Tuesday, November 13, 2007

just in time for class!

following the lead of the NYTimes;

Wall St. Journal to End Fee for Web
November 13, 2007
my guess is that you will need to remember to use firefox; and load adblock plus.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

bird blogs

the wall street journal hasn't gone to free access (like the NYTimes); but, they had a very nice article regarding three avian-type blogs!
while they missed our little spot in iSpace... there is:
the first, BirdEtc is a nice summary of recent posts on birds from other sources -- a nice RSS feed, if i've ever seen one! the others have a variety of well done photos/videos, as well as unique (if romanticized) commentary...

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

if we took out the bones, it wouldn't be crunchy...

one of my alltime favorite topics around penn state is whether or not we should be eating horses. its a shocker for all of our equine.minor students, but also a bridge to talking about other ideas. certainly, when i was in france -- horse meat was not so strange; but, then again snacking on man's best friend leads to cogent and necessary discussions about the ethics of eating meat.

enter the plight of the bluefin tuna; and the ever-so-burdensome effort to replace it with, gasp, yellowfin tuna.

Ready for Life Without Bluefin Tuna? - The Lede - Breaking News - New York Times Blog
Martin Fackler of The New York Times reported that the Japanese are using more yellowfin, are beginning to try the previously unspeakable avocado roll from the United States, and most notoriously, are tasting “sushi” made with smoked deer and raw horse. That last one may sound like a scary, even gross, proposition. But David Pasternack, a chef who serves plenty of raw fish at Esca in New York, said it’s nothing like what you’re picturing. “The horse in Japan is raised Kobe-style,” he told Serious Eats. “It’s incredibly delicious, sweet and tender.”

who knew horses would be in such demand?!
me? i'll stick with the smoked duck.

[crossposted at gfb.log.alt]

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Feed Factor

not to pile on ... but; the natural concomitant of the previous post regarding the price of feed ingredients, is the increase in the consumer price index -- especially poultry.
further, look at what has happened to Tyson's stock over the last month.

Tyson's shares have fallen ~10% over the last couple of days as earnings estimates have fallen. however, they are not alone, meat producers across the board have taken a hit. Pilgrims Pride shares fell ~$1, Smithfield Foods fell ~$0.50, Sanderson Farms fell ~$0.20 and Hormel Foods ~$0.14.

some analysts retain a 'buy' position for 'meat' companies, based on increasing prices, management restructuring, potential of exports to china and

added thurs 20070906 2:37pm (edt):
and if we think this isn't bad enough... how about the tortilla crisis??

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Friday, August 31, 2007


a new semester; and what better way to start with the engine that drives the machine!!

Agriculture Futures Rally Higher - New York Times
CHICAGO (AP) -- Futures for wheat, soybeans, oats and corn advanced Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade. Wheat for December delivery rose 6 cents to $7.905 a bushel; December corn rose 3 cents to $3.4275 a bushel; December oats rose 2.25 cents to $2.55 a bushel; November soybeans jumped 4.75 cents to $8.8975 a bushel. Beef and pork futures were mixed on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. October live cattle rose 0.35 cent to 97.42 cents a pound; September feeder cattle dipped 0.12 cent to $1.1785 a pound; October lean hogs were flat at 67.85 cents a pound; February pork bellies fell 1.5 cents to 90.5 cents a pound.
Notably lacking were chicken and egg prices... so, you can always look here and there. since there is no apparent RSS feed, you may want to have the reports emailed !!

btw.. there is also a great compilation of monthly and annual data regarding production and prices for eggs, broilers, chickens and turkeys from 1960-2004!!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

women's salaries

i'm an on-again/off-again suze orman fan. somedays i think she's brilliant -- others, the dregs.

having said that, she has an article pointing out the well-known salary discrepancies between men & women; including suggestions for closing the gap.

it seems to me that the telling paragraph is here:

In their book "Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide", Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever report that women are 2.5 times more likely than men to say they feel "a great deal of apprehension about negotiating." In one study referenced in the book, women likened negotiation to "going to the dentist" while men described the negotiation process as "winning a ballgame."

of course, if that's not enough to motivate you:

Babcock and Laschever estimate that a woman's lack of negotiating mojo in her first job can end up costing her about $500,000 in foregone earnings over her career.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

poultry power

no, not anything to do with poultry welfare!!

but, rather, a new method of generating electricity by burning poultry manure (and litter).

according to the NYTimes; Minnesota has completed construction of a $200 million dollar power plant that burns turkey litter. there are even some nice pictures on the FOXnews site. the power plant is buying manure from farmers for $3 to $7 a ton, depending on the quality! i'm not sure of the current price of shavings; but, i'll check!

there is some controversy about the amount of power currently being produced.

more to the point, not everyone is convinced of the ecological sanity of the new technology.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

birds and dinosaur proteins

a new video featurning the executive director of the Banbury Center and the executive director of the Dolan DNA Learning Center, both at Cold Spring Harbor, discuss the discovery and analysis of proteins from dinosaurs and how they are related to chickens!

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

it's just natural

as reported in the WSJ;
a group of "smaller" poultry producers (including Sanderson Farms, Foster Farms and Gold'n Plump Poultry) will be delivering a letter to the USDA requesting an elaboration and qualification of the USDA definition of "natural" poultry products.

why? you may ask ...

because, as discussed in class, the larger producers (e.g., Tyson Foods and Pilgrim's Pride) have begun to enter the 'natural' and 'organic' market. Obviously, there is a much greater added value for any company to sell a premium product -- especially when 10-15% of the weight of the product is chicken broth!

The WSJ indicates that this may be a difficult fight for the coalition to win ... as the big producers have made political contributions at approximately 20X that of the smaller guys.

If you're wondering how someone might find this kind of information, click here!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

more feed contamination

a new culprit in the contamination of feedstuffs has been identified! it's cyanuric acid (structure below). cyanuric acid is used primarily as a chlorine stabilizer in backyard pools in the USA (it prevents chlorine loss due to UV light). compare this structure to that of melamine!


apparently, under certain sets of conditions, cyanuric acid can combine with melamine and form a lovely planar structure (see electron micrograph and inset drawing below) -- which forms spontaneously and is loaded with hydrogen bonds.


its toxicology is unknown, but , as quoted in the NYTimes:

“I’m convinced melamine can’t do it by itself,” said Richard Goldstein, an assistant professor at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “I think it’s this melamine with other compounds that is toxic.”

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risk analysis of chickens fed melamine

Chickens That Ate Bad Feed Pass Test - washingtonpost.com
... over 20 million chickens, quarantined since last friday, have been declared safe for people to eat. in the FDA's own words:
Even if a person were to eat the chickens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, scientists concluded, the amount of melamine consumed in one day would be 1/2,500 of the minimum dose thought capable of posing a health risk.

risk analysis of hogs exposed to the 'tainted' feed are ongoing...

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Monday, May 7, 2007


we didn't have much time in class to discuss 'nutrigenomics' (who are hosting, btw, a symposium in honor of one of my alltime science heroes -- Bruce Ames!). In any case, it is an emerging trend in both human medicine and animal agriculture.

So ...

Is the Feed Industry Ready for the Gene Chip?

May 07 2007 - Nutrigenomics has been defined as the effect of gene expression on nutrition.

It is a case of weird science, or are individual à la carte animal diets that ‘feed the gene’ on their way?

To debate the concept, Feedinfo News Service bought together Dr. Inge Russell, professor of yeast biotechnology and fermentation at the University of Western Ontario and Editor of 'Critical Reviews in Biotechnology'; Dr. Bill Close, a professor of pig nutrition who runs an independent consultancy in the UK; and Alltech’s director of research, Doctor Karl Dawson.

Listen to audio highlights from the debate by clicking on each of the chapters below. You’ll need some mp3-compatible software to play each excerpt. Alternatively, use a right click to save the link to your hard disk/mp3 player and listen at your leisure.
  1. Where we began: selenium (Dawson, 1’51”)
  2. Why yeast is key to understanding the gene (Russell, 1’11”)
  3. Using biomarkers to evaluate next-generation products (Dawson, 0’40”)
  4. Explaining variations in animal production parameters – are you seeing ‘diagnostic’ Nutrigenomics gaining ground? (Close, 1’04”)
  5. ‘The payback is staggering’ – How Nutrigenomics enables us to understand the effect of inorganic selenium use (Close, 2’15”)
  6. A tool for making better sense of field observations in animal performance (Dawson, 2’10”)
  7. Better products faster - Reducing new product time to market using a Nutrigenomics approach (Russell, 0’49”)
  8. How do I sell it? (Close, 1’28” )
  9. Is there an impact on amino acid use? (Close, 0’36”)
  10. The Custom Diet – An example of dairy forage and gene expression (Dawson, 2’03”)
  11. Cost-effective gene chip production and the concept of trust (Russell, 1’25”)
  12. Is the feed industry ready to embrace the chip? (Close, 0’40”)
  13. Realising the animal’s full potential (Close, 2’20”)
  14. Positive environmental impact (Close, 0’44”)
  15. How Nutrigenomics brings the bigger picture to feed formulation (Russell, 0’47”)
  16. How far away is Nutrigenomics? (Russell, Close, 1’00”)
  17. A practical example – Nutrigenomics antioxidants and oxydated stress (Dawson, 1’26”)
  18. Producing an extra kilo of milk per day (Dawson, 0’40”)
  19. What are the cost benefits (Dawson, 1’17”)
  20. Nutrigenomics is indicative of how research has moved into the corporate domain (Close, 0’56”)
  21. Then and Now - parallels between nutrigenomics and synthetic amino acid development 20 years ago (Close, 0’54”)
  22. Nutrigenomics and higher amino acid use (Close, Dawson, 1’37”)
  23. Jumping from Nutrigenomics in breeding to nutrigenomics in nutrition (Dawson, 1’32”)
  24. Ethanol: Nutrigenomics can help evaluate feed ingredients that will take the place of corn (Dawson, Close, 1’50”)
  25. How long until the genotype dictates the diet - a prediction (Russell, Close, 2’00”)
a half-hour (or so) well spent.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

chicken stock

ok; so this post may not be what you expected based on the title ...

but, Tyson Foods is trading for $20.96/share (2nd quarter; 2007 and $21.15 at close today!) while posting a $52 million increase in pretax chicken sales in this quarter.  the recent increases in corn prices should be reflected in the next quarter.

Looming on the horizon, however, is the recent report that "(n)early 40 poultry farms in Indiana gave chickens feed contaminated with wheat gluten imported from China...". while the FDA did NOT indicate which company owned the chickens ... one has to wonder what the effect will be on the bottom line.

for those expecting a different discussion, look here. though, imho, you need to add a handful of flatleaf parsley, some fresh basil and the leafy fronds of some fennel (and a hot pepper!).

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Monday, April 30, 2007

back to melamine (or, why you need organic- and biochemistry)

the melamine contamination of pet food and the subsequent discovery of contamination of hogs is all over the news (and in class!). but, what is melamine and why is it important?

as reported in today's NYTimes:
For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly supplemented their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive that looks like protein in tests, even though it does not provide any nutritional benefits, according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers ...
well, here is melamine (from Acta Cryst., 2005, E61:o222-o224), some of it's uses include manufacturing heat-resistant handles for pots (and toasters!), cutlery, dishes and flooring.

note the many nitrogen residues, most importantly the primary amines (-NH2). It both mimics the peptide bond (C-N) and has three primary amines; both of which may react with the reagents in the most common protein assays (look here). You can see, that even directly measuring nitrogen (by near-infrared spectroscopy) would result in an inflated estimate of crude protein!

a friend reminded me of the 'olden' days, when unethical feedstuff purveyors would use urea to increase the apparent protein content of their product.

so; what is lethal about melamine? it's hard to say. toxicological reports are equivocal. it is also a distinct possibility that the melamine added to the feed was, itself, contaminated. perhaps by formaldehyde, or other compounds used in its synthesis. in addition, since much of the melamine came from scrap traders, perhaps there was contamination in the recovery/grinding process.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

just do it

there are many of us working in or with the poultry industry from Va Tech. given the horrific tragedy, some students have come up with a GREAT idea, as a show of support for their fellow students and the university community.

this weekend will be the Penn State Blue&White weekend, a celebration of spring (and spring football) at Penn State. some students have started a facebook group calling for everyone to wear the maroon and orange. other schools are joining in.
even Wilkes University.

this weekend; everybody is a hokie.

[crossposted http://gfb1.blogspot.com and http://gfb1.wordpress.com]

Monday, April 16, 2007

Big day for food (and fuel)

Two news stories from The Wall Street Journal highlight the economic relationships between food and fuel. (btw -- WSJ has some public access articles, but many/most require registration and $$$)

Notably, Tyson (NYSE: TSN) and Conoco (NYSE: COP) have announced a partnership to make biodiesel from animal fat.

Tyson prouduces about 300 million gallons of beef, pork and chicken fat each year. About 58% of its fat production will go to the diesel deal once it is ramped up. ... Producing one 42-gallon barrel of renewable diesel requires about one barrel of animal fat. Each barrel requires, on average, two steers, or 16 hogs or 1,300 chickens, Tyson officials say. (2007.04.16 WSJ)

Continuing in this vein, WSJ also reports (in a subscriber-only article, The Outlook, Section A, p. 2, 2007.04.16 or ProQuest) that fuel prices (as well as corn prices and bad weather) have contributed to make food a “bigger potential contributor to inflation than it has been at least since 2004.” The USDA reports that food prices are likely to climb by 2.5 to 3.5% in the coming year. Wells Fargo & Co analysts suggest that the increase could reach 4.5%.

In this regard, Tyson, Kellog, Heinz and Kraft have all increased prices to retail and food-services customers.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

More corn

Certainly, corn prices have been volatile over the last week. It appears that while we won't be going back to $2.50/bushel corn, we probably won't be hitting $4.50/bushel in the near future.

Nevertheless, Pilgrims Pride is continuing their commitment to a 5% cutback in chicken production during the upcoming year. This should help to put overall chicken production back in line with demand -- and, perhaps, helping to increase wholesale prices.

But, here is a tidbit about Pilgrims Pride that I did NOT know:

Regardless of the soybean decline, analysts considered the plantings report a big positive for chicken producers, particularly Pilgrim's Pride Corp., which doesn't hedge for grain -- making it more susceptible to market fluctuations in price.

How do you hedge? Or, more importantly, why is it important?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Corn, wonderful corn

As we all have been tracking corn prices, we know that corn typically trades between $2 and $3 a bushel. Over the last several weeks, prices have been hovering around $4. A bushel of corn for May delivery was trading at $3.74 a bushel today (Friday) on the Chicago Board of Trade.

It looks as if farmers are responding to the increased price (in part, due to ethanol production) with an increased planting. Let's hope the weather holds!


(graphic from the NYTimes)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Avian flu in the news

A new article in the NYTimes highlights the probability (NOT possibility) that the avian flu will mutate and infect humans.

Nature reports that:

The first human case of infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus has been reported by the Ministry of Health in Laos. The cumulative number of human H5N1 infections worldwide on 1 March 2007 was 277, with 167 deaths.

further, their study guide on the 1918 pandemic is sobering indeed.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Birds and Dinosaurs

It's spring break in Happy Valley, and it's a great time to catch up on some reading.

One of my favorite books (which I use in both Avian Biology and the PA Governors School for Agricultural Sciences) is Pat Shipman's Taking Wing. This wonderfully readable book details the discovery, evaluation and interpretation of the Archaeopteryx fossils.
... so ... it was a real treat to finally get my copy of Luis Chiappe's Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds. A wonderfully illustrated and the color photos are fantastic; I can't wait to use it in class. If you like birds (or dinosaurs), this book is definitely for you.

It was also a wonderful coincidence to simultaneously see Chris Organ's new paper in Nature, Origin of avian genome size and structure in non-avian dinosaurs. More technical, perhaps, but with some interesting insights!

and... who says professors do nothing during spring break!?!?

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Friday, March 9, 2007

Manager resources

Webwise, there are many resources to find (legitimate) management (re)sources. e.g., Free Management Library .

However, the sine qua non of the managerial lifestyle, is the management text! These books go through surges and resurgences .. usually based on their appearance in assorted M.B.A. programs!

A few of my favorites are (not in order):

... as you can see, I've been highly influenced by eastern philosophies. These are the books I return to time after time. Having said that, I am currently enjoying The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton. The sub-title says it all: "Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn't".

How about you?? What are your top 5??

[cross-posted at gfb.log]

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What will the future be?

Here is Karl Fisch's site, posting 3 of his presentations in various formats; including this one (which we saw in class):

This website is, in part, my response to some of the ideas in the presentation.

What do you think?? What are the opportunities in the Poultry Industry?