Weekly livestock and equine news: March 18, 2024

Tyson and JBS would pay $127 million in settlement to resolve workers’ wage-fixing lawsuit

Tyson and JBS have agreed to pay a total of $127.2 million to resolve a lawsuit accusing them of suppressing workers’ pay at processing plants, marking the largest deals so far in the wage-fixing case in Colorado federal court, Reuters reports. Lawyers for the workers asked a judge to preliminarily approve the two deals, which would push total settlements to $138.5 million since the class-action lawsuit was filed in 2022. A class estimated at tens of thousands of red meat processing workers at 140 plants alleged a yearslong conspiracy among JBS, Tyson and other companies to artificially keep wages low. The lawsuit said the companies violated antitrust law by sharing confidential compensation data through surveys and meetings. JBS agreed to pay $55 million, according to the settlement, and Tyson would pay $72.25 million.

Disease appears to be a factor in rural America’s higher death rate: USDA

While the U.S. mortality rate is lower than in the 1960s, the urban rate has declined more rapidly than the rural rate, especially in the past generation. USDA analysts said a notable factor was a higher death rate from disease among working-age people in the rural United States. “In 2019, natural-cause mortality rates for the prime working-age population in rural areas was 43% higher than in urban areas, up from 6% higher in 1999,” they said. The increase for that age group stood out from the change for the overall rural population, whose natural-cause mortality death rate was 6% higher in 1999 and 20% higher in 2019. For their study, the researchers analyzed death certificates for sex, race, ethnicity, residence, cause of death and year of death, Successful Farming reports.

Opinion: CRISPR likely won’t solve bird flu

A recently announced approach to combat avian flu using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique likely won’t increase resistance in chickens, veterinarians Carol Cardona and Michelle Kromm write in Scientific American. CRISPR was used to alter chickens’ genetic code to make them more resistant to avian flu, but the approach has raised ethical and scientific issues. The 2022 virus has developed a different survival strategy by persisting in waterfowl populations for longer periods and over different life stages. And although the current control approaches are imperfect, the magnitude of these outbreaks would not have changed if there had been CRISPR-modified chickens on farms because the outbreaks were and are likely to still be driven by virus introductions from wild ducks, the authors say. This will make it difficult to predict the outcome of using CRISPR to increase the resistance of chickens to infection with avian flu.

Pork producers adapt to California’s Prop 12 while lobbying groups keep fighting

California’s Proposition 12 requires pork producers to give sows at least 24 square feet of space per animal. Despite publicly declaring years ago to not sell certain pork products in California, some companies that own major meatpacking plants have signed up to do just that. In 2021, for example, Seaboard Foods said it would “no longer sell certain whole pork products” in the state. But when the new standards went into effect on January 1, Seaboard was listed as a Prop 12-compliant distributor with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Two months in, the nation’s largest pork producers appear to be largely adapting to the new rules in an effort to continue sales in a state that consumes about 15% of the nation’s pork, the highest rate in the country. Anti-Prop 12 groups, meanwhile, continue to fight the law, the Missouri Independent reports.

Research yields first insulin-producing cow

A cow in the south of Brazil is reportedly the first cow capable of producing human insulin in its milk, after scientists inserted a segment of human DNA into the animal. According to the study, led by researchers from the United States and Brazil, this discovery could lead to a new era in insulin production, one day eliminating drug scarcity and high costs for people living with diabetes. The cow’s lactation yielded milk that, although it was a smaller quantity than expected, had detectable levels of human proinsulin, the protein precursor of insulin, as well as insulin itself.

AVMA, AAEP release new resources for equine veterinarians

The AVMA and the American Association of Equine Practitioners have partnered to develop two guides—the “Effective Equine Care Guide” and the “Economic State of the Equine Veterinary Profession Report”—aimed at providing veterinarians and veterinary teams new tools to improve client communication and inform business and career planning. The “Effective Equine Care Guide” is a one-page resource that outlines matching expectations for both veterinary teams and clients. The guide provides a framework for equine veterinarians to align expectations, support strong client communication and prevent conflict. The “Economic State of the Veterinary Profession Report” provides a detailed look at the current economics of equine medicine, highlighting key trends related to labor markets, compensation, debt, satisfaction, practice characteristics and more, according to the announcement.