FOOD FOR THOUGHT

What a difference a year makes.Bird flu, unfamiliar to most Americans in 2004, suddenly became a critical issue for companies, the government and the poultry industry in 2005. So what if the highly-pathogenic form of the disease never reached the United States? From a public-relations standpoint, avian influenza was a force for the poultry industry to reckon with. The turkey and chicken industries

What a difference a year makes.

Bird flu, unfamiliar to most Americans in 2004, suddenly became a critical issue for companies, the government and the poultry industry in 2005. So what if the highly-pathogenic form of the disease never reached the United States? From a public-relations standpoint, avian influenza was a force for the poultry industry to reckon with. The turkey and chicken industries quickly stepped up to the plate with aggressive public-awareness campaigns designed to ease consumer fears and keep them as buyers of homegrown poultry.

The beef industry received welcome news in the eleventh hour when Japan announced plans to lift the ban on most U.S. beef products. The announcement came almost two years to the day that a single case of mad cow disease turned up on a dairy farm in

Washington state.

Japan and many other countries abruptly slammed the door shut on American beef, causing turmoil for the industry. It took two tough years of back-and-forth negotiations before the United States and Japan came to an agreement on restoring trade. Japan is the No. 1 foreign buyer of American beef, so the agreement was a milestone.

The way food animals are raised came home to roost this year. Conventional supermarkets and their supplier partners introduced meat and poultry products billed as "humanely raised."

The seafood industry made changes to comply with mandatory country-of-origin labeling rules, which officially took effect in April. At the same time, the fresh-produce and meat industries labored over voluntary programs that would be easier for suppliers and retailers to live with.