Livestock News for week of August 19

Pork producers win dismissal of price-fixing lawsuits

A federal judge on August 8 dismissed antitrust lawsuits accusing several U.S. pork companies of conspiring to inflate pork prices at the expense of consumers and other purchasers, Reuters reports. Chief Judge John Turnheim of the federal court in Minneapolis said the plaintiffs failed to show “parallel conduct” among the companies, which included Hormel Foods, JBS USA, Smithfield Foods and Tyson, among others. The companies said the plaintiffs failed to allege any agreement to rig prices and that supply and capacity actually increased. The dismissal was without prejudice, so the plaintiffs can amend their complaints. In June, the U.S. government said it had opened a criminal investigation into alleged poultry price fixing, which producers have denied. Tyson recently said it received a grand jury subpoena related to that investigation and is cooperating.

ERS union reaches agreement with USDA on relocation

Feedstuffs reports that the union representing the Economic Research Service — the American Federation of Government Employees — announced it reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on provisions meant to mitigate the impact of the forced relocation of employees at the ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City region. The union said that under the agreements signed by both parties, employees at the two agencies who agree to relocate to Kansas City will receive incentive payments equal to one month’s salary, to help compensate for the loss of income that comes with moving from the costlier Washington area. A USDA spokesperson, however, said the agreement “does not address bonuses or confirm blanket bonuses. The agreement states that the agency agrees to request approval to offer relocation incentives for roles deemed difficult to fill and are not tied to an employee’s hardship requests.”

Oregon outlaws production and sale of caged eggs

Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed new legislation into law that will make it illegal for eggs from cage-raised hens to be produced or sold in the state. The law will take effect at the end of 2023, WattAgNet reports. This means all three of the United States’ Pacific-bordering states — California, Washington and Oregon — will have laws against caged egg production and distribution. Chad Gregory, president and CEO of United Egg Producers (whose guidelines provided the basis for the new requirements), responded to the new law, saying UEP’s farmer members would comply. “Our focus remains on proper management of hen health and well-being, and meeting or exceeding all food safety requirements in all housing systems,” he said.

Australia company makes cell-cultured kangaroo meat

VOW, an Australia-based company that makes cell-cultured kangaroo meat, illustrates the broader potential of lab-grown meat, Mike Cherney writes in The Wall Street Journal: “It could turn exotic, hard-to-find fare into routine meals for adventurous meat eaters.” Customers could one day eat a Galapagos tortoise burger, “but without any Galapagos tortoises needing to be harmed,” said one of the company’s founders. Kangaroo meat is lean, high in iron and zinc, and harvested from the wild, but while it’s widely available in Australia, it’s hard to find overseas. Cultivating the meat in labs could make it more available around the world.

Zoetis introduces Stablelab equine diagnostic blood test

Zoetis is expanding its equine portfolio with the introduction of Stablelab, a hand-held, point-of-care diagnostic blood test, which provides veterinarians critical information related to equine inflammation in 10 minutes, according to Zoetis’ announcement. The hand-held reader detects and quantifies the biomarker Serum Amyloid A, a major acute phase protein produced by the liver that rapidly and dramatically increases in response to inflammation caused by infection. By measuring the biomarker, veterinarians can assess the severity of an infection sooner — often before clinical symptoms start — and can monitor the horse’s response during treatment. Zoetis will manufacture, market and distribute the commercially available Stablelab products. “Point-of-care testing is one of the fastest-growing areas of diagnostics and this test is rapidly becoming a standard of care in equine practice,” said Jeannie Jeffery, business unit head of Zoetis’ U.S. equine operations.