Weekly global protein digest: Walmart's $350M dairy plant, USDA spent $1B on AI outbreaks, China releases pork from state reserves

Livestock analyst Jim Wyckoff shares protein news from around the globe
calendar icon 12 January 2024
clock icon 13 minute read

South Korea passes law to end the farming and sale of dog meat by 2027

The consumption of dog meat has grown unpopular in recent years and faced increasing resistance from animal-rights campaigners. According to a Gallup poll from 2023, less than a fifth of South Koreans now say that they support the practice. Dog meat stew, called "boshintang,” is considered a delicacy among some older South Koreans, but the meat has fallen out of favor with diners and is no longer popular with young people. Under the new law the consumption of dog meat itself will not be illegal.

US Supreme Court upholds poultry companies' judgment sharing agreement in price-fixing litigation

The US Supreme Court decided not to review a lower court ruling regarding an agreement among major poultry companies to share the cost of any judgments in price-fixing litigation cases. This case involves Armory Investments LLC v. Tyson Foods Inc. and pits large poultry companies against poultry purchasers, including retailers and food companies. The Supreme Court's decision leaves in place a May 2022 ruling by Judge Thomas Durkin of the US District Court for Northern Illinois that upheld a judgment sharing agreement (JSA) among 14 poultry companies. These companies, including Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms, agreed to collectively share any costs arising from ongoing broiler chicken price-fixing lawsuits brought by purchasers.

USDA spent over $1 billion on avian influenza outbreaks in two years

Since the onset of avian influenza outbreaks nearly two years ago, USDA has allocated over $1 billion for compensating farmers for lost flocks and containing the spread of the viral disease, according to the Food and Environmental Reporting Network, citing a spokesperson for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

The primary expenditure, totaling $715 million, was directed towards indemnities for depopulated birds and eggs, benefiting producers, growers, and integrators.

An additional $183 million was used for culling and disposing of flocks and virus elimination efforts.

The remaining expenses, estimated at approximately $130 million, covered associated personnel, contractors, state agreements, and field costs.

Among the major recipients of indemnities, Jennie-O Turkey Store, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods, received the largest sum, totaling $74.8 million. Other prominent recipients included Rembrandt Enterprises of Iowa with $27.9 million, Sunrise Farms of Iowa with $25.8 million, MG Waldbaum of Minnesota with $25.2 million, and Tyson Foods of Arkansas with $24.3 million.

Facts and figures. USDA indicates that overall, since 2022 over 79 million birds have been impacted, with a notable increase to 11.4 million last month, up from 1.3 million in October.

UC Davis Professor Dr. Maurice Pitesky tells CBS News that these figures are worrying, and there's a potential for another rise in poultry and egg prices. "This is, at some level, an existential issue for the commercial poultry industry," said Dr. Pitesky. "It's going to take some time for the industry to adapt to this new reality. But unfortunately, I think, we're in kind of a new world in the United States with respect to the risk."

Of note: These ongoing outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza represent the largest animal disease event in the history of the United States.

Walmart's $350 million dairy plant in Georgia signals transformative shift in industry

Walmart's intention to construct a $350 million dairy processing facility in Georgia has the potential to bring about a significant change in the dairy industry, particularly in the Southeastern United States. Instead of relying solely on suppliers, the largest food retailer in the US plans to buy milk directly from farmers. This shift in approach could have transformative implications for the dairy sector, analysts note.

China to sell pork from state reserves

China will release 30,000 MT of frozen pork from state reserves on Jan. 10. Late last year, China made a series of pork purchases to support declining hog prices.

Philippines extends reduced pork tariffs, boosting US exports

The President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., signed an executive order extending the reduced tariff rates on imported pork for the third consecutive year. The in-quota duty will remain at 15%, and the out-of-quota rate will be 25%. These measures were initially implemented in May 2021 in response to an African swine fever (ASF) outbreak, which led to a pork shortage in the country. The Philippines had lowered import duties from 30% and 40% and increased the minimum access volume (MAV) to 254,210 metric tons (MT) from 54,210 MT.

This policy has significantly boosted US pork exports to the Philippines, reaching a record of $205 million in 2021, representing a nearly 79% increase. However, after the increased MAV expired in January 2022, exports decreased to just under $135 million that year, with an estimated value of about $120 million in 2023. Despite the drop, these figures remain higher than historical levels.

Of note: The Philippines is a significant market in Asia with a population of over 109 million people who have a cultural preference for pork. The lowered tariffs have played a key role in driving increased US pork exports to the country, making it one of the top 10 markets for American pork products.

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh raises chickens with dedication

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh has a surprising hobby — he's a dedicated backyard chicken farmer. Harbaugh, who led the Wolverines to the national championship, is as passionate about his fowl as he is about football. His chickens provide a welcome distraction during a season marked by scandal. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who has relatives with chickens, described Harbaugh's hen house as a "five-star hotel for chickens."

What’s the best time to eat dinner?

Your grandparents were onto something with those early-bird dinners: The best time to eat the evening meal is four hours before bedtime.

Avian influenza outbreak to raise egg prices due to reduced hen supply

Cal-Maine's stock price experienced an increase following the company's announcement that an outbreak of avian influenza had impacted approximately 1.5 million of its hens, constituting 3% of its flock, at some of its Kansas facilities. The ongoing avian influenza outbreak, responsible for the deaths of approximately 80 million birds since its onset in 2022, is anticipated to lead to a reduction in the supply of egg-laying hens in the United States. Consequently, this is expected to result in higher wholesale egg prices.

Triumph Foods has not withdrawn its lawsuit challenging Massachusetts' state animal welfare law known as Question 3 (Q3)

This law mandates that pork sold in Massachusetts must meet certain animal welfare standards that came into effect on Aug. 24. Triumph Foods alleges that Q3 violates the Commerce Clause and other provisions of the US Constitution. While a judge has already dismissed several parts of Triumph's lawsuit, Massachusetts is now seeking to have the remaining claim thrown out, arguing that Triumph has no legal standing since all sales of its pork products are controlled by Seaboard Foods under an agreement dating back to 2004. However, Triumph contends that the state's argument is irrelevant, as the law broadly prohibits anyone involved in the sale of pork products and clearly applies to them.

Controversial pig antibiotic remains in US food supply

Eight years ago, US regulators acknowledged a mistake regarding an antibiotic called carbadox that was approved for use in pigs in 1972. This drug, which is administered to animals Americans consume as lunchmeat and hot dogs, is now raising concerns about potential carcinogenic residues, according to a Bloomberg account. Originally, regulators believed that the residues of carbadox wouldn't pass on to humans and pose a cancer risk. However, in the early 2000s, an international committee found flaws in the testing method used to make this assumption. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the same in 2016.

Despite evidence that removing carbadox from the market would reduce consumers' lifetime cancer risk, the drug is still in use in the US. Carbadox is banned in Europe and Canada, but Phibro Animal Health Corp., which sells it as Mecadox, has resisted efforts to withdraw it from the market.

In November, the FDA announced plans to revoke the testing method used to determine carbadox residues' impact on humans and withdraw approval for the drug. Although this isn't the FDA's first attempt to remove carbadox, it's part of a lengthy process. Phibro continues to assert the safety of carbadox.

While the FDA's recent move suggests readiness to eliminate carbadox from the food chain, Phibro is expected to challenge this decision, potentially prolonging the process. The FDA hasn't explicitly advised against eating pork during this period but suggested alternative protein sources.

Weekly USDA dairy report

CME GROUP CASH MARKETS (1/5) BUTTER: Grade AA closed at $2.5750. The weekly average for Grade AA is $2.6488 (+0.0263). CHEESE: Barrels closed at $1.4100 and 40# blocks at $1.4350. The weekly average for barrels is $1.4200 (-0.0113) and blocks, $1.4563 (+0.0300). NONFAT DRY MILK: Grade A closed at $1.1725. The weekly average for Grade A is $1.1763 (+0.0113). DRY WHEY: Extra grade dry whey closed at $0.4125. The weekly average for dry whey is $0.4013 (+0.0175).

BUTTER HIGHLIGHTS: Retail butter demand has weakened following the recent holidays. However, central region stakeholders indicate butter demand is meeting seasonal expectations. In the west region, some spot buyers report holding off purchasing at current prices. Some contacts say food service demand is weak. Spot loads of bulk butter are available. Cream is readily available throughout the country. Butter manufacturers are running strong to steady production schedules, with some actively churning seven days a week. Some butter makers indicate inventories are tighter compared to this time last year but are currently at comfortable levels. Bulk butter overages range from 1 to 8 cents above market, across all regions.

CHEESE HIGHLIGHTS: In the eastern states, ample milk volumes available for Class III processing have been tempered by schools reopening. In the Northeast, production schedules are noted to be steady. Cheese inventories are comfortable. Some cheese plant managers relay bulk demand is very weak. In contrast, demand is somewhat steady in the Midwest, where contacts say cheddar sales at the retail level remain strong. Milk availability has reached seasonal highs over the past several weeks, and spot milk prices are reportedly as low as $8-under Class. Market tones remain somewhat bearish. In the West, cheese demand is noted to be steady. Foodservice demand continues to be softer than retail demand. There are strong milk volumes available for Class III manufacturing. Spot loads of cheese are readily available. Demand from international buyers is moderate.

FLUID MILK: Stakeholders are reporting steady to stronger milk production throughout the country. Mild winter weather thus far in the Western and Central regions is strengthening seasonal week over week increases. Cooler temperatures and precipitation in parts of Florida alleviated drought conditions for certain feed crops in the state. In the Midwest, spot milk prices were reported as low as $8- under Class. Last year's stretch of $10-under Class III spot milk prices in the Midwest is not expected to repeat itself. Class I demand is strengthening as bottling orders have picked up with most educational institutions ending session breaks by the end of this week. Overall, demands for Class II, III, and IV are steady. Condensed skim availability is somewhat open. Cream multiples for all Classes are 1.00-1.10 in the East, 1.00-1.16 in the Midwest, and 0.84-1.10 in the West.

DRY PRODUCTS: Low/medium heat nonfat dry milk (NDM) prices moved higher on the bottom end of the range for all regions and lower on the top end of the western range. Suppliers note neither heavily tight nor heavily loose spot load availability. High heat NDM prices moved lower on the bottom end of the central and east range and higher on the top end of the range for all regions. Market tones are mixed moving into early Q1. Dry buttermilk prices are steady in the central and east region but contracted in the west region. Spot load availability is tight. Dry whole milk (DWM) prices were unchanged. Market demand from spot load buyers is soft. Dry whey prices moved a penny higher on both ends of the central range and held steady for all other regions. Some stakeholders say spot load availability is tight. Whey protein concentrate 34% prices moved slightly higher on the top end of the range. Demand remains high, and inventories remain tight. Lactose prices contracted. Demand has declined somewhat in recent weeks. For both rennet and acid casein, prices held steady. Contacts say acid casein stocks are not excessive, and European inventories of rennet casein are somewhat tight.


WESTERN EUROPEAN OVERVIEW: Seasonal milk increases continue to be the norm in Western European. Dairy sources report week 50 milk collections in Germany increased 1.1 percent above the previous week. However, market analysts contend that milk supplies over the year-end holidays were below most previous years. Tighter milk supplies at the end of the year may have helped support monthly milk prices at levels in the 40 to 50 euros per 100 kg range. Industry sources report spot milk prices, which had moved closer to farm milk pay prices earlier in the month, dropped off as expected over the winter holidays but not as much as usual.

EASTERN EUROPEAN OVERVIEW: As Eastern European dairy production is in the midst of seasonal milk increases, parts of Eastern Europe have continued to produce larger milk volumes than the year before. Preliminary data out of Poland suggests 2023 November milk production will be above 2022 November milk production. In every month of 2023, Polish milk output has surpassed the milk volume of the previous year. In addition, January through October 2023 milk production in Belarus, is 6.0 percent higher than the same period of 2022.

OCEANIA: NEW ZEALAND: Starting January 1st all New Zealand dairy products became eligible to enter China without tariffs. Previously, duties were removed for milk and cream, butter, and cheese, but milk powders remained subject to safeguard duties through the end of last year. At GDT event 347 the all contracts prices for whole milk powder, butter, and anhydrous milk fat increased compared to the prior event. Meanwhile, decreases were seen for the all contracts prices of buttermilk powder, skim milk powder, cheddar, and lactose from event 346. Milk production data for New Zealand showing output during November was recently released, which illustrated a decline in the total tons of milk produced compared to the same month a year earlier.

AUSTRALIA: Milk production data for November in Australia was recently released by Dairy Australia. This data showed milk output increased in November of 2023, compared to a year prior. The Australian Dairy Sustainability Framework 2023 Sustainability Report revealed total production was at a 30 year low during the 2022/2023 season and was down from the prior year, but payments to farmers were up from the prior season.

SOUTH AMERICA: Rains have come to a number of key areas in the South American region. Still, following spring flush, farmers in a number of key dairy regions, in Argentina and Brazil notably, have yet to benefit from recent precipitation. Uruguayan production continues to grow. Milk availability for processing is, naturally, mixed and varies widely based on location. Brazil's overall milk output trend, despite some areas reporting declines, is continuing in the same direction as Uruguay's, per reports, just not at the same clip. Market activity was slower during the holiday weeks and is not expected to pick up until next week, at the earliest. Reports for the final months of 2023's Q4 suggest Brazil remains a top import destination for its continental trading partners. Dairy commodities are reportedly exempted from a 15 percent export tax Argentina's new administration is expected to add on to a number of other agricultural goods, notably some grains. That said, even prior to the new administration, export numbers out of Argentina have been sliding. Milkfat and milkfat derivatives remain sought after in the region, and with the summer months, that is not expected to change soon.

US NATIONAL RETAIL REPORT: In the first retail ad survey of 2024, total conventional dairy ads increased by 9 percent, and organic dairy ads grew by 169 percent. The most advertised conventional dairy product this week was ice cream in 48–64-ounce containers, despite appearing in 5 percent fewer ads than last week. The weighted average advertised price for conventional ice cream in 48-64-ounce containers was up 18 cents this week, $4.31. Organic ice cream in 48- 64-ounce containers appeared in the final survey of 2023 but was absent this week. Total ads for both conventional and organic milk increased from last week’s survey. The most advertised conventional commodity in this week’s survey was cheese, which appeared in 7 percent more ads than last week. Yogurt was the second most advertised conventional dairy commodity and was the second most advertised organic commodity in this week’s survey.

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