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Entries in USDA (7)

Wednesday
Aug222012

McDonald's Suspends Purchases from Meat Plant Shut by USDA

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- McDonald's Wednesday became the second major U.S. fast food chain to stop buying beef from a California meat supplier after federal inspectors temporarily shut down the plant, citing evidence of "egregious, inhumane handling and treatment of livestock."

"Central Valley Meat (CVM) provided raw beef to several of our suppliers," said a McDonald's spokesperson. "However, upon learning about USDA's decision to suspend CVM, we took immediate action and suspended supply from this facility, pending further investigation."

The USDA took action after inspectors viewed an undercover video made at CVM's Hanford, Calif. facility over two weeks last month by an investigator for the animal rights group, Compassion Over Killing.

The video, which first aired publicly Tuesday on World News with Diane Sawyer, shows workers using electric prods on cattle that can barely walk. Compassion Over Killing also alleged that the company used potentially diseased "downer cows" and treated them in an inhumane manner.

On Tuesday, prior to the ABC News report, In-N-Out Burger announced that it would suspend purchases from CVM, which had provided 20 to 30 percent of the chain's beef.

In a statement to ABC News, the chain's chief operating officer, Mark Taylor, said, "In-N-Out Burger would never condone the inhumane treatment of animals, and, in fact, all of our suppliers must agree to abide by our strict standards for the humane treatment of cattle."

CVM is also a supplier of beef to U.S. schoolchildren. The USDA purchased 21 million pounds of meat from CVM last year for federal feeding programs, which includes the National School Lunch Program.  CVM provided 15.7 percent of the total beef purchased by the USDA in 2011.

Both McDonald's and the USDA stress that there were no food safety issues that prompted the shutdown at CVM and that beef purchased there was not compromised.

"McDonald's cares about how our food is sourced and we have a long history of action and commitment to improve the welfare of animals in our supply chain," said McDonald's in a statement. "There are behaviors in the video which appear to be unacceptable and would not adhere to the standards we demand of our suppliers."

McDonald's also characterized CVM as an "extremely small supplier" of beef to the chain, accounting for a "low single digit" percentage of its beef supply.

In a statement, the USDA said, "The Department works to ensure that product purchased for the Federal feeding programs meets stringent food safety standards and that processors comply with humane handling regulations. While some of the footage provided from this facility shows unacceptable treatment of cattle, it does not show anything that would compromise food safety."

The president of Central Valley Meat, Brian Coelho, said Tuesday that his company "[takes] these allegations [of abuse] seriously and we are committed to correcting any problems identified on the video as quickly as we possibly can." Coelho said the allegations "are both disturbing and surprising" because the plant is "under continuous inspection by USDA Food Safety and Inspection personnel who are empowered to take immediate action when they observe a problem."

Erica Meier, the executive director of Compassion Over Killing, said the failure of on-site federal inspectors was its own red flag.

"These abuses inside slaughter houses across the country are often happening right under the nose of government inspectors," said Meier.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug212012

Plant Closed by USDA Supplied Beef for In-N-Out Burger

Compassion Over Killing(WASHINGTON) -- Federal inspectors have temporarily shut down a California meat company that provided beef for the popular In-N-Out Burger chain and the U.S. school lunch program, saying there was evidence of "egregious, inhumane handling and treatment of livestock."

The federal action came Monday after inspectors viewed an undercover video made at the Central Valley Meat Company in Hanford, California over two weeks last month by an investigator for the animal rights group, Compassion Over Killing.

The tape shows workers using electric prods on cattle that can barely walk and the group alleged that the company used potentially diseased "downer cows" and treated them in an inhumane manner.

"The abuses that we uncovered should concern people for the way in which these animals were treated, but it also brings up food safety concerns and that is something that the American public wants to know about," said Erica Meier, the executive director of Compassion Over Killing.

Under federal law, since 2009, "non-ambulatory disabled cattle are not eligible for slaughter" for human consumption because of concerns the so-called "downer" cattle could carry disease, including mad cow disease.

The ban on "downer" cows, according to Meier, came "shortly after another investigation inside a California slaughter house uncovered similar egregious abuses."

"That investigation resulted in the nation's largest meat recall," she added.

There is no indication any of the cows slaughtered at the Central Valley Meat plant were diseased and the USDA did not order a recall of beef coming from the plant.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said the action was based on the company's failure to prevent the inhumane handling of livestock for human consumption.

"Upon confirming several humane handling violations, FSIS suspended operations at the facility and is prepared to take further action as warranted by the investigation," a spokesperson told ABC News.

A spokesman for In-N-Out Burger says Central Valley Meat provided between 20 and 30 percent of the beef used by the chain's restaurants and that it canceled its contract immediately once it heard of the allegations Monday.

In-N-Out Burger has developed a devoted following, including a long list of Hollywood celebrities, based on its claims of "quality you can taste." Its website says the chain makes its own hamburger patties "using premium cattle selected especially for In-N-Out-Burger," for which it says it pays "a premium."

A company spokesman said its own inspectors at the now-closed plant had never seen any inhumane treatment of the kind allegedly captured on the video.

In a statement to ABC News, the chain's chief operating officer, Mark Taylor, said, "In-N-Out Burger would never condone the inhumane treatment of animals, and, in fact, all of our suppliers must agree to abide by our strict standards for the humane treatment of cattle."

Central Valley Meat is also a supplier of beef to the USDA national school lunch program. It currently holds a $3.8 million, two-month contract with the government.

In a statement, the president of Central Valley Meat, Brian Coelho, said, "We take these allegations seriously and we are committed to correcting any problems identified on the video as quickly as we possibly can."

Coelho said the allegations "are both disturbing and surprising" because the plant is "under continuous inspection by USDA Food Safety and Inspection personnel who are empowered to take immediate action when they observe a problem."

The animal rights group said the failure of on-site federal inspectors was its own red flag.

"These abuses inside slaughter houses across the country are often happening right under the nose of government inspectors," said Meier of Compassion Over Killing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec232011

Less Beef Being Consumed in the US, USDA Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Where's the beef?  These days, less of it is being found in the kitchens of the average American family, much to the consternation of cattle ranchers and meat packers.

There's no question that the nation's beef consumption habits have changed over the past decade for health reasons.  Another problem for the beef industry: the down economy and a fall-off in business of restaurants with main courses of steaks and other meat dishes.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, per capita beef consumption in 2011 was 57.4 pounds per person, a drop of 13 percent from 2001.  It's believed that the decline will continue next year by at least another five to six percent from 2011.

The beef industry has responded by developing cuts of meat that will satisfy steak lovers at lower prices.  Sales of cheaper ground beef have also risen substantially.

Meanwhile, the industry is also looking outside the U.S. to bolster business.  Sales have improved in Asian countries including Russia, where fears of mad cow disease have subsided over the past few years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep072011

Fast Food Chains Getting into the Food Stamp Act

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In an ever-growing number of states, if you crave a taco or fried chicken from a fast food restaurant, you can pay for it with food stamps.

Food stamps -- known more formally as the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program --  have been in use for grocery staples, such as bread and milk, since 1934, but now, for the first time, they can be used for fast food in four states across the country.

The number of businesses -- including convenience and discount stores, gas stations and pharmacies -- that have been approved to accept food stamps has increased by a third over the course of three years from 2005 to 2010, USA Today reports, and fast food chains are working hard to get a cut of the federal dollars in Florida, California, Arizona and Michigan.

The funds allocated to the food stamp program have increased exponentially, from $28.5 billion to $64.7 billion in that same time frame, according to USA Today, and at a time when people have less money to spend, the bump in federal dollars can mean a lot to the fast food industry.

Yum! Brands, based in Louisville, Ky., which operates a string of restaurants that includes Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver’s and Pizza Hut, are among those applying for inclusion in the food stamp program, saying that elderly, disabled and homeless people have difficulty preparing meals, ABC affiliate WHAS reported.

Here’s a quick list of fast food restaurants in states that already accept food stamps for restaurant meals:

Michigan:

Church’s Chicken
Kentucky Fried Chicken
McDonald’s
Subway
Grandma’s Famous Chicken
Eight Mile Pancake House
Mr. T’s BBQ
Vito’s Pizza

California:

Jack in the Box
Subway
El Pollo Loco
Papa Murphy’s Pizza

Florida:

KFC
Taco Bell
Pizza Hut
Papa Murphy’s Pizza

Arizona:

Domino’s Pizza
Golden Corral
Southern Cuisine
Rally’s Hamburger

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun092011

How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child?

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- So you're having a baby. Congratulations! That little bundle of joy is going to cost you.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates it costs $226,920 for a middle income family to raise a child for 17 years.

The agency's annual report finds the cost of raising a child rose 2 percent in 2010.

The largest expenditures are housing costs, followed by child care, education, and food.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr262011

Food Prices Projected to Continue Rising

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Filling your grocery cart is becoming as painful as filling your gas tank.

The price of food in virtually every category is going up to the point where the U.S. Department of Agriculture has already had to revise its price forecast from just one month ago.

In March, the USDA predicted that retail beef prices would increase 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent in 2011.  Now, the government is forecasting a leap of seven percent to eight percent.

That's not to mention a jump in pork and produce prices compared to last month's estimates.

The USDA is sticking to its overall food Consumer Price Index of a three percent to four percent increase this year, but economists say that's being optimistic and believe the CPI will be closer to 5.5 percent higher than in 2010.

Economists blame the weakened dollar and rising energy prices for higher prices at the supermarket.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan072011

Homestead Pasta Company Recalls 144,633 Pounds of Tamale Products

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homestead Pasta Company is recalling about 144,633 pounds of frozen tamale products for containing a known allergen that is not listed on the products' labels.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday that the San Francisco-based company's meat and poultry tamales contain whey, a known dairy allergen.  The unnoted allergen was discovered after the USDA conducted a label review.  No complaints of allergic reactions have been reported.

The products affected were made between April 2010 and this month and transported to California, Oregon and Washington to be sold.  They include cases of Garibaldi Beef Tamale, Garibaldi Turkey Tamale, Golden West Traditional Beef Tamale with Sauce in Husk, Golden West Traditional Turkey Tamale with Sauce in Husk, Casper Homestead Pasta Company Beef Tamale, and Casper Homestead Pasta Company Chicken Tamale.

Packages in question bear establishment numbers "P-4994" or "EST. 4994," which can be located inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio