Feed event draws big crowd despite economy

by Arvin Donley
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Despite the global recession and concerns about profitability in the poultry and feed industries, the

2009 International Poultry Expo/International Feed Expo still attracted more than 18,000 delegates and nearly 900 exhibitors to the Georgia World Congress Center Jan. 28-30 in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.

Although attendance was off slightly from the record of 20,000 in 2008, the number of exhibitors was essentially the same as a year ago.

"The level of participation in this year’s Expo was remarkable, especially considering current economic conditions," said Joel Newman, American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) president and chief executive officer. "We are pleased with the sustained level of interest our members and other individuals have shown toward the Expo yet again."

The third annual Expo, produced jointly by the AFIA and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, featured comprehensive educational programs that addressed the most pressing challenges facing the respective industries.

Energy savings has become an important issue in the feed industry as millers try to cut costs in this difficult economic environment. Offering energy-saving tips during the International Educational Forum on Thursday, Jan. 29 was Interstates Senior Project Engineer Jaron Vande Hoef, who focused on electrical energy savings, and WARE Inc.’s David Musiedlak, who talked about operating boilers in a cost-efficient manner.

Vande Hoef said that industrial facilities such as feed mills can realize 10% to 20% in electrical savings per year if they take certain actions such as: utilizing properly-sized motors; installing NEMA Premium motors where applicable; replacing metal-halide or mercury-vapor lights with pulse-start metal-halide and using fluorescent lights in non-dusty parts of the mill; using a Utility Metering/Monitoring System to analyze energy change and make improvements; installing variable frequency drive (VFD) motors; and implementing an energy management program.

Musiedlak identified a wide range of cost-saving ideas in his presentation, including: preventing scale from forming inside the boiler; utilizing the parallel positioning of motors to set the position of the fuel valves and air dampeners throughout the entire firing range; installing a cylindrical fuel economizer; and making sure steam traps are functioning properly and sized and installed correctly.

AFIA’s Jarrod Kersey provided an update on regulatory and legislative issues impacting U.S. feed millers, most of which were related to feed safety.

He noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is required by law to make rules to create process control and ingredient standards in pet food by September 2009. Kersey said the first round of proposed rules, which may be published as early as May, will require risk-based, written risk management programs for pet food firms. Additionally, under the Animal Feed Safety System, a program FDA CVM has been working on for some time, similar standards could be applied to feed mills.

In the same law, Congress required the FDA to set up a Reportable Food Registry for adulterated food and feed. Under this law, any feed, feed ingredient or pet food that is sold into the marketplace and causes, or has the potential to cause, serious adverse health effects or death in humans or animals will be required to be reported to the FDA. Such a report will contain all the particulars — including the name of the feed production plant and its location — and be available to the public. Kersey said the reporting process is scheduled to go into effect on a yet-to-be-determined date in the spring of 2009.

Another highlight of the 2009 Expo was a conference focused solely on the technical and regulatory issues facing the pet food industry both in the United States and Europe.


High feed and energy costs were hot topics in the Market Intelligence Forum, where several speakers talked about how volatility in feed and fuel prices could impact poultry production and consumption worldwide.

Michael Donohue, vice-president of Agri-Stats, said that increased feed ingredient costs have overwhelmed gains achieved through improvements in productivity.

While corn prices have dropped nearly 50% from the peak of more than $7 per bushel last July, Donohue said it’s likely to be a long time, if ever, before prices dip below $3.

"Feed ingredient prices are going to remain very volatile for the foreseeable future," he said. "There’s nothing we can count on right now. The consequences of a bad decision either on the way up or on the way down are magnified."

Tom Elam, president of Farm Econ, said a combination of high energy costs and a short corn crop could cause prices to spike back to the $6 to $8 level over the next 24 months.

He said ethanol is often fingered as the culprit behind rising feed prices, and government mandates in the renewable fuels standard definitely contribute to the overall market upheaval.

But he said it’s important not to overlook the close correlation between corn and soybean prices and the price of oil.

"As long as oil prices stay in the $35 to $60 range that we’ve been trading in for the last few months, I don’t think we ought to have any serious problems with corn prices going up. But who’s to say there won’t be another Middle Eastern war or that Venezuela will decide to cut off all their oil exports. The oil market is incredibly sensitive to supply interruptions."

Another Expo feature was the first-ever Animal Agriculture Environmental Sustainability Summit, which gave participants opportunities to hear from Dennis Treacy of Smithfield Foods, Bob Langert of the McDonald’s Corporation and other individuals with expertise in issues related to sustainability.