Pork Board Picks Leader

Steven D. Murphy has been selected as chief executive officer of the National Pork Board. Murphy had served as president/chief operating officer for AgWeb.com, Inc., part of Farm Journal Corp.

Murphy will manage the National Pork Board staff, which operates checkoff-funded programs covering research, promotion and consumer information. The new position was created in the pork checkoff settlement agreement with USDA.

Murphy acknowledges that producer support of the pork checkoff program has paved the way for a strong pork industry. “I look forward to the challenge of building on these accomplishments and examining new initiatives that continue to deliver the tools producers need,” he says.

Allaying Anthrax Fears

Anthrax infection in both animals and humans can be avoided by following proper biosecurity measures, according to veterinarians at the University of Illinois.

“Standard on-farm biosecurity measures, including restricting access to animal areas, should prevent any disease-causing agents from reaching herds,” says Larry Firkins, extension swine veterinarian and director of the veterinary college research stations.

Anthrax infection is caused by a spore-forming bacterium. It is most common to sheep and cattle with humans and pigs further down the chain of susceptibility, he says.

Anthrax, sent through the mail by suspected terrorists, was identified as a potential biological agent as early as World War I.

“People should be cautious about opening mail from an unfamiliar source,” says Dick Wallace, Illinois extension dairy veterinarian. “However, it should be noted that several antibiotics, including penicillin, are effective against anthrax.”

Animals typically become infected with anthrax through direct contact with contaminated soil. Spores, a highly resistant kind of the bacteria formed when the bacteria are exposed to oxygen, can survive in the soil for many years.

Outbreaks have also occurred when contaminated soil is mixed into animal feed. “Procuring off-farm feeds from reputable sources, and preventing contamination via soil, manure and pests of on-farm feeds are important biosecurity measures,” says Wallace.

Firkins points out anthrax wouldn't likely devastate animal agriculture because the infection doesn't spread from one animal to another. But because of the infectious nature of the bacteria, veterinarians are advised to never necropsy an animal suspected of dying from anthrax. One symptom that death was caused by anthrax is slower-than-normal stiffening of the body after death, states Firkins.

Antibiotic Link Unproven

Claims that the link has been established between treatment-resistant bacteria found in meat and the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals are unfounded.

That's according to the Animal Health Institute (AHI), a trade group representing firms that make pharmaceuticals for animals.

The New England Journal of Medicine, in its Oct. 18, issue based the link on three studies and wrote an editorial calling for a ban on antibiotic use in healthy farm animals.

Those studies are based on old data, says Ronald Phillips, AHI's vice president of legislative and public affairs. They ignore the involvement of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program that has produced large reductions of salmonella contamination in all ground meats.

The studies ignore the fact that all animal commodities follow judicious use guidelines. And they ignore that consumers cook meat to prevent consumption of harmful pathogens, says Phillips.

“Consumers can have a great deal of confidence in this multi-layered system of protection that we have, that was unrecognized in these studies,” he points out.

Tank Leaves NPPC

Al Tank has resigned his post as chief executive officer (CEO), National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

Tank worked for NPPC for 10 years, starting out as director of foreign trade and becoming its CEO 4½ years ago.

NPPC President Barb Determan says NPPC will act to fill the position soon.

Nebraskans to Build Plant

A group of 190 Nebraska pork producers, Family Quality Pork Processors, will build a $3 million packing plant at Petersburg, NE.

If weather permits, construction may start this fall, says Stan Rosendahl, president of the group and a Creston, NE, producer. The plant could be running by late spring 2002.

The 20,000-sq.-ft. plant will have a maximum slaughter and chill capacity of 1,000 head/day. The hogs will be further processed at Petersburg Specialty Meats.