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Published April 30, 2012, 09:27 AM

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Burger King promises to use cage-free eggs, pork

By: Agweek wire reports, Agweek

Burger King promises to use cage-free eggs, pork

• LOS ANGELES — Burger King Corp. promised April 25 to switch to only cage-free eggs and pork — a day after the re-emergence of mad cow disease focused national scrutiny even more on Americans’ food sources. The fast- food giant, one of the largest in the world, says it will phase out cages for its chickens and gestation crates for breeding pigs by 2017 — making its pledge among the most sweeping of many such vows made recently by competitors such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s. Changes in animal welfare practices have swept the food service and supply industries in recent months, as undercover investigations by animal rights activists and concessions from major companies created a domino effect. Burger King says its decision, which also includes provisions to only buy pork from suppliers who also plan to phase out gestation crates, was backed by the Humane Society of the United States. On April 24, many animal rights groups that have agitated for changes in pig- and chicken-raising practices used the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a California cow as a platform to reiterate their stances. “With their chronic lack of oversight, inadequate veterinary care for animals and routine overuse of antibiotics, America’s factory farms have become a breeding ground for disease and a serious public health menace,” says Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy For Animals, in a statement. California cows “are typically kept confined to hard, abrasive concrete or manure-laden dirt,” says PETA spokesman David Perle. “They commonly suffer from udder infections, painfully swollen knees, ulcers, hoof disorders such as foot rot and abscesses that can result in lameness and premature death.”

Indonesia halts U.S. beef imports amid mad cow case

• JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia became the first country to suspend imports of U.S. beef April 26 after the discovery last week of an American dairy cow infected with mad cow disease. Reaction elsewhere in Asia, however, was muted, with no immediate signs some of the biggest consumers, South Korea and Japan, followed suit. Both countries are close U.S. allies, and their governments are balancing that key relationship against the protectionist demands of their domestic meat industries. “We will lift the ban as soon as the U.S. can assure us its dairy cows are free of mad cow disease,” says Indonesia’s Vice Agriculture Minister Rusman Heriawan. “It could be one month or one year,” he told reporters. “It depends on how long it takes to resolve this case.” The new infection is the first in the U.S. since 2006. It was discovered in a dairy cow in California, but health authorities said April 24 the animal was never a threat to the nation’s food supply. Even before the new mad cow case, Indonesia had said it wanted to reduce its dependency on beef imports, with the ultimate goal of becoming self sufficient. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said during a stopover in Singapore there was no evidence any contaminated product had entered the food chain. “The U.S. absolutely respects the right of any country to protect the health of its citizens,” he says. “But in the case of restrictions of food products from our market, it must be done in the context of evidence of sound sanitary standards as established by the World Health Organization. There is no reason for any consumer to be concerned about the consumption of U.S. beef,” he says. “Thus, we would expect that Indonesia would quickly reopen its market for U.S. beef products.” South Korea, the world’s fourth-largest importer of U.S. beef, said it was stepping up inspections and one major retailer decided to pull meat off its shelves. But there were no plans to ban imports after the Indonesian announcement, says Jeon Jong-min, director of the agriculture ministry’s quarantine policy division. “We make a decision based on our independent evaluations,” he says. “We maintain our decision to step up inspections.”

Briefly . . .

S.D. elevator fire: A grain elevator fire in the eastern South Dakota city of Miller prompted officials to close off roads and evacuate several homes. Police Chief Shannon Speck says the fire was reported about 11 p.m. April 25. Some homes downwind from the scene were evacuated as a precaution because of concerns there might be toxic fumes from chemicals. Residents were allowed to return home about 3:30 a.m. April 26. The cause of the blaze was not immediately determined.

S.D. livestock: Cash receipts were up for both cattle and hogs in South Dakota last year. The value of egg production and turkeys in the state also climbed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 2011 cash receipts from cattle and hogs in South Dakota totaled about $2.8 billion, up 13 percent from the previous year. Cattle accounted for 80 percent of the total. In a separate report, USDA valued egg production in South Dakota last year at $44.5 million, up 18 percent over the year. Hens laid about 700 million eggs. South Dakota producers raised 4.4 million turkeys in 2011. That was down 4 percent from 2010, but the value of production rose about 7 percent to $123 million.

Illegal fence: A North Dakota horse farmer who challenged the state’s century-old fence law has lost another round in federal court. A judge threw out the original complaint by La Verne Koenig, who thought he was unfairly convicted by a jury for allowing livestock to run at large because he failed to maintain a legal fence. He was ordered to pay $5,400 for injuries allegedly inflicted on a neighbor’s horse by one of Koenig’s horses. Koenig claims he had a legitimate fence. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals returned Koenig’s case to federal court and asked that four specific issues be addressed, including whether the North Dakota statute that defines a lawful fence is unconstitutionally vague as applied to Koenig. Judge Ralph Erickson ruled last week to dismiss the case.