USDA announced this week its food safety inspectors will continue to test all beef products made at a ConAgra plant in Colorado. Officials say the testing will continue until the plant can prove it has enough safeguards to prevent contamination from the deadly E.coli bacteria.
In July, ConAgra launched the nation's second-largest beef recall, pulling some 19 million pounds of ground beef from its Greeley processing plant. At least 28 people in seven states fell ill after eating beef contaminated with E.coli.
Other sectors of the livestock industry are being roiled by more fundamental matters, like the weather and supply and demand issues.
In 1998, with the general economy in a strong position, prices plunged to 8-cents per pound. Prices low enough that independent producers were showing their disgust for regular slaughter channels by selling their wares out of the back of trucks.
Four years later, with the general economy in a major downturn, prices are again approaching record lows. The prolonged drought has forced independent producers to sell early, flooding the market and creating substantial downward pressure on prices. This week, at the country points, farmers were being paid less than $20 per hundredweight. The lower prices have some producers sending breeding stock to the chute in an attempt to eliminate debt load.
The whole situation has USDA analysts doing damage control. USDA economist Keith Collins told farmers this week "the Department has not been expecting a collapse in hog prices the way we saw it in 1998. We still are looking for an average price in the fourth quarter."
Government optimism aside, weather forecasters do not see a break in the drought on the horizon and some economists are predicting prices to stay low for longer than in 1998. Even so, some livestock analysts are predicting packers will bring prices up enough to encourage producers to keep their breeding stock to avoid a short-fall of pork in the spring.