World in brief – for Mar. 11, 2010

Canadian inspectors sent to Mexico

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (Reuters) – Canada has agreed to send a team of meat inspectors to five Mexican meat packing plants in June, which could allow Mexico to begin exporting beef to Canada.

Canada will also join talks between Mexico and the United States aimed at formulating rules that would allow the export of cattle older than 30 months.

Mexico and Canada are also working toward standardizing rules for poultry that could allow Mexico to ship slaughtered chicken to Canada in the future, the Mexican agriculture ministry said.

Panda doffs traditional bamboo diet

BEIJING, China (Reuters) – Hunger drove a wild panda to break into a farmer’s pig pen and eat the hogs’ food, which was meat and bone, rather than bamboo.

State-run China television said the giant panda had apparently descended from the mountains in a region of southwestern China’s Sichuan province and was found inside a pig pen, chewing on bones and spitting out the meat. After eating its fill, the panda quietly left.

Giant pandas are classified as omnivores, but their diet is mainly bamboo, although they also eat other foods including honey, eggs, fish, oranges and bananas when available.

Scientists believe there are around 1,600 giant pandas living in the wild in China, mostly in the mountains of the southwest.

The endangered species is considered a national icon and its existence is threatened by logging, agriculture and China’s increasing human population.

U.S. pigs off their feed

CHICAGO, Ill. (Reuters) – A poor quality 2009 U.S. corn crop is putting hogs in the U.S. Midwest off their feed, slowing growth and contributing to higher retail pork prices.

Average hog weights are down only slightly from a year ago, but producers and analysts say hogs are taking a longer time to reach market weight due to low quality feed.

“The pigs are growing slower. We’ve added easily two weeks to our growing time, which is adding cost,” said Alan Wilhoite, a hog farmer in Lebanon, Indiana.

Higher feed costs due to problems with the corn crop could cause a reduction in the amount of pork on the market, due to both a drop in profitability and the slower hog growth rates.

American farmers had trouble bringing in the corn crop last fall as widespread rain resulted in the slowest harvest pace in at least 30 years.

Tyson shifts from Russia chicken market

CHICAGO, Ill (Reuters) – Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest U.S. meat producer, has reduced the amount of chicken it exports to Russia to about 10 percent of its total exports from about 50 percent a few years ago.

Tyson chief financial officer Dennis Leatherby said the company had found other export markets, as well as domestic uses for the meat.

Russia, once the largest export market for U.S. chicken, has reduced imports to build its own industry.

It also banned U.S. chicken in January because of a chlorine wash used in the United States to kill bacteria, but negotiators are working to reopen that market.

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