HSUS Posts Video Alleging Mismanagement

Jul 31, 2015

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) posted a video clandestinely recorded by an agent on their website on June 9th. The video purported to show mismanagement of flocks at a farm operated by Hillandale of Pennsylvania.

As with most videos of this type, it is not possible to identify the farm concerned or to establish a date for the images. All videos of this type have a questionable origin and may represent compilations with images from previous or unrelated intrusions.

The video clearly “cherry picks” images of individual hens to create the impression of a general disregard for welfare which is disingenuous on the part of the HSUS and they know this to be the case. If authentic the video portrays a number of obvious deviations from acceptable practice not representative of the U.S. egg industry.

Relevant comments include:-

  • A single bird with panophthalmitis is depicted which should have been culled. This condition may be observed in an individual hen at any time in any flock housed in a cage or on litter
  • The presence of dead hens in cages in various stages of putrefaction and mummification was claimed.  Again there is no indication of the prevalence of this defect. Simply videoing one or two remains of hens in cages housing a flock of 250,000 does not confirm a widespread problem. In principle failure to remove dead or injured hens from cages is unacceptable.
  • An image of a line of broken eggs below a collection belt could be a single occurrence.  This problem may occur as a result of a mechanical problem or obstruction of the egg belt by a dead hen and does not necessarily denote a general lack of concern for hygiene.
  • The video shows cartons which bear an image of hens on pasture although no claims appear as to housing system.  If in fact the eggs were derived from confined hens, the packaging and image would represent deception.
  • Showing an individual bird with tumors of the head is effectively taking an individual case out of context given that the flock of 250,000 may only have had one hen so affected.

Egg Industry News


MERS Research May Have Benefits for Poultry

Jul 31, 2015

The specter of a worldwide pandemic of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has stimulated research into the immunology of the coronavirus responsible for the infection.  Recent studies show that a number of institutes are working on vaccines and projects to understand the immunogenicity of the virus.  Dr. Barney Graham, Deputy Director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently published on a vaccine candidate based on the spike glycoprotein.  This work followed the sequencing of genes responsible for elaboration of the specific component which is necessary for the virus to enter host cells.

The connection to poultry lies in the fact that infectious bronchitis (IB) is caused by related coronaviruses which have a similar structure and immunologic properties compared to the MERS and SARS viruses. There are a number of attenuated live and inactivated vaccines available to suppress the clinical effects of the infection in chickens. The problem faced over the past four decades has been the emergence of variants resulting in clinical outbreaks with diverse effects on performance and the quality of egg shells and carcasses.

It is hoped that the superior funding afforded human diseases will result in advances which can be applied to poultry health.


Seen at the Charlotte Airport

Jul 31, 2015


Whole Foods Market Disappoints - Again

Jul 31, 2015

In a press release dated July 29th Whole Foods Markets (WFM) announced results for the 3rd Quarter of Fiscal 2015 ending July 5th. Earnings were lower than expectations shaving nearly 12 percent from share value during trading on Thursday 30th.  A small portion of the disappointing performance was attributed to the timing of Easter according to management.


Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act Passed by House

Jul 31, 2015

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599) was passed by the House by a vote of 275 to 150 on Thursday July 23rd. The Bill will direct the USDA to design a non-GMO label and oversee GMO-free products in parallel to the existing Certified-Organic program. 

Legislation would also require safety clearances from the FDA on all genetically engineered plants.  The FDA would also be invested with the authority to designate specific labeling if any health or safety risk arises.  The FDA will also define the term “natural” used on labels given that over 90 percent of U.S. corn and soybean are GMO. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act will effectively ensure that unjustified and onerous mandatory labeling requirements are not imposed by states, counties or other jurisdictions.


North Carolina to Identify All Poultry Flocks in the State

Jul 31, 2015

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has intensified its efforts to identify all poultry flocks irrespective of size and enter these into a database with corresponding GPS coordinates.  This action was taken in anticipation of any future outbreak of a catastrophic disease including highly pathogenic avian influenza.

North Carolina is a significant producer of broilers and turkeys and with a number of large egg producing complexes in the western, central and eastern regions.  It is estimated that the value of production by the poultry industry in North Carolina exceeds $5 billion in direct sales each year.

The Department is now requiring all owners of flocks in exceding 200 birds to develop a plan as to how they would report and respond to an outbreak of a notifiable disease.


HPAI Diagnosis in Germany

Jul 31, 2015

EGG-CITE is indebted to Professor Hans-Wilhelm Windhorst for the report on a limited outbreak of H7N7 HPAI in Germany.  The enclosed flock of floor-housed 10,000 laying hens was located in the county of Emsland in the State of Lower Saxony.

The flock was depleted on July 27th together with three backyard flocks in the infected zone.  Surveillance of commercial farms in the six-mile radius Observation Zone has not yielded evidence of infection.  This farm was located in the Observation Zone of a recent H7N7 outbreak suggesting the presence of wild bird or small-mammal reservoirs shedding the virus.


Judge Issues Ruling on Sysco-US Foods Merger

Jul 31, 2015

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta has released his 128-page ruling on the action to set aside an injunction by the FTC to restrain the planned merger of Sysco Corporation and US Foods Inc.

Essentially the Judge accepted the Federal Trade Commission contentions that the merger of the two largest U.S. food distribution companies would stifle competition. The offer to divest some facilities to distant-third ranked Performance Food Group Inc. was inconsequential in relation to the magnitude of the merger.


Micro-Tracers Launches I-Phone App

Jul 29, 2015

Micro-Tracers have launched a new I-Phone application to count the dye-coated iron particles used to identify the presence of a specific additive in feed.  This advance will be beneficial to feed laboratories conducting large numbers of Microtracers F analyses on feed or samples of pre-mixes. The system applies Poisson and Chi-squared statistics.

While not strictly applicable to poultry production, but an example of Micro-Tracers technology, the Company has developed micro-engraved magnetic tracers developed to identify and maintain the integrity of human drugs.  Each particle is approximately 100 micron in size and comprises magnetic iron embedded in food grade plastic with 10 to 20 micron lettering on each particle.  Microscopic examination will absolutely confirm the identity of a product and differentiate genuine from fake drugs.

For further information on Micro-Tracers and Micro-Tracers Inc. access www.microtracers.com or click onto the logo to the right side of the Welcome page.


Impressions on HPAI Emerging from Recent Experience

Jul 29, 2015

Veterinarians affiliated to the U.S. egg production industry shared experienced at a meeting of their association held concurrently with the AAAP in Boston.

Some of the items which will eventually be incorporated into standard procedures to diagnose and respond to infection include:-

  • HAPI moves slowly within a complex following introduction of the virus.  This observation is borne out by studies conducted at the Southeastern Poultry Research Laboratory which showed extended death times in chickens following infection.  Obviously the quantum of virus excreted from a house holding upwards to 200,000 hens will attain a high rate within a few days, coincident with the appearance of clinical signs and a decline in water consumption and egg production.  Fans operating in a house holding 200,000 hens will be exhausting over 400,000 cubic feet of air per minute creating a vast potential for dissemination of virus.  This mechanism would obviously be intensified by movement of personnel among houses, common egg collection corridors and feed delivery vehicles.
  • It is necessary to repeat avian influenza screening tests over a number of days prior to certifying a pullet rearing flock to be free of infection. The implications of moving a pullet flock incubating HPAI or in the early-clinical stage to a complex with over one million hens is self-evident.
  • Ventilation shut-down (VSD) for mass euthanasia will have to be evaluated for efficacy based on the UK guidelines issued by the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs www.defra.gov.uk  The public relations implications of VSD have yet to be determined.  Irrespective of whether the process is endorsed by AVMA or accepted by the USDA, public opinion will be an important determinant of whether the technology can be adopted.
  • It is generally accepted that once a flock is diagnosed as being infected it is critical to complete euthanasia within as short a period as possible to limit dissemination of virus.  This is an intuitive concept but is supported by experience with END in broilers and is clearly indicated in areas of high population density which was unfortunately the situation in many egg and turkey producing counties in the U.S. during the Spring 2015 epornitic.
  • Experience is now being gained in achieving effective decontamination to ensure that houses are free of infection after depopulation, disinfection and a statutory waiting period.  Heat is now widely accepted as an adjunct to virucidal compounds.

Nature of the USDA H5 AI Vaccine

Jul 29, 2015



Recent news releases from USDA and reproduced by poultry publications have documented that the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) has developed a new vaccine.  None of the reports have indicated the nature of the proposed product whether it be a live vector vaccine or an inactivated product.

In response to an inquiry, the Director of the SEPRL confirmed that the product is an inactivated vaccine based on a live strain which has been modified to remove gene sequences which coded for pathogenicity.  The strain when inactivated and incorporated into an oil emulsion vaccine provided a high level of protection against challenge when administered as two consecutive doses by intramuscular injection to chickens.


USDA Price and Inventory Report, July 27th 2015.

Jul 28, 2015

The Midwest market moved up 18 percent this past week following a 15 percent rise last week after relative stability during the previous three weeks. This indicates that the shell egg market is responding to the forces of supply and demand. The effect of a 30 percent depletion of flocks supplying in-line breaking plants and some contract shell-egg complexes will persist for many months until flocks are replaced. This will result in a disparity between total supply of eggs and the combined demand from consumers, manufacturers and food service segments of the total egg market. This suggests substantially higher prices compared to the three-year seasonal averages.

There have been no official APHIS reports of confirmed HPAI outbreaks in U.S. flocks since June 17th.  There is a growing concern relating to possible re-introduction of infection by southward migrating waterfowl in the Fall, with the prospect of outbreaks extending to the Atlantic Flyway. Surveillance of wild birds has commenced and biosecurity will be intensified in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast states.

The shortage of breaking stock which drove up dried whole egg and yolk prices 60 percent during June is still evident with an approximately 11 percent increase this week (25 percent last week) as noted in the appropriate table.  Frozen egg stocks on July 20th amounted to 2.84 million pounds up 6.7 percent from the previous week.


Status of Corn and Soybean Crops

Jul 28, 2015

The USDA Crop Progress Report issued on Monday July 27th indicated a continued favorable trend in the progress of corn and soybeans and development of these crops expressed as percentages as tabulated below:-

                                                     Week Ending      

Crop                                 19th July                 26th July            5-year Average      

Corn silking                       55%                           78%                        77%

Soybeans blooming            56%                           71%                       72%

Soybeans setting pods       17%                           34%                       31%


Disease Insurance under Consideration by USDA

Jul 27, 2015

On Wednesday July 22nd Senator Al Franken (D-MN) issued a statement supporting the intent of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to establish an insurance program for poultry producers to provide reimbursement in the event of a against catastrophic disease.

The statement by Sen. Franken included the comment “Right now as a grower you can insure your barn against all kinds of damage but the birds inside at risk of avian influenza and other disease outbreaks – there’s nowhere to turn for that”.  He added “Our poultry industry is so critical to rural communities in Minnesota we need to make sure it can continue to thrive.”

Franken has been active in the response to avian influenza in his state which was severely impacted by the disease.  He was instrumental in convening a meeting in Willmar with Governor Mark Dayton along with local state and Federal officials to facilitate a coordinated response to the outbreak.


HSUS Fundraising Under Scrutiny

Jul 27, 2015

The Council of State Governments Midwest Legislative Conference held in mid-July passed a resolution calling on Attorneys General to investigate fundraising activities carried out by the HSUS.  The action which was initiated by Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma relates to solicitations and advertisements by the HSUS which are created to convey the erroneous impression that the organization supports animal shelters.  In reality the HSUS expends funds on lobbying activities which are in direct opposition to intensive livestock production in pursuit of a vegan agenda.

The resolution noted that Charity Navigator has revoked its rating of HSUS and replaced it with a “Donor Advisory” designation.


New Entrant to the Small-Store Organic Space

Jul 27, 2015

The American City Business Journal of Sacramento has reported that Raleys Family of Fine Stores will unveil a “national organic smaller format” within two years.  According to the press report the prototype store is in development and the company intends opening the first operation in Sacramento, CA


Senator Schumer Criticizes Budget Cuts for USDA-ARS

Jul 27, 2015

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has commented unfavorably on the proposed reduction in the $500 million budget for USDA Research Funding for fiscal 2015-2016. Sen. Schumer is especially concerned as constituents in New York have complained about escalation in the price of eggs notwithstanding the fact that producers in the state were unaffected. 

Production in New York State attained 1.5 billion eggs in 2014 which is 6 percent of the production of Iowa which had slightly in excess of 50 million hens prior to the outbreak of HPAI.  New York State has in the region of 3 million hens with the largest holdings by the Kreher Family in Clarence and Wayne County (approximately 1.5 million) and Giroux Poultry in Chazy with approximately 1 million hens in production.  There are two complexes with 250,000 each and a number of smaller family-operated farms ranging in size from 25,000 to 100,000 hens.


Progress in Recovery from HPAI

Jul 27, 2015

In a July 24th status report USDA-APHIS has confirmed that of the 211 commercial premises with a positive HPAI H5N2 diagnosis, 90 have completed cleaning and disinfection.  Restrictions on control areas have been relaxed in 67 cases and 62 premises, representing slightly less than one third of the affected farms have been approved for restocking. 

Restocking in the most affected states of Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska varies widely and is mainly influenced by speed of depopulation and cleaning influenced by the time between diagnosis and the most recent late-July report.


Salmonella Recall Scuttles Sale of Business

Jul 27, 2015

Oak Tree Capital Group, a private equity concern has withdrawn AdvancePierre from a proposed $2 billion transaction following recall of 850 tons of stuffed chicken products manufactured by subsidiary Barber Foods.

Charoen Pokphand Foods, (CP) of Thailand and other investment groups were interested in purchasing the company which has been devalued by the recall.


McDonald’s Corp Posts 2nd Quarter Fiscal 2015 Results

Jul 27, 2015

In a press release dated July 23rd McDonald’s Corp (MCD) announced results for the 2nd  Quarter of Fiscal 2015 ending June 30th.          


Shane Commentary


National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to Host “National Conversation”

Jul 31, 2015

On June 25, 2012 EGG-CITE questioned the siting of the proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan Kansas.  This decision was based on expediency and politics and regrettably ignored the potential release of exotic pathogens in to what is virtually America’s livestock heartland.  A second concern was that the establishment was placed under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and not the USDA-ARS. Since its inception, the DHS has distinguished itself by incompetence and a preoccupation with response to challenges rather than becoming proactive.

An initial risk assessment for the NBAF denoted a 70 percent probability of the escape of foot and mouth virus over a 50-year projected lifespan.  Following congressional scrutiny, the risk assessment was revised and manipulated to denote a release probability of 0.1 percent over 50 years.  The National Academy of Sciences characterized the risk estimates as “questionable and incorporating inappropriate assumptions”. The initial projections of cost soared after it was disclosed that the structure as proposed would not withstand a tornado, an ever-present seasonal threat in the Midwest. In the event the NBAF has developed a momentum of its own and will be a reality notwithstanding the long history of mishandling of pathogens and numerous releases in the EU and the U.S. 

On July 24, 2015 the Department of Homeland Security issued an invitation to interested parties including livestock producers, allied industries, the veterinary community and state and federal partners to engage in a “national conversation”.  Under signature of Dr. Tammy Beckham, Director for the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases and Dr. Juergen Richt, Director of the Center for Excellence in Foreign Animal and Zootic Disease Defense, the NBAF announced the launch of a website to facilitate communication www.dhs.gov/science-ed-technology/join-conversation.  The DHS envisages that stakeholders will be ready to advise them on how “NBAF can be leveraged to help advance foreign animal disease research” and how the NBAF can advance “One Health” solutions.

While consultation is a significant component of establishing priorities and to decide on allocation of resources, the invitation to participate is repeate with buzz words and homilies.  Could it be that now that they have Federal funding for the establishment that the DHS does not exactly know what to do with it?


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Industry Prices: Fri Jul 31
 Corn3.81 $/bu
 Soybeans9.40 $/bu
 Soybean Meal323.90 $/ton
 Eggs, Producer243  ¢/doz
 Eggs, Warehouse 250-253 ¢/doz