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Food Tremors

Touch the Soil News #745

Heat Wave

Striking the California Central Valley, heat waves are stressing livestock. Up to 6,000 livestock deaths through the end of June 2017 have been reported. Livestock that perish in the heat do not enter the food chain, but must be disposed of through a rendering plant. The largest rendering plant in the Central Valley is operated by Baker Commodities Inc. They normally process 1 million pounds of dead animals a day – the heat wave has pushed that up to 1.5 million pounds a day (see video below).


Pig Fear

On average, a mother pig will produce about 19.5 piglets a year, up from about 14 piglets in 1994. Like other agricultural commodities (crops and livestock) diseases are on the rise. The big fear in pig farming is a disease called Porcine Diarrhea Virus (PED). Older pigs are less susceptible – baby pigs can experience a 100 percent mortality rate in a herd. PED first visited the U.S. in 2013 – which caused a modest but overall reduction in the number of piglets that survived to market in the U.S. However, the U.S imports piglets from Canada where a recent outbreak of PED has infected some 63,000 sows (mother pigs) in Manitoba. This could affect over a million piglets in the short term. For now, despite some disruption in the larger pipeline for pork, piglet imports from Manitoba have been ceased. The hope is that PED will not visit the U.S. this year.


Grocery Wars

The grocery sector has become so consolidated that competition is more deadly for the survival of a big chain with lots of employees. At the heart of the problem is “deflation”. Competition is so pronounced that it is affecting all grocers who are weary in trying to maintain prices at levels to survive. Recently, the German supermarket giant LIDL opened up its first stores on the East Coast – with plans to have over 20 stores by summer’s end, 80 stores by next year and almost 300 in the next couple of years.

Grocery giant Kroger – the nation’s largest – just filed a lawsuit against LIDL. Krogers’ house brands are named “Private Selection” and LIDL’s house brands are named “Preferred Selection. Kroger says that LIDL is trying to confuse shoppers that the two stores are related or associated together and is taking the new grocer to court.

While price wars are often viewed as a win for consumers, it could actually be a loss. Thousands of jobs at grocers, their suppliers and on farms moving into the path of risk as the grocery wars continue to heat up.

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