Tyson to forbid ractopamine use in export market push

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/JuliaLototskaya
© GettyImages/JuliaLototskaya

Related tags: Pig, Feed additives, Export

Tyson Fresh Meats is set to stop buying hogs raised using ractopamine in February as part of the company’s push to expand global pork exports.

The South Dakota-based beef and pork company is a subsidiary of Tyson Foods, Inc. It announced the impending halt to purchase of swine raised on a diet including ractopamine on Thursday [October 17].

The shift in buying practices means that starting in February, all of the company’s domestic and export pork products will be free of ractopamine, a company spokesperson told FeedNavigator.

“Discussion of growing market opportunities and how we can work together to meet customer needs are topics we discuss regularly with our suppliers,” ​the spokesperson said. “Farmers understand the current limitations ractopamine presents for export business.”

Currently, the feed additive is approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with swine and beef cattle in the US. However, it has been banned in several countries and regions including China and the EU.

The feed ingredient helps boost the generation of lean meat in hogs, Tyson reported. Some US trading partners, including China, do not import pork from swine that were fed the product.

Previously, Tyson Fresh Meats has been producing a “limited amount of ractopamine-free pork” ​for the export market, according to company information. The company sourced the swine from producers already raising hogs without the feed additive and segregated the animals and derived products at the processing plants.

However, those efforts are no longer considered adequate to meet the expanding needs for the export market, the company reported.  

The effect of the move to source only swine that have not received the feed additive on Tyson’s processing plants is expected to be minimal, the spokesperson said.

Changing swine practices

Tyson sources most of the hogs processed at its facilities from about 2,000 independent producers, the company reported. Those producers were notified about the upcoming change in the company’s buying practices on Wednesday.

They have until February 4, 2020, to adapt to the new practices, the company said.

“Over the next several months we will be working with our suppliers on this transition,”​ the spokesperson added.

Tyson also is planning to start working with its hog producers to start the process of testing hogs to ensure they are raised without ractopamine and are free of the additive, according to company information.

However, there has been some questioning of the decision to ceasing using the product.

“We’re disappointed in any decision that would take safe, proven technology out of the hands of farmers working hard to put protein on tables,”​ said a spokesperson with Elanco – the company that initially developed the additive.

Export market push

Currently, Tyson has about $926m in export sales for pork and pork products, according to company information.

Japan is the largest trading partner, accounting for about 36% of the company’s export sales, Tyson reported. Other export markets include Mexico at 20%, China and Hong Kong at 15% and Canada at 9%.

“We believe the move to prohibit ractopamine use will allow Tyson Fresh Meats and the farmers who supply us to compete more effectively for export opportunities in even more countries,”​ said Steve Stouffer, president of Tyson Fresh Meats.

However, Tyson is not the only pork processing company to announce that it will stop sourcing hogs fed ractopamine in a bid to supply international markets.

Smithfield Foods does not feed the additive to pigs raised in the company’s vertically integrated production planform or on company-owned or contract farms, and some of the company’s plants are dedicated to the production of animals that have never received ractopamine, according to company information. The company has a “never fed ractopamine”​ program and works with the US Department of Agriculture’s porcine export verification program – Never fed beta-agonists.

Similarly, it has been reported that the meatpacking company JBS USA ceased using the feed additive in internally owned production systems in 2018 and that the company is intending to end purchases of hogs raised by independent farmers that used the product. The company is owned by JBS SA based in Brazil.

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