.
-- Joe Roybal


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Cow-Calf Weekly Mailbag
What's Wrong With Two Beef-Industry Groups?
I have a comment on your Dec. 15 piece, "USDA Quick To Take Credit For Voluntary NAIS." After listening to R-CALF's detractors for more than two years, plus seeing the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (of which I've been a member for eight years) sort of wholesale promote the National Animal Identification System, I joined R-CALF two months ago.

It would be nice to have one national beef organization, but heck we have two major political groups in this country. So for the time being this Ohio rancher will have membership stickers for both groups on his pickup.
-- Ed Callan
Newark, OH


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